Food Innovation Center

Collaborating for a healthier, hunger-free world.

The Sweet Taste of Weight Loss

Food Innovation Center Member Christopher SimonsThe sweet flavor of raspberries is not only delicious to taste but may be the answer to our weight loss woes. Raspberry ketones, a chemical flavor found in several fruits like red raspberries and strawberries, may contribute to weight loss by increasing levels of adiponectin, a protein which accelerates the breakdown of fat. These recent findings have created a surge in consumer use of raspberry ketone supplements despite the fact that few studies have been conducted on raspberry ketone weight loss – none of which include human test subjects.

Christopher Simons, Food Innovation Center member and assistant professor in food science and technology, decided to further explore this raspberry ketone phenomenon through his latest Seed Grant project.  With the combined skills of Simon’s Seed Grant Team, he hopes to gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of raspberry ketone weight loss. Fresh raspberries and blackberries, commercially available diet supplements, and freeze dried black raspberry nectar are among the items Simons and his team will be investigating for levels of raspberry ketones.   

The project is currently in the mouse studies stage where obese mice will be given increasing levels of raspberry ketones in their diet. The findings produced from mouse studies will aid in the development of a future prototype food that can be tested with humans. Simons is particularly interested in the raspberry ketone potential in black raspberries. Fellow project member and FIC member Yael Vodovotz has already developed a black raspberry confection used for anti-cancer properties in clinical trials with prostate cancer patients. Simons hopes to base a prototype on Vodovotz’s confection that contains a therapeutic dose of raspberry ketones which will result in weight loss and anti-inflammation.

With relatively little known on the weight loss aspects of raspberry ketones and its uses in a food prototype, Simons must evaluate what levels of raspberry ketones proves to be effective while still maintaining satisfactory taste. Simons specializes in sensory science and understands the intricate factors which come into play when consumers decide whether or not they like what they are eating.

“One aspect often overlooked is texture effects. It might be thick or creamy but we have no idea what those mechanisms are and how the mouth is processing what receptors or nerves are involved,” says Simons.

Another crucial aspect is the environment we eat in. The context of our environment can potentially trigger our cravings. Ohio State conducts food sensory testing from the Parker Food Science and Technology building. In order to create an environment that encourages a craving for a certain food, the lab has nine flat screen TVs with surround sound and air dispensers to deliver an appropriate aroma.

“One of the things I want to do is understand what some of these environment or contextual cues that affect obese verses non-obese,” says Simons.

Simons has been with Ohio State for less than a year but was quick to find the collaborative team he needed in order to receive his Seed Grant funding.

 “That’s the huge benefit of the FIC,” says Simons. “The infrastructure in place for these types of collaborations is unbelievable.”

The outcome of the preliminary findings of his project may or may not find reliable benefits of raspberry ketones, but Simons sees the situation as a ‘win-win.’ In any case, his project will at least be the next step in uncover the myths of raspberry ketones.