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Could Artichoke Help You Lose Weight?

When you’re planning a cut it’s important that you’re prepared.

You know that you need to plan your training and construct a bullet-proof diet. And you know that if you stray from the script it could mean disaster.

Artichoke is a food that’s often mentioned in the context of healthy eating. It improves cholesterol and blood sugar and helps to regulate digestive health.

Does that mean it’s good for weight loss?

In this article we take a look…


What is Artichoke?

Artichokes are a vegetable, derived from a species of thistle. They are characterized by their flowering bloom which consists of a cluster of small flowers. You’ll find this plant in northern Africa, southern Europe and the Canary Islands too.

Although notoriously difficult to prepare, artichokes can be eaten hot or cold. Boiling or steaming seem to be the most popular method of cooking.

Whilst the upper fibrous part of the plant is often discarded, the more fleshy base is used frequently in cooking – particularly Italian cooking. It has a taste which is similar to egg whites – mild and delicate, which makes them a perfect accompaniment in a number of dishes.

When made into a tea or used as an extract, the artichoke can be used as a herbal remedy. Popular in places such as Vietnam, artichoke tea is made by infusing the flower of the plant in boiling water. It has a slightly bitter and woody taste.

Nutrient value

The artichoke has a strong nutrient profile. You’ll find a good source of vitamin C, potassium and biotin in the plant, as well as niacin, riboflavin and folic acid. 

Artichoke also provides 20% of you dietary fiber needs and a range of glycosides and plant phenols such as rutin and gallic acid. These most likely provide any associated health benefits.



Health Benefits of the Artichoke

Liver function

Artichokes contains high concentrations of a phytonutrient called cynarin. 

This active compound is said to help protect the liver and increase the production of bile – an important fluid that aids the digestion of lipids in the small intestine by speeding up the secretion of cholephilic compounds. It may even help the liver to regenerate too [1].

It’s worth noting though that this research was performed using boiled wild artichoke, not a commercially obtained artichoke tea or herbal supplement.

Additionally, artichoke contains silymarin which also acts as a powerful liver protector.

Cholesterol

High cholesterol and blood sugar can be a trigger for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the US and UK.

In one of the few human trials that has used artichoke extract to treat blood lipids, 6 weeks of a low-fat diet in combination with the food was found to improve cholesterol profile and endothelial health [2].

Another study by Bundy et al [3] found that a 12-week double blind research period helped 75 high-cholesterol patients reduce their blood lipid levels more than a control group. They received a standardized dose of 1,280 mg artichoke leaf extract.

Extract from artichoke has also been found to treat gout as well [4].

Cancer

Artichoke can play an protective role against some types of cancer – particularly prostate, breast cancer and leukemia.

This is thought to be due to the antioxidant properties of the plant phenols that inhibit growth of cancerous cells. Rutin and gallic acid have been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) as well as complete destruction of cancer cells too.

A study published in Phytotherapy Research [5] found that in as little as 24-hours, artichoke leaf was able to proliferate or ‘swallow up’ leukemia cells. The effects were dose dependent and ranged from doses of 500 to 2,500 µg/µL.



Key Point: Artichoke extract has been found to improve a number of health markers, including, high cholesterol, liver function and cancer.


Does Artichoke Tea Help with Weight Loss?

Ultimately, if you’re wanting to lose weight you need to cut calories from your diet in order to free up stored fat to be used for energy. Considering fat burning nutrients such as green tea and red pepper which are important thermogenics will also help.

As bile helps you optimize how fat is digested it may lead you to believe that that could help with weight loss. And whilst regulating cholesterol is important for overall health, it doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight.

Commercial supplements

There are a number of manufacturers that are now selling artichoke tea as a weight loss aid. Their claim is that by improving your blood sugar and lipids you will lose weight. It’s a tentative link and the supplement won’t help you unless you’re managing your calorie intake. Even then, research reporting any direct help with weight loss is non-existent.

The high fiber content of artichoke can help to lower blood sugar, which could lead to weight loss. The problem is though that eating a fiber-rich vegetable is different to infusing it as a tea. You might get the nutrients but you certainly won’t get the bulky, fibrous tissue that you would by just eating vegetable itself.

Are there any research studies on weight loss?

Clinical trials looking at artichoke and weight loss are very limited. The ones that are available tend to use the food as part of a test ‘stack’ too so it’s hard to assess it’s value on its own merit.

One study found that combining artichoke extract with white kidney bean might help to reduce food intake slightly [6]. However don’t get too excited just yet – the study was performed on rats, not humans, so caution has to be taken when transferring the results.

Secondly, white kidney bean is a very understudied supplement that has been shown to be somewhat ineffective for weight loss. 


Key Point: Whilst artichoke might provide some health benefits, there is no evidence to suggest that it helps you lose weight.


Summary – Artichoke and Weight Loss

Artichoke is a good food choice for anyone wanting to improve their overall health. It s a nutrient dense vegetable with many health benefits. It won’t however help you lose weight because it has no direct effect on metabolism or fat cells.

Does this mean it’s a poor choice food? Not at all. It’s a great, fiber rich food source that improves digestion, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

But if you are thinking of adding a commercial supplement int your diet in the hope that it’ll help you lose weight, then don’t. We suggest you opt for a better researched product instead.


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References

  1. Salem, MB et al. Pharmacological Studies of Artichoke Leaf Extract and Their Health Benefits. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2015; 70(4); 441-453
  2. Lupattelli, G et al. Artichoke juice improves endothelial function in hyperlipemia. Life Sci. 2004; 76(7): 775-82
  3. Bundy, R et al. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2008; 15(9): 668-75
  4. Trojan-Rodrigues, M et al. Plants used as antidiabetics in popular medicine in Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;139(1): 155-63
  5. Nadova, S et al. Growth inhibitory effect of ethyl acetate-soluble fraction of Cynara cardunculus L. in leukemia cells involves cell cycle arrest, cytochrome c release and activation of caspases. Phytother Res. 2008; 22(2): 165-8
  6. Loi, B et al. Reducing effect of a combination of Phaseolus vulgaris and Cynara scolymus extracts on food intake and glycemia in rats. Phytother Res. 2013; 27(2): 258-63


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