Thylakoids are photosynthetic membranes found in chloroplasts of green plants. They have an ability to influence various hormones that are key for fat digestion and appetite regulation, such as lipase and ghrelin.1 As a result, thylakoids may help slow down fat digestion, thus increasing fullness.
Due to its high amounts of thylakoids, spinach could potentially be used as a functional food for weight management. This study was conducted at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center to evaluate these promising benefits.
For this double-blind, randomized, crossover clinical trial, researchers recruited 60 overweight and obese males and females (with a body mass index between 25 and 35 kg/m2).
The study consisted of all participants receiving two types of treatment (spinach extract and placebo) in random order, separated by a one-week washout period:
First, the participants were given a standard breakfast meal.
Four hours later, they consumed the spinach extract or placebo, followed by a standard lunch.
Another four hours later, they were given an ad libitum pizza dinner.
After a week, researchers switched treatments to make sure that all participants receive both types. Also, before, throughout, and after the study period, they took a wide range of assessments, like blood work, subjective satiety scores, and food intakes.
After consuming spinach extract, the participants showed significantly reduced scores for hunger and longing for food over a two-hour period after consumption. They also had increased postprandial plasma glucose concentrations.
Researchers also noticed that the male participants were more likely to have a lower energy intake.
What Does this Mean?
The results of this trial show that eating thylakoid-rich spinach extract can make consumers feel less hungry and more satiated for a couple of hours following the meal. Thanks to these properties, spinach may be beneficial for weight management.
It can be considered a natural, cost-effective, and side-effect-free addition to other weight loss practices, like exercise and healthy eating. By reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, people can drastically reduce the risks associated with carrying excess weight and prolong life.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition, , Acute Effects of a Spinach Extract Rich in Thylakoids on Satiety: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Trial, 2014
- Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders. (2020). Effects of thylakoid intake on appetite and weight loss: a systematic review. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7270222/