Friday, September 15, 2017 by Isabelle Z.
Obesity is one of the biggest public health issues the world is facing today, and it’s a contributing factor to many deadly illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Ginseng has been the subject of an increasing number of studies in recent years as a potential treatment for this challenging and complex problem.
A new study shows that ginseng could prove an effective tool in the fight against obesity. A longtime staple in traditional Chinese medicine, it is widely used in homeopathic medicine because of its many useful properties, and now it appears that preventing obesity can be added to the list.
In the study, which was published in the journal Nutrients, Korean scientists examined the effects of the green leaf and dried leaf extracts of ginseng on obese rats who ate a high-fat diet. Ginseng root extract has been reported to have an anti-obesity effect, but this study set out to determine if the extracts of the leaf of Korean ginseng have a similar effect. The mice who were given these extracts noted significant reductions in body weight, with those who took the dried leaf extract having slightly better results.
The researchers believe that the mechanisms of action are different for the young and old (dried) extracts, but both groups noted significantly lower levels of abdominal and epididymal adipose tissue mass. They said that further studies are needed to find out precisely what is responsible for the differences in the ways the two types of leaf extracts work, but they nevertheless believe that Korean ginseng leaf extracts can be used as a dietary supplement or therapeutic agent to fight obesity.
This is great news as worldwide obesity rates continue to climb. Estimates show that if recent trends continue, nearly 60 percent of the planet’s adult population will be obese or overweight by the time 2030 rolls around. This will cost around $550 billion extra every year in medical expenses.
While increasing your level of physical activity and lowering your caloric intake remain excellent ways to keep your weight at a healthy level, not everyone is capable of doing this to the necessary extent. For this reason, many people turn to antiobesity drugs, which are loaded with dangerous side effects and are also quite costly.
Ginseng shows a lot of promise as a safe and affordable alternative. Ginseng is widely available, with Asian Ginseng and American Ginseng being the two major classes. Other varieties include Siberian Ginseng, Japanese ginseng, Vietnamese ginseng, and dwarf ginseng. Major producers include the U.S., Canada, South Korea, and China, and more than 80,000 tons are produced around the world each year and distributed in fresh and dried formats. American ginseng, which mostly comes from Wisconsin and Ontario, is currently the fifth most commonly utilized natural product in the U.S.
Most of the current antiobesity studies have been carried out using Asian ginseng rather than the American variety. Experts say that comparative studies on the antiobesity effects of both types are needed, particularly using the whole root extract, because the two ginsengs actually have opposite effects in traditional Chinese medicine and differing ginsenoside profiles.
Obesity isn’t the only condition that ginseng can be useful for. Past studies have shown that ginseng berry extracts could help treat diabetes in obese mice as it helps reduce fasting and after-meal blood sugar levels. Its ginsenosides are useful for reducing levels of bad cholesterol, and they also have anti-cancer properties, slowing the growth of cancer cells and fending off tumors. It can also help boost cognitive performance and stimulate neural activity, helping prevent dementia.
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