Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cumin as a Weight Loss Aid: 26% Greater Reduction in Waist Circumference, 32% More Body Fat Lost, Increased Conservation of Lean Mass in 88 Dieting Women

Is a small bowl of yogurt with 1.5g cumin better than every weight loss drug? Probably not, but if we go by the results of the study at hand, it's a damn effective adjunct to an energy reduced diet.
The figures in the headline of today's SuppVersity article certainly are impressive. The total weight loss, the 88 overweight / obese women who had been randomly assigned into two groups who dieted for 3 months either with or without the help of 3 g/d cumin powder with yogurt at two meals (each time 1.5 g cumin + 150 ml low-fat yogurt | the control group received the same amount of yogurt, but without cumin) on the other hand sounds less exciting.

6.2kg in the cumin and 4.19kg in the control group - that does not sound much for "obese / overweight" women. Luckily Iranian "obese women" are comparably slender compared to their Western counterparts. With a starting weight of 79.43kg in the active and 76.7kg in the control arm of the study, those 6.2kg and 4.19kg were thus -7.14% and -5.54% of the women's total body weight.
The results of the study at hand are nice, but one thing is missing: Exercise!

Tri- or Multi-Set Training for Body Recomp.?

Alternating Squat & Blood Pressure - Productive?

Pre-Exhaustion Exhausts Your Growth Potential

Full ROM ➯ Full Gains - Form Counts!

Battle the Rope to Get Ripped & Strong

Hula Hooping to Spot Reduce in the Midsection
In contrast to the starting weight the waist circumference of the ladies who participated in the study showed a borderline significant difference, with a non-significant advantage on part of the women in the control group whose waists were on average 3.2cm more slender.
Figure 1: As the data shows, the cumin supplement helped with both fat loss and lean mass conservation (Zare. 2014)
In view of the fact that fat mass and fat free mass were almost identical, I would yet not argue that this was an unfair advantage for the cumin group - I mean, you should be aware that the "weightier" you are, the more and more readily you will usually drop body weight, when you start doing the right things.
"But I have heard nigella sativa causes abnormal heart growth!" That's fortunately incorrect. Studies by Yar et al. (2008) indicate that high doses of cumin aka "nigella sativa" will lead to physiological cardiac hypertophy, with a "selective enhancement of the inotropic reserve" that's similar to the one "provoked by exercise training" (Yar. 2008). It is thus not really surprising that Dehkordi et al. (2008) observed that cumin exerts anti-, not pro-hypertensive effectsin patients with mild hypertension. Moreover, Al-Asoom et al. have recently been able to show that kumin supplements in combination with exercise "might be introduced as a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of heart failure with superior advantages to exercise training alone" (Al-Asoom. 2014)
Figure 2: Blood lipids & fasting blood glucose improved as well (Zare. 2014)
Apropos, the "right thing" for all women in the study at hand was a diet that delivered 500kcal less energy than the women would have needed according to the well-known Harris-Benedict equation (learn more).

Obviously, this deficit was large enough to trigger a weight loss of approx. 1lbs per week in the cumin group, and 0.6lbs per week in the control group - and that in the absence of any restrictions in carbohydrates, fats or an additional exercise component (the latter is something I would strongly recommend if you plan to lose body fat, though).
So how and why did this work? That's certainly a warranted question. As of now, most of you knew cumin probably as a spice and maybe as a digestive aid (Milan. 2008) - not as a fat burner, glucose sensitizer, lipid drug and, if you dig somewhat further in the archives of peer-reviewed scientific journals, even as a nootropic (Bin Sayeed. 2013), right?

Table 1: Cumin seed oil will deliver most of the cholesterol controlling agents in a concentrated form (Ramadan. 2007)
Well, if you take a look at the literature you will learn that Cumin contains more than 100 different chemicals, including essential fatty acids and volatile oils, which have been shown to induce significant decreases in glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels and a significant increase in serum HDL levelsin previous rodent studies (Mohiti. 2011). In that, the lipid reducing effects of cumin could be attributed to (a) its glycoside saponins which inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol and increase its fecal excretion by interfering with its enterohepatic circulation and (b) its phytosterol content which will displace cholesterol from intestinal micelles and will thus further reduce the amount of absorbable cholesterol (Hayes. 2002; Ramadan. 2002 & 2007; ). The mechanism by which cumin reduces the blood glucose levels, however, is still not fully understood.

As Zare et al. point out, "the majority of these studies have been done on animals and the published human studies have been conducted on patients suffering from diabetes or hypercholesterolemia," which makes the study at hand that was conducted with healthy (albeit overweight) female subjects all the more important.
  • Al-Asoom, L. I., et al. "Effect of Nigella sativa Supplementation to Exercise Training in a Novel Model of Physiological Cardiac Hypertrophy." Cardiovascular toxicology (2014): 1-8. 
  • Bin Sayeed, Muhammad Shahdaat, et al. "The effect of< i> Nigella sativa</i> Linn. seed on memory, attention and cognition in healthy human volunteers." Journal of ethnopharmacology 148.3 (2013): 780-786.
  • Dehkordi, Farshad Roghani, and Amir Farhad Kamkhah. "Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension." Fundamental & clinical pharmacology 22.4 (2008): 447-452.
  • Hayes, K. C., et al. "Free phytosterols effectively reduce plasma and liver cholesterol in gerbils fed cholesterol." The Journal of nutrition 132.7 (2002): 1983-1988.
  • Milan, K. S., et al. "Enhancement of digestive enzymatic activity by cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) and role of spent cumin as a bionutrient." Food chemistry 110.3 (2008): 678-683. 
  • Mohiti Ardakani, J., Z. Akbarian, And A. Nazarian. "Effects Of Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum L) Oil On Serum Glucose And Lipid Levels Of Rats." Journal Of Shahid Sadoughi University Of Medical Sciences And Health Services (2011). 
  • Ramadan, Mohamed F., and Jörg‐Th Mörsel. "Characterization of phospholipid composition of black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seed oil." Food/Nahrung 46.4 (2002): 240-244.
  • Ramadan, Mohamed Fawzy. "Nutritional value, functional properties and nutraceutical applications of black cumin (Nigella sativa L.): an overview." International journal of food science & technology 42.10 (2007): 1208-1218. 
  • Yar, T., et al. "Effects of Nigella sativa supplementation for one month on cardiac reserve in rats." Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 52.2 (2008): 141-8.
  • Zare, Roghayeh, et al. "Effect of cumin powder on body composition and lipid profile in overweight and obese women." Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (2014).