Coleus forskohlii (CF) is a plant native to India. Since ancient times, plants of the Coleus species have been used as an herbal medicine to treat various disorders of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Forskolin has been isolated from the roots of the India-based Coleus Forskohlii. One of the most common species that contains forskolin is Coleus Forskohlii Briq. Coleus forskohlii Briq. belongs to the family Labiatae, better known as the mint family. Chemically, it is a plant rich in alkaloids, which are considered to have a high probability of influence on the biological systems .
Forskolin is a diterpene that acts directly on adenylate cyclase 3. Adenylate Cyclase is an enzyme that activates Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate, or Cyclic AMP (cAMP) in the cell. Cyclic AMP promotes the breakdown of stored fats in animal and human fat cells 4. It regulates the body’s thermogenic response to food, increases the body’s basal metabolic rate, and increases utilization of body fat. It may also release fatty acids from adipose tissue, which results in increased thermogenesis, loss of body fat, and theoretically increased lean body mass. Forskolin increases cAMP accumulation, and therefore stimulates lipolysis. So, with high concentrations of forskolin, cAMP and lipolysis increase. Enhanced lipolysis increases fat degradation and fat usage as a fuel in the body. This may promote fat and weight loss. It is thought that supplementing with forskolin may enhance fat loss without loss of muscle mass .
A previous proof-of-concept preliminary study was conducted to test the effects of CF on body composition 5. The study used a population of six overweight, but otherwise healthy, women (BMI > 25) who ingested forskolin twice daily for eight weeks. Each subject maintained her previous daily physical exercise and eating habits. The results of the study showed a significant decrease in the mean values for body weight and fat content using bioelectrical impedance (BIA) methodology. Lean body mass significantly increased compared to baseline. No side effects were reported. This preliminary study showed that, given 25 mg of forskolin twice a day, overall body weight could improve by increasing lean body mass and by decreasing weight from body fat .
A recent study conducted by Godard and colleagues evaluated the effects of forskolin supplementation (250 mg of a 10% CF extract taken twice a day for 12-weeks) in overweight and obese men (BMI > 26) on body composition, testosterone, metabolic rate, and blood pressure. The study consisted of thirty participants randomized, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled (forskolin n = 15, placebo n = 15) manner for 12 weeks. Body composition determined by DEXA was affected due to significant decreases in fat percentage and fat mass when compared to the placebo group (p ≤ 0.05). Bone mass changes occurred in the forskolin group (p ≤ 0.05) when compared to the placebo group. The results of lean body mass revealed an increased trend when compared to the placebo group (p = 0.097). In addition, increases in serum free testosterone occurred in the forskolin group compared to the placebo group (p ≤ 0.05). This study showed that body composition decreased, bone mass increased, and serum free testosterone increased. Thus, it was concluded that forskolin use could possibly be used as a therapeutic agent for weight management and treatment in obese men .
The present study was needed to further investigate the effectiveness of CF. Aside from its potential health and therapeutic benefits, additional research was needed to assess its role in the management of body composition, and to determine the safety and efficacy of supplementation. It was also of interest to the investigator how forskolin affects general markers of health (i.e. heart rate, blood pressure, and blood variables). This study took a more comprehensive approach to explore the role that forskolin supplementation has on body composition, fat loss, and general markers of health.