Image source: Wikipedia, photographer, Inna Moody
Japanese researchers have tested a traditional West African herbal remedy and found that it increases thermogenesis and stimulates brown adipose tissue loss.
The research comes from Japan's Tenshi College School of Nursing and Nutrition. After significant laboratory testing on the medicinal herb called Aframomum melegueta, inclusive of breaking down its primary active constituents, the researchers tested the herb on 19 healthy young men.
The researchers tested the 19 men for body fat content, energy expenditure and thermogenesis using PET scans. The thermogenesis testing included submitting the subjects to a cold environment for two hours while testing their energy output.
After gaining baseline levels, the researchers gave an extract of Aframomum melegueta seed or a placebo to the 19 men for four weeks, and then crossed the group over to test the placebo group with the herbal extract.
The researchers found that the extract resulted in a significant increase in energy expenditure and loss of brown adipose tissue – fatty tissue known to be difficult to reduce. They also found that energy expenditure increased within two hours of the subject receiving the extract, while the placebo group showed no such increase.
The research, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, means that Grains of Paradise may be a significant weight loss aid. Brown adipose tissue can be difficult to reduce for those wanting to lose weight. Some refer to brown fatty tissue as "baby fat."
Aframomum melegueta is a perennial plant indigenous to West Africa, but is also cultivated in the Caribbean and Northern Africa. The plant's peppery-flavored seeds are a popular spice for many African dishes. For this reason, some have named the seeds African Pepper, and even Alligator Pepper in the tropics, but in more recent times it has been called Grains of Paradise. Besides as a food spice, the herb is known for its warming, digestive properties, and has been used in traditional medicines to relieve heartburn, aid indigestion, and repel intestinal infections and parasites.
Other research has found that Grains of Paradise is a strong antioxidant and may reduce high blood pressure. It may also help protect the liver.
The plant contains numerous flavonoids, tannins, alkaloids, glycosides, sterols, triterpenes, and volatile oils. Its flavor and principle is thought to be derived from its aromatic ketones, which include 6-paradol, 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol. Many of these constituents are also found in Pippali or Piper longum - the Ayurvedic long pepper - and Ginger.
Sugita J, Yoneshiro T, Hatano T, Aita S, Ikemoto T, Uchiwa H, Iwanaga T, Kameya T, Kawai Y, Saito M. Grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta) extract activates brown adipose tissue and increases whole-body energy expenditure in men. Br J Nutr. 2013 Jan 11:1-6.
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