A study reveals thylakoids, found in Spinach, has a super healthy benefit.
The legendary Popeye the Sailor Man is credited for increasing spinach sales by a third in the US. In truth, his affection for the healthy spinach was actually based on a miscalculation that spinach was rich in iron. (And just to be clear, it also does not turn your muscles into industrial equipment suitable for punching a ten-foot tall man up the trunk of a palm tree.)
But a recent study reveals that spinach has some hidden superpowers in the form of thylakoids. These are the tiny plates inside plant cells that drive photosynthesis. Last year, Caroline Montelius of Lund University in Sweden published, “Thylakoid membranes from green plants affect appetite and promote body weight loss.”
When she began, her goal was to find a safe, natural and effective solution that would help people lose weight.
In six studies, Montelius describes her process and explains if, how, and why thylakoid consumption can lead to weight loss. For all of her studies, she used thylakoids extracted from spinach. And below is a brief summary:
Paper 1 looked at how plant thylakoids affected the relationship between the gut wall and the uptake of glucose. The addition of thylakoids had a beneficial effect on the intestinal wall and slowed down the absorption of sugar by the gut (which is beneficial).
Paper 2 addressed plant thylakoids affected the gut microbiota (the bacteria that live in our intestinal system, there are over 100 trillion of them) This paper showed that thylakoids had a beneficial effect on the composition of bacteria. They found more health-promoting bacteria, and less health-detrimental bacteria after supplementation of plant thylakoids.
Paper 3 showed that in the presence of thylakoids there were less spikes in blood glucose after consumption of sugar. In this study, there was also an increased release of Cholecystokinin, (CCK) hormones released by the digestive system to promote fullness, and less secretion of the hunger hormone, Ghrelin, in the presence of thylakoids.
Paper 4 included 20 healthy women. They were given a sweet jam, some of jams contained thylakoids. The jam masked the taste of the thylakoids. After the jam, they gave them a very heavy carbohydrate meal and measured their CCK, Ghrelin, as well as insulin and blood sugar. In this study, the supplementation of thylakoids to the carb loaded meal reduced feelings of hunger and elevated fullness hormone CCK. It also helped regulate the spike and valley of blood sugar. Ghrelin the hunger hormone was also reduced by the thylakoid.
Paper 5 followed 26 overweight women for 2 months. They were both put on the same weight loss diet, as well as an exercise plan. One group was given a blueberry drink with thylakoids, the other was given a blueberry drink with nothing added. In this study, the addition of thylakoids reduced the cravings for sweet foods such as chocolate and salty carbohydrate snacks. The participants with thylakoid supplementation were less hungry, plus the diet seemed easier. Also the blood tests related to health (blood sugar and lipids) were more favorable in the thylakoid supplementation group.
Paper 6 was the final study where they sought to determine if adding thylakoids to a weight loss plan would work better than a traditional weight loss plan. In this study, they enrolled thirty-eight women and gave them either a placebo or the thylakoids for three months. They did hunger and fullness hormone blood tests as well as blood sugar tests. They also questioned them on the relative sensation of hunger when dieting. In this study, the thylakoids were again put in blueberry juice. The diet wasn’t real strict. It was 3 meals a day, no snacking, but no calorie restriction either. And they were advised to exercise 30 minutes a day.
As a result, the women who took thylakoids had better cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels. More of the fullness hormone GLP-1 was present and they experienced a reduced urge for sweet snacks. They lost about twice as much weight as the non-supplemented women. In fact, they lost as much weight if not more than the best weight loss prescription drugs on the market.
At the end of the day, nothing beats diet and exercise. But the studies show a teaspoon of plant extract mixed into a drink is a pretty simple way to give yourself an edge.
At Allure Medical Spa, we offer thylakoids to all of our employees. We also add a soluble fermentable, non-digestible fiber which has a similar effect on hunger hormones and weight loss called galactooligosaccharide daily. Most of us add it to Tropicana reduced-sugar orange juice to make it taste better, or even V-8 juice. The thylakoids can be added to water, but some people find it too bitter.
We offer this to our weight loss clients as well. We buy thylakoids in bulk and package them in single serve containers which can easily be added to a drink at breakfast. If you’d like to talk to someone about thylakoids, call Shana at 586-992-8300. She has a degree in nutrition and specializes in helping our clients achieve their weight loss goals.
Dr. Charles Mok