Monday, 13 March 2017

Three Herbs and Spices That May Help With Weight Loss

Living in a world of over-convenience and seemingly addictive sugary, processed foods, being overweight or obese is sadly the new normal for many. Conventional methods of losing weight, in other words being told "just eat less" and "cut out fat" just aren't working, and sometimes just finding the motivation to go outside and exercise is a battle itself, with concurrent chronic conditions also common. But what if there was a weight loss tool that could both taste great and work in a holistic manner?

Source: Simon A. Eugster
It turns out that some spices, often simply seen as a way to improve taste and bring another culture into the recipe, may actually aid weight loss. One of these is turmeric, commonly used in South Asian cooking. A randomised, controlled clinical trial tested the effects of curcumin, the "main" active constituent of turmeric, on 44 overweight people with metabolic syndrome who were not doing well with losing weight. After the 30 days, curcumin increased monthly weight loss from 1.88% on average to 4.91%, increased body fat reduction from 0.7 to 8.43% and increased waist circumference reduction from 2.36% to 4.14%. Waistline and body fat reduction is particularly important, as these go beyond simply fitting "beauty standards". Abdominal fat, or visceral fat, is in many ways a functioning endocrine organ. It produces inflammatory immune chemicals, which promote insulin resistance, which promotes abdominal obesity. Abdominal fat can also produce relatively large amounts of an enzyme that activates cortisol, which breaks down proteins (such as that in muscles and bones!) and promotes obesity. Curcumin has other anti-inflammatory effects too, and as inflammation causes pain and fatigue, reducing it may help you gain the motivation to go outside.

Coming back to European cooking, rosemary is another possible fat fighter. In an animal study, mice were given either a low-fat diet, a high-fat diet on its own or a high-fat diet supplemented with rosemary extract. Compared to the high-fat diet alone, supplementing with rosemary extract reduced weight gain, circulating liver enzymes, liver weight, blood glucose and insulin levels. This means rosemary extract may protect against fatty liver disease and diabetes. Rosemary extract also significantly reduced advanced glycation end-products and the expression of liver receptors for them. These are hard-to-remove substances that get tangled in tissues, disrupting their structure and function while creating a vicious cycle of damage and inflammation. They are thought to be behind much of the aging process. However, this is only an animal study, we need human clinical trials to confirm these benefits.

Now let's go somewhere in between these two regions, Iran. Dill is a now-common herb used in cooking and medicinally for its effects as an aromatic digestive herb (Phytotherapy Desk Reference). Now, a recent study on mice suggests that dill extract could also help with the often-elusive willpower needed to cut excessive kilojoule intake. A significant drop in body weight and food intake was seen over five weeks of dill seed extract administration, alongside a significant rise in serotonin. Serotonin promotes a sense of satiety; if you have enough serotonin, you know when to stop eating. As this was another animal study, we need human clinical trials to confirm these effects in people. Overall, herbs and spices may be an important missing link in your efforts to lose weight, although extracts available from natural health practitioners seem to be the only products of the necessary strength.

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