For decades now advertising has promised to help people lose weight using a variety of products, but none of the pills, diets, or programs have ever proved to be the miracle product that consumers crave. As Americans continue to grow larger, however, even products that help a little could end up contributing significantly to public health.
A new study published by researchers at Lund University has shown that spinach extract could help dieters shed pounds. Though the compound won't turn consumers into Popeye, the study's authors believe it can curb appetite, helping people who may be struggling to eat less.
The study found that thylakoids (green leaf membranes, according to the authors) in the extract stimulate the human body's satiety hormones. Researchers observed that patients using the extract were better able to control their appetites, leading to weight loss.
"Our analyses show that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast reduces cravings and keeps you feeling more satisfied all day," said Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, a co-author of the study and a professor of physiological chemistry at Lund.
Erlanson-Albertsson and her colleagues looked at 38 overweight women over the course of three months. Half of the women were given the spinach extract while the other half received a placebo.
"In the study, the control group lost an average of 3.5 kg while the group that was given thylakoids lost 5 kg," said Erlanson-Albertsson. "The thylakoid group also found that it was easier to stick to three meals a day - and they did not experience any cravings."
The study's authors calculated that their extract can reduce hedonic hunger - the hunger humans have beyond what they actually need for energy - by up to 95%. It does this by slowing down digestion, giving the body time to release hormones that tell the brain it is full.
"It is about making use of the time it takes to digest our food," said Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson. "There is nothing wrong with our digestive system, but it doesn't work well with the modern 'pre-chewed' food. The thylakoids extend digestion, producing a feeling of satiety. This means that we are able to stick to the diet we are meant for without snacks and unnecessary foods like sweets, crisps, and such."