Sunday, January 13, 2013

Temporary +100kcal/day Cold Thermogenesis Response W/ Exotic Ginger Extract. Plus: Green Tea Reduces Shivering

 Grains of paradise pods - do they hold the secret to "true" fat thermogenic fat burning for those who are lucky enough to have a significant amount of brown adipose tissue (BAT) on their frame? (Photo by Inna Moody / Flickr: innamoo)
Just got an email from my friend Carl Lanore, who dug up a soon-to-be-published study on the thermogenic effects of ginger... well, not exactly ginger as in Zingiber officinale but rather "ginger" as in Grains of paradise (GP). Huh? Yeah, sounds more as if you had bought it in a "coffee shop" or another outlet for legal highs, but it's actually a species of the ginger family, Aframomum melegueta to be precise that contains a similar composition of the characteristic pungent, aromatic ketones such as 6-paradol, 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol. In previous rodent studies an alcohol extract of GP seeds and 6-paradol has been shown to activate BAT thermogenesis in small rodents and in the study at hand it did the exact same for 12 out of 19 healthy male volunteers aged 20–32 years who underwent 2h of cold-exposure.

4 weeks Aframomum melegueta extract can promote, but not induce cold thermogenesis (CT)

In the four weeks prior to the study, the subjects had ingested four capsules of an ethanol extract from the seeds of Grains of paradise for breakfast, three capsules after lunch and three capsules after dinner without noticing any adverse events.

Photo montage - BAT(-) subject no black = metabolically active spots in the supraclavicular and paraspinal regions (left), right BAT(+).
The seeds the scientists used in the study at hand, had been bought from a spice supplier at the Côte d’Ivoire, had been soaked for extraction in five times volume of 95% ethanol for 24 h at reflux condition, the resulting ethanolic extract was filtrated and the solvent was removed under vacuum. According to Sugiat et al. this procedure yielded an extract with 4.2% of the original weight of the GP seeds containing 15.2% 6-gingerol, 12.5% 6-paradol, 1.7% 6-shogaol and 4.0% 6-gingeredione. 10mg of the extract were capped with 190mg of a mixture of rapeseed oil (158mg) and beeswax (32mg) in a capsule, so that all participants ended up consuming the same dosage of ~33mg of active ingredients on a daily basis.

Ah, and since I know you would ask: I do believe regular ginger will do the job "as well". Not necessarily as in "as potently", but it will certainly do something. After all you will find the same main active ingredients (in put them in italics above) in the "grains of paradise" in HPLC analysis of regular Zingiber officinale, as well.

Cold thermogenesis (CT) works in some, yet not all subjects

I've written about cold thermogenesis the influence of body fatness and the lack of BAT in many humans before (read more)
As previous human studies have show, the first and most important determinant of the effects to cold exposure was yet not the extract, but rather the presence of BAT in the subjects supraclavicular and paraspinal regions.

Now what's interesting is that those subjects with without any significant BAT were not significantly lighter / heaver, leaner or muscular than their peers who showed a thermogenic response of max. +100kcal (vs. placebo) in response to the Grains of paradise seed (GP) preload.

The latter it interesting as previous studies have suggested that body-fatness is a negative modulator cold thermogensis (cf. "Cold Thermogenesis - A Safe Ephedra Alternative? 70kcal Increase in 24h Energy Expenditure is Negligible, 50% Lower Than Ephedrine, Not Likely to Occur Obese or Older People" read full-post). On the other hand the inter-group differences between resonders and non-responders were so small that the results of the study at hand are actually pretty meaningless with respect to the issue of identifying probable responders and non-responders by body type (which was virtually identical in all the participants).

You better know in advance whether you are BAT(+) or BAT(-) ...

... because otherwise you would not just be wasting your time while sitting for 1h in an air-conditioned room at 19.8°C with light clothing after an overnight fast (that was the exact procedure in the study). but also your money on any (certainly soon to be commercially available) Aframomum melegueta extract.
Figure 1: Changes in energy expenditure during cold exposure (value scaled to daily equivalents values, left). Area under the curve of the energy expenditure for BAT(+) and BAT(-) subjects (right), please mind that these are the "real" non-scaled energy expenditures in kcal/h (Sugita. 2013)
After all the data in figure 1 shows quite conclusive that in the BAT(-) subjects the addition of the GP extract actually blunted the already minimal (and non-significant) thermogenic response to cold exposure.

And what about green tea? While the title of a recent study suggests that green tea could be another CT adjuvant (Gosselin. 2012), the effect size Gossselin et al. observed in their trial that involved eight healthy non-cold acclimatised men, was laughable. Or do you think that it makes a difference whether you spend 5.4kcal/h or 5.9kcal/h extra? No, well me neither. So unless you are not into the ~15% reduction in shivering or the minimal shift from glucose to fat oxidation that occurred in the subjects who ingested 600mg of EGCG and 600mg of caffeine before their 2h in a liquid-conditioned suit perfused with 15°C.
So what? I know a few lazy asses won't like to hear that, but you can as well jog 15 minutes, do a single 10min HIIT session, hit the weight or simply stand at your office desk instead of sitting in front of your computer all day if you want to expose the gigantic amount of 100kcal per day. So what on earth do you even care about all that?

Contrary to taking supps for weeks before sitting in the cold, working out, moving and even standing (though to a lesser degree) will also increase your fitness level and shift your energy consumption from glucose to fat, something freezing and pill-popping won't do. And what's more all these methods will be more not less effective (cf. previously cited post, red box) if you are still obese.

That does not say that ginger, grains of paradise and EGCG (see box on the right) could not help you lose weight, but if they do, it's probably mostly due to their profound health effects, which are probably a way better reason to drink your ginger and green tea or take respective supplements if you don't like those, anyway.

Read more about ginger and green tea at the SuppVersity and or learn more about "the magic of Ginger and its pleiotropic effects on health, well being, performance and cancer prevention" on SHR Episode 753 (without my contribution, though ;-).

  • Gosselin C, Haman F. Effects of green tea extracts on non-shivering thermogenesis during mild cold exposure in young men. Br J Nutr. 2012 Dec 14:1-7.
  • 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.