Stress-Induced Snacking? Try Saffron!
You’ve probably heard about saffron (Crocus sativus) as an incredibly ancient, and incredibly expensive, spice. The reason for its steep price is that saffron harvesting must be done by hand.
Although when we think of the word saffron we think of a deep orange-red color, the flower that it comes from has purple-blue petals, and at first glance, looks much like any crocus that might emerge from your flowerbeds in the spring. The flower stigmas are collected just after the first flowers open up in the field, because there is a very short window – about three or four days – that the flowers remain open and the components viable. As stigmas are gathered on the day of the flower opening, they are placed in baskets and dried for up to a week.
As they dry, the color of the stigmas turns dark red, and they are then crushed to be used as either a spice or as a natural medicinal extract that can fight stress-related behaviors and depression.
For example, when people are stressed, they may try to compensate by overeating and snacking. It’s an understandable reaction – when other aspects of life seem disappointing, there’s always good tasting food.
Of course, the problem with that approach is the calories always add up. And, since comfort foods tend to be refined carbs laden with sodium or sugar, it puts a lot of additional pressure on insulin levels, blood pressure, and cortisol release.
But a clinical study of mildly overweight individuals supplementing with saffron found that they regained a lot of control over their stress-snacking habit. Without being on any special diet, they lost 2.2 pounds and reduced snacking by 55 percent in just eight weeks. The saffron appeared to give the volunteers an extra feeling of well-being to stop the urge to eat between meals, or to eat as much food at each meal.
Gout B, Bourges C, Paineau-Dubreuil S. Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women. Nutr Res. 2010;30:305–313.
Snacking is an uncontrolled eating behavior, predisposing weight gain and obesity. It primarily affects the female population and is frequently associated with stress. We hypothesized that oral supplementation with Satiereal (Inoreal Ltd, Plerin, France), a novel extract of saffron stigma, may reduce snacking and enhance satiety through its suggested mood-improving effect, and thus contribute to weight loss. Healthy, mildly overweight women (N = 60) participated in this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study that 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. Twice a day, enrolled subjects consumed 1 capsule of Satiereal (176.5 mg extract per day (n = 31) or a matching placebo (n = 29). Caloric intake was left unrestricted during the study. At baseline, both groups were homogeneous for age, body weight, and snacking frequency. Satiereal caused a significantly greater body weight reduction than placebo after 8 weeks (P < .01). The mean snacking frequency was significantly decreased in the Satiereal group as compared with the placebo group (P < .05). Other anthropometric dimensions and vital signs remained almost unchanged in both groups. No subject withdrawal attributable to a product effect was reported throughout the trial, suggesting a good tolerability to Satiereal. Our results indicate that Satiereal consumption produces a reduction of snacking and creates a satiating effect that could contribute to body weight loss. The combination of an adequate diet with Satiereal supplementation might help subjects engaged in a weight loss program in achieving their objective.