Spinach extract decreases food cravings, study
A spinach extract containing green leaf membranes called thylakoids decreases cravings for ‘unhealthy’ foods by up to 95 per cent, and increases weight loss by 43 per cent, according to a recently published long-term human study from Lund University in Sweden.
Hedonic hunger is the term used to describe the cravings many people experience for unhealthy foods such as sweets or fast food, a common cause of obesity and unhealthy eating habits. The study showed that taking thylakoids reinforced the body’s production of satiety hormones and suppresses hedonic hunger, which led to better appetite control, healthier eating habits and increased 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, Professor of Medicine and Physiological Chemistry at Lund University.
The study involved 38 overweight women and ran for three months. Every morning before breakfast the participants had a green drink. Half of the women were given 5 grams of spinach extract and the other half, the control group, were given a placebo. The participants did not know which group they belonged to – the only instructions they received were to eat a balanced diet including three meals a day and not to go on any other diet.
“In the study, the control group lost an average of 3.5 kg while the group that was given thylakoids lost 5 kg,” Professor Erlanson-Albertsson said. “The thylakoid group also found that it was easier to stick to three meals a day – and they did not experience any cravings,” she said.
Suppression of cravings ‘key’
The researchers said the key to the success of the spinach extract was the feeling of satiety and suppression of hedonic hunger, and its relationship with homeostatic hunger that deals with our basic energy needs.
They said modern processed food was broken down so quickly that the hormones in the intestines that send satiety signals to the brain and suppress cravings cannot keep up. The green leaf membranes in the spinach extract slowed down the digestion process, giving the intestinal hormones time to be released and communicate to the brain that we are satisfied.
“It is about making use of the time it takes to digest our food,” Professor Erlanson-Albertsson said. “There is nothing wrong with our digestive system, but it doesn’t work well with the modern ‘pre-chewed’ food,” she said.
“The thylakoids extend digestion, producing a feeling of satiety,” Professor Erlanson-Albertsson said. “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,” she said.