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Athletic Greens

Athletic Greens is a ‘superfood-cocktail’ that combines over 75 ingredients into a nutrient, vitamin and enzyme-dense supplement designed to boost energy levels and improve general health. It may alleviate problems associated with weight gain, but it is unlikely to directly cause weight loss.

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Athletic Greens Pros
  • The product contains multiple micronutrients and vitamins in dosages that are very unlikely to be excessive
  • Very few side-effects associated with the product
  • The product contains ingredients with known health benefits including green tea extract and kelp
Athletic Greens Cons
  • Not likely to directly induce weight loss due to lack of potent active ingredients
  • Concentration of all ingredients is low due to large number of ingredients
  • Little information is provided about the company behind Athletic Greens

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Athletic Greens Review

Athletic Greens contains a unique blend of ingredients that help fulfil vitamin and micronutrient deficiency, and are likely to give health benefits including a strengthened immune system, digestive good health and boosted energy. Some ingredients, including kelp and green tea extract, are proven to have weight loss benefits, though studies disagree on the quantity needed to achieve these effects. However, it may be possible to purchase the main active ingredients more cheaply and most of the weight loss effects can be achieved to a greater extent with relatively inexpensive rival products.

Athletic Greens Claimed weight loss benefits

Athletic Greens is claimed to be ‘packed with digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics’ that work to improve digestion and gastrointestinal function, which improves the yield of nutrients from food to help reduce hunger due to nutrient deficiencies. The vitamins and minerals, and the enzymes used to digest them, it contains are claimed to boost energy levels, which leads to better workouts and more calories burnt. However, Athletic Greens do not claim that any ingredient has a direct weight loss benefit.

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How Athletic Greens Works

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Athletic Green’s weight loss benefits come from boosting metabolic rate, increasing digestive health and addressing vitamin and mineral imbalances; it is also able to boost recovery after exercise and increase energy levels. This is achieved through 8 groups of ingredients, including probiotics, digestive enzymes, green tea extract, and thyroid-stimulating chemicals; it also contains a very large quantity of health-food extracts, but these are not known to have any weight loss benefits. It is not known whether all of the ingredients described below are effective when orally ingested, but many are routinely prescribed for treatment of fatigue and lack of energy.

Bromelain
Bromelain is a protein extract and mixture of ‘protease’ (protein-digesting) enzymes, which Athletic Greens claim can help boost absorption of nutrients from food and so boost energy. Bromelain has been shown to be effective at dividing proteins by cleaving the bonds between the amino acids that hold them together, including collagen in meat, and so it has been suggested to improve digestion. However, a study has demonstrated that bromelain is not effective for treating indigestion. Its ability to break down twisted muscle fibres has led to suggestions that it may improve post-workout muscle soreness, but a study of this again found no evidence.

Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum
Lactobacilus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum are ‘probiotics’ (microorganisms that provide health benefits) which produce chemicals harmful to pathogenic bacteria when they digest food. This includes lactic acid, which has been shown to stimulate the activity of immune cells and so eliminate damage to the intestinal walls, which are critical in the absorption of nutrients from food.

Green tea extract
Green tea extract boosts metabolic rate through its high catechin concentration (mainly epigallocatechin). Catechins are antioxidant organic chemicals that have been shown to increase metabolic rate by increasing breakdown of fats and carbohydrate. Epigallocatechin inhibits enzymes associated with cell division, and also inhibits fatty acid synthase, the enzyme that turns glucose into stored fat; it has also been suggested to mimic insulin activity to reduce blood glucose levels, and may be able to significantly suppress fat deposition and the concentration of adipogenic proteins.

Kelp whole plant powder
Kelp has been shown to increase thyroid function with short-term dietary supplementation, by increasing the activity of the thyroid-stimulating hormone, thyrotropin. The thyroid gland produces hormones (T3 and T4) that increase metabolic rate, activate the nervous system to increase awareness and response time, and increase heart-rate. An underactive thyroid gland, common in overweight individuals, causes weight gain and fatigue. Increasing metabolic rate increases available blood sugar which boosts energy levels.

Micronutrients (chromium and vanadium, magnesium)
Micronutrients are required in small quantities in the diet for general effective functioning. Chromium is known to increase the effectiveness of insulin, the hormone which governs blood sugar levels, and chromium levels in the body decrease with age, suggesting chromium supplementation may be necessary for effective digestion and use of energy. Vanadium acts similarly to insulin by stimulating the movement of glucose into cells and the production of carbohydrate in the liver; it also encourages cell growth by enhancing insulin’s effects on DNA synthesis. It is beneficial for people suffering from metabolic syndrome (diabetes, etc.). Magnesium acts similarly to zinc, allowing over 300 enzymatic reactions; (calcium, etc.); magnesium deficiencies involve fatigue and weakness, so magnesium supplementation may boost energy levels.

Vitamin C and B
Vitamin C cannot be made by the body and so must be consumed; it is vital for the formation and repair of hair, bones, cartilage, and soft tissue, and so vitamin C deficiency leads to feelings of general ill health and slower recovery after exercise. Vitamin B is a name for a group of vitamins including B12, which is used in metabolism and the formation of red blood cells; it is also crucial for DNA synthesis, and deficiency of this vitamin leads to anaemia and neurological problems. Athletic Greens contains both of these vitamins and so can improve energy production and recovery from injury; deficiency in either of these vitamins has been associated with weight gain and fatigue.

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Key Ingredients

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Athletic Greens contains over 75 active ingredients, but only a few have recorded weight loss benefits; the majority provide the vitamins and micronutrients which make the supplement a ‘superfood cocktail’. The ingredients are split into ‘superfood’, ‘nutrient dense’, ‘digestive enzyme’ and ‘dairy free probiotic’ categories, with most energy and metabolism boosting benefits coming from the second two groups The active ingredients have additional uses and effects that contribute to general health; here, vitamins and micronutrients are not examined as their important effects are discussed above. This section looks at the origins of the five weight-loss associated ingredients in Athletic Greens.

Bromelain
Found in pineapples, bromelain has been tradiationally used as a medicinal plant among South and Cetnral American natives; it was first isolated by fermenting pineapple fruit. Bromelain is typically used as a meat softener in cooking and preparation, due to its ability to break down protein bonds; consumption of bromelain can damage the tongue for the same reason. It is typically used as an anti-inflammatory agent and for arthritis treatment, though few studies have demonstrated efficacy for this. Occasional uses include removal of dead skin from burns (as Debridase) and treatment of cancer; however the evidence for these uses is considered insufficient.

Lactobacillus acidophilus
Along with bifidobacterium, it is part of the ‘lactic-acid’ bacteria family. Lactobacillus occurs naturally in the human mouth and intestines, and survives through functional operation at body temperature and resistance to bile and acidic conditions found in the stomach. It is often added to dairy products to break down the lactose, for lactose intolerant customers; it is sometimes prescribed for diarrhoea treatment and as part of ‘digestive health’ yoghurt and cheese.

Bifidobacterium bifidum
Mostly found in the human colon, vagina and intestinal tract, it reduces the chances of diarrhoea by reducing the population of harmful microbes – it can decrease the symptoms of infections and reduce the time of illness. The body ‘communicates’ with the bacteria by monitoring the quantity of lactic acid produced and altering its immune responses accordingly. Bifidobacterium also improve the gut ‘mucosal’ barrier and lower levels of lipopolysaccharide in the intestine (carbohydrate-fat molecules which the bacteria breaks down into sugar). It is a common additive to probiotic drinks and yoghurts, and there have been attempts to incorporate it into ice cream.

Green tea
Green tea is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinesis, and has been traced back to 2737 BC in China. It has long been regarded to have health benefits, and contains a wide variety of enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates and lipids, though excessive consumption has been linked to oxidative stress and liver toxicity. 26 Many of the claims, including that it can help prevent cancer, are medically unproven, though epigallocatechin (the most common catechin in green tea) has been shown to inhibit cancer metastatis into collagen, fibronectin and laminin, amongst other proteins.

Kelp extract
Kelp is a name for a family of large seaweeds, which see use in glass and soap production. Kelp has been traced back to 12,000 years ago where islanders in the Pacific are believed to have harvested kelp-dwelling shellfish. One form of kelp is used to thicken products including ice cream, jelly, and toothpaste; it is also used in Asian recipes as a savoury garnish. Kelp extract varies in construction but is used as an immunity booster, to boost the elasticity of skin, and to boost energy levels and endurance.

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Clinical Studies

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A clinical study is a controlled experiment carried out by professional researchers on the effects, origin or material available about a ingredient, chemical or phenomenon; clinical studies are the most reliable means of determining an ingredients effectiveness because they are designed to leave little room for uncertainty. There don’t appear to have been any clinical studies of Athletic Greens; however, there have been studies on the effects of its weight-loss associated ingredients, which this section reviews. The studies on micronutrient and vitamin deficiency are also summarised here.

Bromelain
A study from 1990 on the effect of bromelain on dyspepsia (indigestion) examined 37 patients who were treated on six separate occasions over a 24 day period. The evaluation was based on a comparison of the enzyme with placebo treatment, and found that there were no significant differences observed between bromelain and placebo in symptom-alleviation, suggesting the enzymes may not be effective for improving digestive health. However, a study from 2009 reviewed the use of enzymes including bromelain in treating digestive disorders, and found that in combination many were effective; the study took 53 patients with digestive issues and over a 3 month period gave them a supplement containing both bromelain, sodium alginate, and two other digestive aids. 68% of patients reported an improvement in symptoms over the 3 month period, though it was not mentioned whether full recovery occurred32. Bromelain has also been suggested to improve muscle recovery; a study saw a group of athletes take either ibuprofen or bromelain supplements to ease pain from an injury. The study measured range of motion and pain; no treatment differences were observed for any of the dependent variables at any time, showing bromelain to be ineffective in this role.

Probiotic supplementation (lactobacillus and bifidobacterium)
A study from 2003 examined the effects of probiotic supplementation on colonic infrection with a diarrhoea-inducing bacterium. 150 patients were given a probiotic containing either lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, or a placebo, for 20 days; multiple stool samples were collected and the patients investigated for symptoms. The researchers found that 46% of the probiotic patients were still infected at the end of the study, compared to 78% of the placebo group. This is evidence that probiotic supplementation is effective for improving digestive health. Lactobacillus supplementation has also been suggested to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease; a study from 1999 on the effects of fermented milk consumption in humans saw the subjects consume one 200ml serving of fermented milk daily for 3 weeks, or a placebo. A 2.4% reduction in cholesterol was observed in the first group of patients, associated with a reduction in heart disease risk of 6 to 10%. However, no studies have shown direct weight loss benefits to taking a probiotic supplement.

Green tea extract
Green tea extract acts through its high concentration of ‘catechins’, which are believed to help increase the levels of fat oxidation in the body. In 2007, Koo SI et al carried out tests in vitro on the effects of GTE, particularly its catechins, on the digestion of lipids in the intestines. The results suggested that GTE catechins were very effective in lowering the lipid-absorption rate of the guts by interfering with enzymes associated with digestion; this means green tea extract could be an effective fat blocker. Epigallocatechin has been shown to prevent obesity in rodents by reducing adipose tissue mass; a 2005 paper saw mice and rats which were prone to obesity have their fat-accumulating gene-activation measured whilst their diets were supplemented with EGCG. The synthesis of fats was observed to radically decrease in both rats and mice, and obesity was reversed in the rats. This suggests that green tea extract (rich in ECGC) is an effective weight loss agent.

Kelp
The effects of kelp on the thyroid gland are explored in a 2003 study with 36 subjects, randomly assigned to receive kelp or placebo supplementation for 4 weeks. The quantity of the three metabolism-boosting hormones produced by the thyroid gland- thyrotropin, free thyroxine and triiodiothyronine- produced by each patient was measured along with metabolic rate, over a 4 week period. Both low and high dosages of kelp were observed to increase the quantities of two of the enzymes, and high kelp dosages were observed to increase all three. However, metabolic rate was not observed to increase in any group over the study. This suggests that whilst kelp is effective for treating underactive thyroid gland disorder (UTD), common in overweight individuals, it is not able to boost metabolic rate in healthy individuals.

Vitamins and micronutrients
The effects of nutrient deficiency in overweight individuals on a low-calorie diet were examined in a 2012 paper where 104 obese subjects underwent a low calorie diet for a period of 3 months, and had their micronutrient concentration measured before and after the study. Each subject was also given dietary advice, since it was discovered that most were consuming diets already low in micronutrients. The majority of the subjects were observed to have lower micronutrient levels by the end of the study; the protein-rich diets consumed, despite supplementation with vitamins and minerals, was putting additional stress on the body that required additional use of micronutrients. This suggests that supplementing with a vitamin supplement like Athletic Greens could keep the body healthy whilst on a low-calorie diet, and that vitamin supplementation may even be vital for the success of such a diet.

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Results

Weight Loss Power: 40/100

Athletic Greens is not a weight loss supplement, and so it does not directly induce weight loss. However, it can boost energy levels and promote a healthy body which is required for safe and effective weight loss, and since low calorie diets are known to induce stress that burns up vitamins, the heavy vitamin and nutrient supplementation helps improve the chances of sticking to this diet. Without a well-planned diet and exercise routine however, customers are not likely to see results.
Speed of results: 60/100

There are no customer reviews directly referencing fat loss, but customers have claimed improved recovery times and feeling more energised and happy within a few days of starting Athletic Greens. Vitamin deficiencies usually take a long time to amend, depending on the severity of the problem, but the kelp’s effect on the thyroid gland usually occurs in a matter of hours and the reported increase in energy is likely linked to this.
Appetite Suppression: 35/100

Whilst there is no directly-appetite-suppressing agent in Athletic Greens, a large part of cravings and the hunger humans experience even after eating-called ‘specific appetite’- comes from deficiencies in nutrients. The product supplies many micronutrients and vitamins and so is likely to help reduce cravings in customers with a poor or nutritionally incomplete diet. For overweight customers on a low calorie diet, this is especially applicable, as these diets remove micronutrients at an accelerated rate. 39
Long Term Results: 50/100

Whilst the body may adjust to the consistent increased quantity of nutrients, and so the consumer may not notice a difference in energy levels, there is no evidence to suggest that long-term use of any of the ingredients in Athletic Greens results in acclimatisation (growing used to it). The benefits of the product should still be experienced many months after initial use.
Safety: 70/100

None of the ingredients in Athletic Greens have shown negative side-effects at the concentrations present. Whilst nausea, headaches, fatigue and organ damage have been noted at very high concentrations of the metals (zinc, chromium, etc.) present, and green tea extract is believed to be toxic in very high concentrations, it’s almost impossible for customers to consume the required quantities using just Athletic Greens. The only concern is a possible allergic reaction, since the product contains over 75 different ingredients.
Value for money: 40/100

Athletic Greens is a combination of a probiotic, nutrient super-supplement, and health food extract supplement which is very expensive as diet supplements go, but it is cheaper than buying the vitamins and nutrients individually. It may be better value for money, and more convenient (delivery is an option), if the customer is looking to supplement with all the contained ingredients-bromelain, for example, can cost one sixth of a month’s serving of Athletic Greens- but for dieting customers mostly interested in the kelp, nutrients and green tea extract, it is not good value for money.

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Athletic Greens Side Effects

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There don’t appear to be any customer complaints reported regarding Athletic Greens; however, the large number of active ingredients means allergic reactions are more likely with this product than with most supplements. Most of the ingredients included in Athletic Greens, including kelp and bromelain, are harmless; however, the large quantity of vitamins, micronutrients and green tea extract have been associated with a few side-effects so it is important to stick to the recommended dosage. This section looks at the possible side-effects Athletic Greens can incur based on clinical studies of green tea extract and vitamin/nutrient excessive intake.

Vitamin and micronutrient overdose
Overdosing on chromium (Athletic Greens contains 63% of the recommended daily intake) has been shown to induce weight loss, anaemia, liver dysfunction and renal failure; a study on a 33 year old woman (1998) who had supplemented with chromium for the past 4 to 5 months at a concentration 50 times greater than that in Athletic Greens observed all of the above symptoms. Recovery time was one year. Zinc has been reported to cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea at concentrations of greater than 200 micrograms per day (Athletic Greens contains only 2.25 micrograms). These effects are very unlikely due to the very high concentrations needed to achieve them. An excessive consumption of vitamins (hypervitaminosis) has been observed for vitamins E and B (present in the supplement), and symptoms include fatigue, headache, weariness, increased bruising and bleeding, and difficulty walking. The dosages need to achieve this are over 1g per kg of bodyweight, and 200 micrograms per day, respectively, so again these effects are very unlikely to occur through using Athletic Greens.

Green tea extract
Though side-effects have been observed with consumption of 1200 milligrams per day (nausea), single dosages of green tea have been shown to be tolerated up to 1600 milligrams per day. In a group of 10 subjects, given dosages between 50 and 1600 milligrams of epigallocatechin, safety and tolerability were assessed; no side-effects were noted in any subjects, despite significant increases in blood plasma concentration of epigallocatechin. The concentrations at which toxicity can occur are far higher than would ever be reasonably observed in consumption of a supplement.

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How To Use

Athletic Greens should be taken once a day, in a 12 grams serving (1 tablespoon), mixed with water, preferably in the morning before eating. Whilst pregnant women, children and nursing women are able to take Athletic Greens, they are advised to consult a doctor before doing so. Athletic Greens should also be taken as part of a varied and balanced diet, with a sensible exercise regime. Customers are advised not to exceed the recommended daily dose; whilst side-effects are unlikely as most ingredients are safe at several-serving quantities, a single serving should fulfil all nutrient needs and there is no reason to exceed this dosage.

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Who Makes Athletic Greens

Athletic Greens is owned by Athletic Greens (USA), Inc., whose only product appears to be Athletic Greens. The company’s statements have not been confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration authority, and the company does not seek to give healthcare advice. The company employs a loyalty scheme where customers are automatically sent (and charged for) a tub of Athletic Greens every month without prior cancellation, though cancellation is promised to be easy and usually available. Refund policy states that refunds can be issued 60 days after payment, but that shipping is not covered, and repeat refunds are not possible. However, little other information is available about the company, although a business and returns address is provided, along with an email address and telephone number.

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Where To Buy

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Athletic Greens is only available from Athletic Greens (USA), Inc. who sell a month’s supply at 87 Euros (£69.02). Because this is a unique blend of active ingredients it is difficult to compare it to another product; however, for weight loss, the most relevant ingredients are green tea extract, kelp, chromium and vanadium. Both green tea and kelp (or similar seaweed product) are available inexpensively, and chromium and vanadium can be purchased independently for much less than £69.02; this suggests that for dieters, Athletic Greens may not be good value for money. Athletic Greens (USA), Inc. do not have reviews outside of their website so their reliability cannot be determined. Customers are advised to call the company to discuss the purchase with a member of the customer service team to ensure they understand the terms and conditions before buying from this company. 45

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Overall Verdict

Athletic Greens is not a very potent diet supplement, but the nutrients it contains may be able to prevent deficiencies experienced whilst dieting that make the experience easier; the green tea extract and kelp will also help boost metabolic rate and help thyroid function respectively. However, eating a nutrient dense and balanced diet can remove the need for a multivitamin-supplement, and more powerful and relatively inexpensive diet supplements are available. It is therefore difficult to recommend Athletic Greens on a purely weight-loss basis.

Overall: 49/100

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