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In my video Benefits of Black Cumin for Weight Loss, a total of 17 randomized controlled trials showed that the simple spice could reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. And the side effects? A weight-loss effect.
Saffron is another spice found to be effective for treating a major cause of suffering (depression, in this case) with a side effect of decreased appetite. When put to the test in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, saffron, indeed, was found to lead to a significant weight loss (five pounds more than placebo, and an extra inch off the waist in eight weeks). The dose of saffron used in the study was the equivalent of drinking a cup of tea made from a large pinch of saffron threads.
Suspecting the active ingredient might be crocin, the pigment in saffron that accounts for its crimson color, researchers also tried giving people just the purified pigment. That led to weight loss too, but it didn’t do as well as the full saffron extract (beating the placebo by only two pounds and half an inch). The mechanism appeared to be appetite suppression, as the crocin group ended up averaging about 80 fewer calories a day, whereas the full saffron group consumed 170 calories less a day on average.
A similar study looked specifically at snacking frequency. The researchers thought perhaps the mood-boosting effects of saffron might cut down on stress-related eating. Indeed, eight weeks of a saffron extract did cut snack intake in half, compared to placebo, accompanied by a slight but statistically significant weight loss (about two pounds). Even the loss of a few pounds is pretty remarkable, given the tiny doses utilized (about 100mg), which is equivalent of about an eighth of a teaspoon of the spice.
The problem is that saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It’s composed of delicate threads sticking up out of the saffron crocus flower. Each flower produces only a few threads, so you need 50,000 flowers to make a single pound of spice—enough flowers to cover a football field. So, that pinch of saffron could cost a dollar a day.
That’s why in my 21 tweaks to accelerate weight loss in How Not to Diet, instead of saffron I include black cumin, which at a quarter teaspoon a day would only cost three cents a day. But what about just regular cumin?
Used in cuisines around the world from Tex-Mex to South Asia, cumin is the second most popular spice on earth, after black pepper. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants with a range of purported medicinal uses, but only recently has it been put to the test for weight loss. Those randomized to a half teaspoon at both lunch and dinner over three months lost about four more pounds and an extra inch off their waist. The spice was found comparable to the obesity drug known as orlistat.
For those of you who don’t remember, that’s the “anal leakage” drug you may have heard about (sold under the brand names Alli and Xenical), though the drug company apparently prefers the term “faecal spotting” to describe the rectal discharge it causes.
The drug company’s website offered some helpful tips, though: “it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants. and bring a change of clothes with you to work.” You know, just in case their drug causes you to crap your pants at work.
I think I’ll stick with the cumin, thank you very much.
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