Photo of spinach juice
Bioactive substances in green foods like spinach can help fight cravings for fast food, and promote weight loss

Spinach extract decreases cravings, aids weight loss

4 September, 2014

Natural Health News — A green drink, containing spinach extract could decrease cravings for unhealthy food and keeps you feeling fuller for longer, scientists claim.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden say that the natural supplement can reduce what they term ‘hedonic hunger’ in up to 95% of users – and increases weight loss in up to 43%.

Hedonic hunger is another term for 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 shows that taking substances in the spincach extract known as thylakoids reinforce the body’s production of satiety hormones and suppresses unhealthy cravings, leading to better appetite control, healthier eating habits and increased weight loss.

Thylakoids are present in most green plants and are involved in the process of photosynthesis they contain chlorophyll and other pigments and act like antenna arrays to capture light energy form sunlight.

“Our analyses show that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast reduces cravings and keeps you feeling more satisfied all day,” says Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, Professor of Medicine and Physiological Chemistry at Lund University.

Just one drink a day

The study published in the journal Appetite 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. The thylakoid group also found that it was easier to stick to three meals a day – and they did not experience any cravings,” said Erlanson-Albertsson.

Connecting the gut and the brain

The key is the feeling of satiety and suppression of hedonic hunger, vs homeostatic hunger that deals with our basic energy needs.

Modern processed food is 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 slow down the digestion process, giving the intestinal hormones time to be released and communicate to the brain that we are satisfied.

Erland-Albertsson adds: “It is about making use of the time it takes to digest our food. 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”