Recently, many of my patients have asked me about the weight loss properties of saffron extract that’s been buzzing in the news. After doing a little research on it, I’ve learned that saffron does have some important health benefits associated with it which could significantly help you get rid of some stubborn pounds. Let me tell you what I’ve learned…
The Health and Weight Loss Benefits of Saffron
For centuries the fragrant and expensive saffron extract has been used as a spice in traditional Persian, Indian, Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisines. It’s beautiful golden yellow color gives dishes like kefta (Morocco) and Risotto (Italy) both an exotic color and flavor. But as tasty as saffron recipes are, saffron extract has been more sought after lately for its weight loss properties. Here’s how it may help you lose weight.
1. Controls appetite. Research published in Nutrition Research in 2010, shows saffron capable of controlling compulsive eating. Their study looked at 60 women, half who were given saffron extract and half who were given a placebo for 8 weeks. Their calorie intake was unrestricted. After 8 weeks, the women who took the saffron had a significant decrease in body weight and experienced greater decrease in snacking, than the women who took the placebo.
2. Mood enhancement. Saffron was also shown in the same study, and others, to increase brain levels of serotonin – a “feel good” hormone. The researchers felt that this quality of saffron also contributed to the control of appetite. People binge-eat, and just eat larger amounts of food, when depressed. A different study published inPhytotherapy Research in 2005 revealed that saffron may aid in the treatment of depression. Another earlier study published in BMC Complementary Medicine showed saffron to be similarly effective as the prescription anti-depressant imipramine.
How Does Saffron Extract Work for Weight Loss?
As I mentioned above, saffron controls appetite likely by boosting serotonin levels. People rarely over-eat when they’re happy. Yet, saffron extract does not zoom up your metabolism like other caffeine, ephedra, or other stimulant containing weight loss supplements can. Stimulant-type supplements can leave you feeling shaky and raise your blood pressure. Instead, saffron extract, by increasing your brain’s serotonin levels, signals your brain that you don’t want to “emotion” or “stress” binge eat which is at the heart of a lot of people’s weight gain. Eating food also releases serotonin in your brain and is why so many people seek comfort in eating food whenever they feel upset or stressed. It also tells your brain that you’re full – a big boost to weight loss efforts. If you don’t feel full after you eat, you’ll likely continue to eat more until you do.
How To Take Saffron
In order to take saffron successfully, you want to take the correct dosage and be sure your supplement has no binders, fillers, artificial ingredients, and contains 100% pure saffron extract from the “Crocus sativa” plant. The usual recommended dose of saffron is 200 mg twice a day (400 mg) about 30 minutes before you eat. Be sure the supplement you buy has that amount, as many cheaper supplements contain much less actual saffron extract. Be sure your supplement comes from an FDA registered manufacturing plant and cGMP certified.
Saffron also comes in tiny granules that you pre-measure with spoon included and sprinkle on your food before you eat it.
Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Saffron?
In studies of people who used saffron extract, there have been no reported side effects to date. Therefore, it has been deemed safe to use for weight loss as far as current data knows. The only real concern there may be about saffron is possible allergic reactions to it.
The allergens in spices like saffron, et al, are similar to those in pollens and vegetables. If you have any pollen allergies, you may be sensitive to saffron. Also, sensitivities to mugwort and birch tree may predispose you to allergic reaction to spices like saffron. If you don’t have these allergies, saffron extract will likely not bother you.
It would seem the research clearly shows that saffron could make a difference in helping you lose unwanted pounds. In addition, it can also help boost your mood as you do so. So many people get ‘dieter’s crash’ when they decrease intake of sugar and other carbohydrates as they help create serotonin in the brain. Because saffron helps boost serotonin without eating added sugar or carbohydrates, you’ll be a giant step ahead and on your way to successful weight loss!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.