In case you missed the latest news, raspberry ketone is the the newest “guaranteed” fat-burning product currently touted to us Doritos-Locos-Taco-loving Americans. Raspberry I understand – those tiny morsels of ruby deliciousness that fit perfectly on top of Kid Two’s index finger like a hat. We chomp them down fresh by the clamshell full when in season and affordable and by the frozen bagful when not, to mix in raspberry-banana-lemonade smoothies. The perfect after-school treat.

Fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet, and raspberry smoothies, I get. But what the heck is raspberry ketone? Ketone sounds like acetone, which sounds like nail polish remover. My high school chemistry is a distant blur of the unfortunate Mr. Greathouse unsuccessfully communicating the idea of half-life and my producing a report on a Marie Curie to make up for a failing test. So I turn to Wikipedia for answers.

A quick search for raspberry ketone reveals all: it’s AKA Rasketone, Frambinone, and p-Hydroxybenzyl acetone. Molecular formula C10H12O2. Appearance of  tiny white needles. Awarded a GRAS designation by the FDA: Generally Recognized As Safe. But more practically, Rasketone is chemical part of a raspberry that gives it that delectable sweet-tart fruity smell. Because there are only teeny tiny bits of C10H12O2 in each berry – around .0002% of a pound of raspberries is raspberry ketone – that natural extract is one of the most expensive in the world, running about $10,000 per pound. That’s a lot of smoothies.

Because of the high price, raspberry ketone is also manufactured, rather than extracted, via a chemical reaction involving acetone, lye, and hydrogen molecules. Smells like raspberries, same molecular structure as the natural extract, but not a particularly delicious way to get your fruit.

Someone along the way had the idea to find out what happened when you dose lab mice fed a high-fat diet with raspberry ketone – turns out the mice should have gained weight, but did not. Now there are lots of skinny mice running around a lab somewhere, but will that work on people? Maybe. Maybe not.

Raspberry ketone certainly won’t be the last magic bullet as we try and research a way to have out cake and eat it too, but I anticipate the only losers will be those who shell out good money for a bottle of raspberry ketone supplements. Me – I’ll be putting raspberries on my oatmeal and trying to burn fat the old-fashioned way with a quick jog around the block.

 

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