Friday, December 23, 2011

Beyond Warding Off Holiday Weight Gain: 250-1000mg of Freeze-Dried Ginger Reduce Visceral Fat Even When Rodents Are Fed an Obesogenic "High Fat" Diet.

Image 1: If ginger works only half as good in humans as it does in rodents, you can drink your way to a leaner and healthier you with Alisa Profumo's delicious low-carb "Healthy REAL Ginger Ale".
Zingiber officinale, or, in plain English, Ginger, is unquestionably one of the most remarkable plant rhizomes that is known to mankind. It has been used in various cultures for treating common colds or fever, to aid digestion, treat stomach upset, diarrhoea or nausea, to alleviate rheumatic disorders, gastrointestinal complications and dizziness, and, as of late, it has received quite some attention as a possible adjuvant to treatment modalities of cancer (Peirara. 2011). In a pretty recent study, the administration of 500 mg/kg zinigiber officinale to streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats (cf. related study in CLnA, the Omega-3 Variety of CLA), was able to partly restore the deteriorated glucose metabolism (Abdulrazaq. 2011), and a 2010 study was able to show that 6-Dehydrogingerdione, an active constituent of dietary ginger stopped the growth of breast cancer cells in the petri dish. "That is all very well", you may now be thinking, "but what does that all have to do with warding off the holiday weight gain?" Well, the answer lies in the results of a very recent study, which have just been published in the International Journal of Pharmacology (Malik. 2011).

Ginger reverses diet-induced visceral obesity and restores blood lipids to normal

Z.A. Malik and P.L. Sharma, two researchers from the Department of Pharmacology at the ISF College of Pharmacy in Moga, India, investigated whether the administration of 0.25-1g/kg body weight of dietary ginger (freeze dried powder that was made from fresh ginger juice; human equivalent would be 40-160mg/kg) would have any beneficial effect on the high-fat diet induced deteriorations in body composition, energy, lipid and glucose metabolism of male Wistar rats. For eight weeks, the scientists fed the rodents a diet that consisted of 33% normal rat chow, 33% Nestlé milk powder, 7% sucrose, and 27% tap water.
Figure 1: This is probably the lowest fat "high fat diet", I've seen in some time (data adapted from Malik. 2011) - ridiculous, but hey, if the diet had really been "high fat", who knows if the rodents would have gotten obese, anyway ;-)
If you take a look a the macronutrient breakdown of the "high fat" and the "normal diet" in figure 1, it is quite obvious that the former is - if anything - higher in fat than the latter, but by no means what any sane individual would consider a "high fat diet" (I really have to check myself not to start ranting against the "high fat diet induced whatever" in rodent models, again ;-) But be that as it may, ... the data in figure 2 shows that the milk powder and the sucrose were obviously enough to really fatten the rats up, profoundly:
Figure 2: Relative increases in body weight (BW), white adipose tissue weight (WAT), visceral fat weight and brown fat in rats on the "high fat diet" (data adapted from Malik. 2011).
With a whopping +417% increase in the total white adipose tissue weight, the poor rodents became profoundly obese. Their visceral fat depots (mesenteric, epididymal  and retroperitoneal) more than doubled (on average +150%), whereas the weight of their metabolically active brown adipose tissue increased by "only" 107%.
Figure 3: Relative changes in body weight (BW), white adipose tissue weight (WAT), visceral fat weight and brown fat in rats on the "high fat diet" who were supplemented with 250, 500 or 1000mg/kg ginger (data adapted from Malik. 2011).
The addition of 250mg/kg, 500mg/kg and 1g/kg body weight of the freeze-dried ginger juice (now obviously in powdered form) to the chow dose-dependently ameliorated the weight gain and reduced the weight of both the visceral, as well as the brown fat to level that were below those of the rats on the "normal" diet (cf. figure 3). Intriguingly, the "low" dose of 250mg/kg body weight turns out to be the most effective one, when it comes to the reduction of the epididymal, retroperitoneal and mesenteric visceral fat pads.
Figure 4: Relative changes in triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol (TC), HDL and total cholesterol to HDL radio in rats on the "high fat diet" and rats who were fed the HFD with 250, 500 or 1000mg/kg ginger (data adapted from Malik. 2011).
The addition of ginger to the diet also kept the blood lipids in check (cf. figure 4) and normalized the glucose response to an oral blood glucose tolerance test in the "high-fat" fed rodents. Other than the scientists had speculated, it had no effect on energy intake and did not increase the fecal fat content. The two markers of hepatic health, AST and ALT, which were measured in the study, remained almost unchanged - in the 250mg group there was even a -17% and -13% reductions in the respective transaminases (I am thusly amazed why the study has the words "anomalies after chronic administration" in its title).

How does it work and how effective is it?

Let's finally have a brief look at a) the potential mechanism by which ginger exhibits its fat-burning magic and b) how effective ginger would be, as compared to other, better known, "tools" to ward off weight gain or induce weight loss. To check whether the mechanism of action involves increased beta-oxidation, Malik and Sharmaa mixed an additional 30mg/kg of the beta-blocker propranolol into the high fat, ginger-supplemented diets of the animals - and as you can see in figure 5, the addition of the beta-blocker led to a profound reduction in the ameliorative / fat burning effects of the freeze-dried ginger powder.
Figure 5: Relative increases (vs. control on normal diet) in body weight (BW), white adipose tissue weight (WAT), visceral fat weight and brown fat in rats on the "high fat diet" supplemented with ginger, ginger + propanolol, or sibutramine (data adapted from Malik. 2011).
And as far as its effectiveness is concerned, ginger stands the comparison to the (in-)famous weight-loss drug Sibutramine, of which you will probably have heard that Chinese manufacturers of otherwise ineffective herbal weight-loss remedies like to mix it into their products (obviously without mentioning this banned ingredient on the label).

So, if we assume that these amazing results translate to humans, the addition of a few ginger rhizomes to your holiday diet could be a very effective tweak to ward off unwanted weight gain. And if your plans for 2012 include getting rid of the nasty love-handles you have acquired in the course of the past 12 months, you better get accustomed to the spicy, yet fruity flavor of the rhizomes of this perennial reed-like plant. You could, for example start out by following Alisa Profumo's delicious low-carb "Healthy REAL Ginger Ale in Minutes"-recipe on the Super Human Radio webpage (cf. image 1). And just in case you are too lazy to juice and / or freeze-dry some fresh ginger rhizomes yourself, you may want to consider buying a bag of Carl Lanore's  standardized ginger extract, which is also available on the Super Human Radio website.