Saffron could succeed where other satiety ingredients have failed because it seeks to address the cause of overeating -- which is not just about hunger -- according to New Jersey-based ingredients supplier PL Thomas (PLT).
PLT, which is planning a new clinical trial to assess the efficacy of its Satiereal weight management ingredient from the flowers of saffron stigma, Crocus sativus L, claims the ingredient reduces snacking and curbs overeating by boosting levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, "decreasing stress and improving emotional wellness".
Some other herbs used in the management of weight and cholesterol are: Ginseng, turmeric, Cayenne, Aloe Vera, Dandelion, True Blue Skullcap, Thyme Herb, Black Cohash, Gaurana, Yellow Dock, Burdock Root, Echinacea Root, Red Clover blooms.
However, Saffron presents some unique advantages.
People overeat due to stress, anxiety, frustration and boredom --not just because they are hungry
It was well-known that hunger was only one factor in determining how much we eat, when we eat and why we eat, Dr Vladimir Badmaev, director of medical and scientific affairs, PLT, told NutraIngredients-USA.
"Other satiety ingredients may work by creating feeling of fullness, for example fiber absorbing water and expanding, mimicking bulk of a meal.
"However, many people snack and overeat due to a habit, stress, anxiety, boredom or frustration, even if they don't feel hungry. Satiereal is an extract of saffron stigmas (Crocus sativus) and works by decreasing stress and improving emotional wellness, producing a state of satiety."
He added: "We feel Satiereal offers more than just its ability to manage cravings and spikes in appetite. Its mechanism of action allows for support of emotional well-being. Many who are on strict low-calorie diets often have attendant irritability and mood fluctuations.
"As with any habit, curtailing it severely and significantly affects mood and outlook. This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to simply curb one's appetite, and potentially, in our opinion, where others may have failed."
Satiereal, which was developed by French firm INO'Real, has been tested in a four-week pilot clinical study and an eight-week randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Research in 2010, said Badmaev.
The ingredient, which was introduced to the European market in 2008 and the US market last year, has GRAS status and is designed to be consumed twice a day before breakfast and dinner, said Badmaev.
"The clinically tested daily dose is 176.5mg, which equals to 90mg twice a day half an hour before breakfast and dinner for total daily dose of 180mg."
In the 2010 paper, the authors observe that, "Snacking and compulsive eating are disturbed dietary behaviors resulting from complex individual and environ mental influences, with mood disorders being an important contributor. Stress-induced eating in subjects has been paralleled with a preference for high-sugar and high-fat food consumption that is known to provide strong rewarding effects that reinforce snacking."
The study evaluated the efficacy of Satiereal supplementation on body weight changes over an 8-week period. Snacking frequency, the main secondary variable, was assessed by daily self-recording of episodes by the subjects in a nutrition diary.
Satiereal caused a significantly greater body weight reduction than placebo after eight weeks, while mean snacking frequency was significantly decreased in the Satiereal group as compared with the placebo group, said Badmaev.
Seratonin and weight management
The fact that serotonin appeared to play a role in weight management was "well-established", he claimed, highlighting a paper by leading satiety researcher professor John Blundell from Leeds University in the UK ('Serotonin and the biology of feeding', American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 55, 155S-159S).
Blundell writes: "There is good evidence that the experimental manipulation of serotonin causes changes in feeding behavior and that adjustments in feeding and in the nutritional supply bring about responses in the level or activity of serotonin. These data suggest that 5-HT systems in the body mediate nutritional input and the drive to feed. In addition, it is known that serotonin is a phylogenetically primitive neurotransmitter, which may therefore occupy a central role in the relationship between food and brain organization."
As for what structure/function claims were supported by the evidence, 'supports weight loss by helping regulate normal appetite' was consistent with the data from the trials, claimed Badmaev.
"We are considering the design of a new trial, but nothing has been announced yet."
Historically, saffron was prized as a culinary spice, colorant and dye, and as a medicinal herb. Ancient Persians also used it for treating depression, he said.
"Unlike other serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Satiereal has a natural source that has been consumed safely as food for centuries in many cultures."