Update 3/10/20. Relora? It’s an anti-anxiety-weight loss supplement that is touted to relieve stress and curb stress-related eating. Relora was even featured on the Dr.Oz show which endorsed it as having proof that it worked. The company that makes the product says the supplement has “undergone successful clinical trials”—but does that mean Relora works? Does it have any side effects? By the end of this review, you'll have a better idea if Relora is right for you.
Relora And Weight Loss
Here are the basics of how Relora is supposed to help weight loss: Too much stress keeps people from sleeping properly. This, in turn, might lead to gaining weight —not only from raiding the fridge at night—but also because it might increase levels of a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is a necessary hormone and as such, does some useful things. However, elevated cortisol levels over long periods of time, are linked to some bad things, including loss of muscle. Cortisol can also increase appetite. Belly fat also has cortisol receptors so they are influenced by cortisol also. To quote the Relora.com website:
Belly fat “has four times as many [cortisol] receptors, making it particularly sensitive to cortisol. In fact, belly fat responds to stress hormones by increasing in size.”
So, if I understand this correctly, Relora is supposed to block the effects of cortisol and in doing so, reduce stress —and stress-induced eating—helping people sleep better and reduce belly fat.
As an aside, the weight loss supplement Relacore is also touted to reduce cortisol levels. See my my review of Relacore for more information.
All this sounds good —but is there any proof that Relora reduces cortisol levels or helps people lose weight? There is some research on Relora and I will review that research below.
Relora has 250 mg per serving and is composed of these ingredients:
- Magnolia Officinalis
- Phellodendron amurense Bark
Relora also has a little bit of calcium but because its only 38 mg per pill, I won't review it here. I don't think the calcium adds anything to the product. Relora is also Kosher certified.
On the product website, it's said that Relora “has undergone successful clinical trials.”
Here is a summary of the research:
Anxiolytic properties of botanical extracts in the chick social separation-stress procedure. The word anxiolytic is science talk for “anti-anxiety.” This study was published in 2001 in the journal, Psychopharmacology.
This study used baby chicks. Researchers injected various herbal extracts into baby chicks and put them in stressful situations and measured how many “distress vocalizations” were heard.
To me, this sounds like they listened to how loudly the baby chicks cried when putting in a stressful situation.
At the end of the study, the baby chicks getting Relora (called “NPS00039” in the study) seemed to have fewer distress vocalizations than those getting other herbal preparations.
It's important to know these facts about this study:
1. Relora was injected into baby chicks.
2. This was not a human study.
3. Researchers did not measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Relaxation During Weight Loss: Relieving Stress with an Herbal Combination. This paper relates various past investigations and summaries a new study where researchers took 26 overweight women (age 20-50) with a history of stress eating and gave them either relora or a placebo. It was said that the woman getting the placebo gained weight while those taking Relora lost weight.
But, there are some potential problems with this study:
- I could not tell how much relora the women took
- I could not tell how long the study lasted
- There were more people in the Relora group (16) than the placebo group (10). I wonder if this played a role in the study outcomes?
- It was said that there was a “non significant trend” toward lower average cortisol levels in the Relora group. That's fancy talk for cortisol did not change.
- Also, for the math nerds reading this, the p value was set to p<0.89. This is higher than many other studies.
- The head researcher was the CEO of Next Pharmaceuticals and appears on the Relora patent as one of the inventors of it.
This study was published in 2006 in a journal called Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. As stated in the title, this is a pilot study (preliminary study). In the study, 42 healthy, overweight, premenopausal women were given either Relora (250 mg, 3 times per day, which is 750 mg total per day) or a placebo, for 6 weeks. I could not determine from the study what the placebo was.
All subjects completed a 3-day food journal before and after the study. The majority of people in both groups were Hispanic.
At the end of the study, researchers noted that:
- Only 28 people completed the study (15 people dropped out).
- Greater dropout rates occurred in the placebo group (unknown reasons why).
- Those getting Relora saw no significant gain in weight. Conversely, there was significant weight gain in the placebo group.
- Those getting Relora saw a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure (5 mm Hg) compared to the placebo group.
- Both the placebo group and Relora group showed significant decreases in anxiety level.
- There were no significant changes in cortisol levels in either group. In the study, researchers said there was “a non significant trend toward lowered cortisol levels in the Relora group.” That's fancy talk for, “we didn’t see any significant changes in cortisol levels.”
Problems With This Study:
- A lot of people dropped out of the study.
- Both placebo and Relora groups showed significant reductions in anxiety.
- They didn’t tell us what the placebo was.
- Relora did not significantly reduce cortisol levels (Remember, Relora is touted to reduce cortisol levels).
This study was published in 2008 in the Journal Nutrition and looked at the effects of Relora on stress, anxiety, and sleep in 40 healthy premenopausal women (only 26 women completed the study).
Women were randomly given either a placebo or Relora (250 mg 3 times a day, which is 750 mg total per day) for 6 weeks. We are not told what the placebo was except that it was identical in size, shape, and color.
- No significant change in cortisol levels in either placebo or Relora groups.
- Both groups reported significantly less anxiety on questionnaires but those in the Relora group reported almost twice as much of a decrease.
- No significant change in blood pressure in either Relora or placebo groups
- No significant change in any lab tests including TSH levels, which are an indication of thyroid function (This is odd. See the side effects section below).
- No significant changes in appetite or calories eaten in either Relora or placebo groups.
- No significant changes in body weight, waist circumference, hip circumference or waist- to- hip ratio in either placebo group or Relora group.
Summary Of Relora Research
Looking at the 4 Relora studies listed on the New Pharmaceuticals website, this is what I see:
1. A study from 2001 of baby chicks noting less anxiety when Relora was injected. No measurement of cortisol was taken.
2. A pre-publication draft of a review paper (2005 study).
3. A pilot study from 2006 with a high dropout rate showing no significant cortisol reduction —but no gaining of weight either —compared to placebo. Both placebo and Relora group showed “significant” reductions in anxiety.
4. A pilot study from 2008 noting no significant reduction in cortisol levels, no change in appetite or body weight.
5. There are 4 studies listed but only 3 seem to be original scientific research.
6. Of the 3 original research studies, only 2 studies involved humans (the 2006 and 2008 studies). Both of these studies are preliminary studies (pilot studies) with small groups of people and both had a high dropout rate.
7. Neither of the 2 human studies of Relora showed that it significantly reduced cortisol levels.
So, where is the proof that Relora reduces cortisol levels? Dr. Oz said there was proof.
In 2013 a new Relora study published. It was titled Effect of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on cortisol and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. This study lasted 4 weeks and involved 56 men and women who randomly received either a placebo or 500 mg of Relora per day.
Note, 500 mg used in this study is less than that used in the 2 studies summarized above (which used 750mg per day).
People were screened for psychological stress, body fat and salivary cortisol levels. Cortisol was measured several times a day. Body fat was determined with the Tanita BDF-300A bioelectrical impedance, a device that, according to the product's website, is said to measure body fat levels within 5% of that obtained with DEXA scan (a very accurate body fat method).
At the end of the study, no significant side effects were reported.
The following changes were seen in those who received Relora compared to placebo:
- 18% reduction in salivary cortisol levels (significant reduction)
- Significant improvements in overall stress, mood, and several other indicators of psychological stress
- No significant change in body weight or percent body fat
The study notes that it was funded by Next Pharmaceuticals (the makers of Relora) but that they had no influence on the outcomes. The researchers had no financial ties to Next Pharmaceuticals. The study was conducted by SupplementWatch.com a website that reviews supplements. The study notes that two of the researchers are employees of MonaVie, which has a product that contains Relora as one of its ingredients.
For more information, here is my review of MonaVie Essential which is different than the product that contains Relora.
Dr. Oz And Relora
Here is the video clip of Relora featured on the Dr. Oz Show (the video has since been removed from the Dr. Oz website). While the clip has been removed from the Dr. Oz website, at about 1 minute into the segment, Dr. Oz says:
“They have done studies that have shown that that you can reduce those cortisol levels I'm speaking about, especially at night.”
But, in my review of research, I saw no good proof that Relora significantly reduced cortisol levels. I know Dr. Oz knows how to read a scientific study so, I believe Dr. Oz was basing his words on an incorrect summary of research his staff provided him.
Dr. Oz goes on to say:
“I want you to remember this. If you're taking these belly busters, you also have to do your part too, but I know you need crutches…”
I think this statement, in a nutshell, summarizes why Dr. Oz talks about weight loss products on his TV show. I believe his hope is that they will be used as “crutches” and not to replace diet and exercise.
I think his hope is that people might use them as something tangible —something that can be seen, touched, and tasted —to help them hold onto when the going gets tough.
In this way, I believe the weight loss supplements Dr. Oz mentions (all of them!) are, mostly like placebos, giving people something to believe in. This is not necessarily bad if the product is safe and does not break bank accounts.
For those who are interested here is Relora on Amazon.com. Be sure to read the reviews for more insights.
Does Relora Reduce Cortisol Levels?
If I look only at the research presented on the product website, there appears to be little evidence that Relora significantly reduces cortisol levels. Neither of the 2 human studies I summarized above, shows any significant reduction in cortisol after 6 weeks of Relora use. This is contrasted by the 2013 study summarized above which did find that Relora reduces salivary cortisol levels (by 18%). Based on these seemingly conflicting results, I believe more research is needed.
Does Relora Reduce Blood Pressure?
Currently, I think this is debatable. In the pilot study from 2006, researchers noted a small (5 mm hg) reduction in systolic blood pressure after Relora use. But, in the 2008 Relora pilot study, no significant change in blood pressure was seen.
Who Makes Relora?
According to the Relora website, the product is made by a company called, Next Pharmaceuticals. Next Pharmaceuticas was purchased by InterHealth Nutraceuticals. InterHealth was eventually purchased by the Swiss company called Lonza (Lonza.com)
Relora Side Effects
Since there is not much published research on humans, side effects are difficult to determine. In the Relora pilot study from 2006, side effects that were noted by one person included heartburn, hands shaking, perilabial numbness (numbness around the lips/mouth), sexual problems and thyroid problems. The physician overseeing this study noted that these effects “were possibly related” to Relora.
Another person in this study reported fatigue and headaches. The physician of the study noted that these side effects were “possibly not related” to Relora.
Heartburn, hands shaking, perilabial numbness, sexual problems and thyroid problems were also mentioned as side effects experienced by some people. The 2008 study above also noted that there were no changes in TSH levels from Relora. TSH is a measure of how well the thyroid if working. So, I'm not sure who was reporting thyroid problems?
In the 2013 study reported in the “update” above no side effects were reported.
People who took Relora and commented at Amazon -and gave it 1 star – noted that it was associated with headaches, feelings of drowsiness/foggy feelings. While some people feel Relora helped them lose weight and feel better, others say they felt no change at all.
In the comments section below, some people have reported vivid dreams and nightmares after taking Relora. See the comments for more information.
How Much To Take?
Dr. Oz said he recommended 250 mg, three times per day (one with every meal). That's 750 mg total per day. This is the same amount that was used in the two human studies I summarized above. In the 2013 study summarized above which did see reductions in cortisol, only 500 mg per day was used.
Tip. I think it's wise to start all new supplements with less than is recommended for the first week to see how you respond as far as side effects are concerned.
Does Relora Work?
I'm sure there will be people who say that Relora worked for them—and that’s great. But, my question is, did Relora work because people thought it worked (by acting as a crutch as Dr. Oz hinted) or because it actually reduced stress levels and cortisol levels? I'm inclined to think Relora may have an effect on your mood.