We all know by now that ginger is good for us. We know that it has antibacterial properties and that it can give our immune systems a little support during cold and flu season. Recently, however, another benefit of this spicy root has been explored: It helps fights body fat. Specifically, it can potentially prevent and improve outcomes for those at risk of fatty liver disease. While some traditional medicines have known these benefits of the spice for quite a long time, science is now beginning to understand its effects on fatty liver and body fat.
Ginger And Fatty Liver And Metabolic Syndrome
A research review published in The Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences has found that ginger may just have even more beneficial effects than we realized. Specifically, they have found a connection between ginger and fatty liver disease, as well as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other related disorders. The study came from researchers from China Agricultural University, a fitting place considering the use of ginger in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. (1)
Ginger has long been used to treat a wide variety of conditions and ailments thanks to the variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals that it contains. It is one of the most widely used spices in the world, both for its flavor and for its medicinal properties. The researchers wanted to look specifically at metabolic syndrome as it is a problem that affects a quarter of the population.
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is one that is typically associated with people who are overweight or obese. That being said, it occurs when someone consumes more fat and sugars than their body can handle, meaning that it can occur in adults with healthy body weights, too. When fat builds up to more than 5% of the liver, it is considered a fatty liver. This makes the liver vulnerable to inflammation and scarring and can therefore cause problems in the future.
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Ginger And Fatty Liver Disease
NAFLD is one of the most common chronic liver diseases worldwide. This is not surprising, considering that nearly a quarter of the population is either overweight or obese. NAFLD is also associated with diabetes and insulin resistance. A group of researchers studied the effects of ginger on fatty liver and whether or not the spice would help. What they found was that ginger had hypolipidemic effects, meaning that it lowered the amount of fat in the bloodstream, had antioxidant effects, as well as increased insulin sensitivity. (2)
This was one of the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical human studies of its kind. Previous studies have all been on rats. The researchers gave 44 patients with NAFLD either two grams of ginger supplement per day or a placebo for 12 weeks. They advised both groups to follow a modified diet as well as an exercise program. They measured their metabolic parameters and indicators of liver damage both at the beginning of the 12 weeks and then again at the end of the 12 weeks.
At the end of the 12 weeks, they found that the ginger-supplemented group had a significant reduction in inflammatory markers, a drop in liver fats, improvements in liver function tests, as well as improved insulin resistance. The amount of ginger used costs pennies and has such big benefits for the patients’ health. Another benefit is that it is a natural supplement that has no side effects. The scientists did say, however, that they would need to do more research that would include lengthier studies to assess the long-term effects of ginger supplementation and fatty liver disease.
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Other Benefits of Ginger And Weight Loss
Another study done in 2012 found that powdered ginger enhances the thermic effect of food and feelings of satiety in overweight men. They studied the effects of a hot ginger beverage, made of just one teaspoon of ground ginger stirred into a hot cup of water, on energy expenditure, feelings of appetite and satiety, and metabolic risk factors of the study participants. These were men who averaged 39 years of age with a body mass index (BMI) of 27. (3)
The researchers measured resting state energy expenditure for six hours after a breakfast meal with or without the ginger hot drink. They questioned the participants’ satiety levels hourly after the meal. They also took a fasted blood sample prior to the meal and then again at three hours after. While they found no significant effect on total resting energy expenditure, they did find that the ginger affected the thermic effect of food (the energy required to digest the food itself). The ginger group had lower prospective food intake and greater fullness than the other group.
Another group of researchers did a similar study with obese women. They also found that ginger had some effect on weight loss and the metabolic features of obesity. Both groups of researchers say that this shows that ginger could have a positive effect on weight loss and weight management, however, more studies are needed. (4)
The Bottom Line
Ginger is good for you – that we can say definitively. If you are one who struggles with your weight or who is at risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and other related illnesses, then including ginger into your daily diet is probably not a bad idea. Again, it is inexpensive, has no side effects, and has so many other health benefits that it’s hard to find a reason why not to.
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- “How Ginger Fights Body Fat” Time
- “Ginger Supplementation in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study.” PubMed. Mehran Rahimlou, et al. January 23, 2016.
- “Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: a pilot study.” PubMed. Muhammad S Mansour. et al. October 2012.
- “Changes of serum adipocytokines and body weight following Zingiber officinale supplementation in obese women: a RCT.” PubMed. Vahideh Ebrahimzadeh Attari, et al. September 2016.