Can the secret to weight loss be found in the spice aisle?

Obesity is considered a global health crisis and more than 50% of the South African population is overweight, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

One exciting prospect is that the risk of obesity can be reduced by the potential weight loss effects of certain spices available at your local grocery store.

These include turmeric, chilli, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic, and they can be safe and inexpensive additions to medications or diet plans for weight loss and the treatment of metabolic disorders.

Research on turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its bioactive ingredient curcumin has shown several health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic effects, and improved brain and heart health, but unfortunately does not appear to include weight loss.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 21 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) found that curcumin supplementation resulted in only 1 to 2 kg weight loss in obese individuals with metabolic syndrome, and numerous other studies found no weight loss associated with ingestion of Curcumin.

The subjects in these studies received a dietary supplement in the form of turmeric powder or turmeric capsules at a dose of 70 to 3000 mg / day, and the duration of the studies varied from short (4 weeks) to fairly long (8 months). .

On the plus side, several studies have shown that curcumin improves cholesterol profiles and reduces inflammation, which can be beneficial for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, curcumin makes up only a small part of turmeric powder and therefore either large amounts of turmeric or smaller amounts of purified curcumin must be consumed in order to have metabolic effects.

Capsicum chilli is enjoyed by some and feared by others, but scientists have researched its fat burning properties rather than its mouth burning effects.

Some studies have suggested that capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli, can promote satiety (satiety), thereby reducing food intake, while others suggest that this could simply be due to intestinal discomfort.

However, it doesn’t seem like these effects translate into meaningful weight loss. A meta-analysis of 6 short (4 to 12 weeks) RCTs on capsaicin, varying from 3 mg / day to 135 mg / day, showed a weight loss of only 500 g, although some other studies suggested that a slightly increased weight loss (1st , 5 to 2 kg) can be achieved by combining capsaicin with other products such as ginger and green tea.

Ginger alone caused minimal weight loss (less than 1 kg) in overweight and obese individuals, but lowered fasting blood sugar, improved insulin sensitivity, and normalized cholesterol levels, although surprisingly lower amounts of ginger (up to 1 g per day) appeared to be more effective than higher amounts.

Other spices

Obtained from various species of trees in the genus Cinnamomum, cinnamon is another spice that has been considered for use against obesity.

However, human studies on the use of cinnamon for weight loss have mainly been conducted in people with type 2 diabetes, with the combined results of 18 RCTs suggesting that cinnamon intake, which normally fluctuates between 1 mg / day and 3 mg / day, over two to four months could lower fasting blood sugar levels.

However, cinnamon did not affect body weight, waist circumference, or other indicators of diabetes status such as insulin resistance in these study participants.

On the plus side, a meta-analysis of 13 RCTs found that a cinnamon supplement could lower blood cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, the effects of cinnamon on weight loss or cholesterol levels in otherwise healthy people have not been studied in clinical trials.

In addition, cinnamon contains a toxic ingredient, coumarin, the levels of which vary depending on the specific type of cinnamon and the method of cinnamon preparation used.

In this case, therefore, it is certainly not true that “if a little is good, more must be better”!

Another popular spice is garlic (Allium sativum), which has been used since ancient times to supposedly cure everything from cancer to colds.

An analysis of 13 RCTs found that garlic supplementation had very little effect on body weight, but resulted in a small but significant decrease in waist size, suggesting that garlic may target metabolically dangerous belly fat.

Additionally, a study of 40 patients with obesity and metabolic syndrome found that consuming raw crushed garlic twice a day relieved their high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar levels, reduced their waist size, and improved their cholesterol levels.

Overall, the usefulness of these spices for weight loss, even when combining data from all of the available studies, has only been tested on a small number of people, usually fewer than a thousand, around the world.

From these studies, it appears that these spices are not effective for weight loss, although they have other health benefits that can help treat diabetes and heart disease.

There is also a possibility that a combination of these spices may be more effective for weight loss, although this has not been tested.

Keep in mind that these products cannot replace the drugs prescribed by your doctor. at best, they can be supportive and at the same time spice up your meal times.

* Logan Smith and Dr. Hanél Sadie-Van Gijsen are associated with the Center for Cardio-metabolic Research in Africa (CARMA) in the Department of Medical Physiology of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch.

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