Cardamom May Help with Weight Loss

A new mouse study suggests that cardamom, a spice closely related to ginger, could have fat-burning and muscle-boosting benefits.

Research has found that some spices may have many potential health benefits. For example, ginger may relieve digestive issues such as nausea, turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation, and cinnamon may aid blood sugar regulation.

Cardamom, a spice closely related to ginger and turmeric, might also have health benefits, including the potential to promote weight loss. However, scientists are unsure how cardamom impacts metabolism.

In a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife evaluated the metabolic effects of cardamom in mice to assess its potential as a natural therapy for metabolic conditions such as obesity.

To conduct the research, the scientists fed 32 male mice either a control diet or a diet containing 3, 6, or 12% cardamom for 14 weeks. The cardamom was harvested in Guatemala and supplied by Heifer International.

After 14 weeks, the scientists found mice consuming cardamom gained less weight than control mice — despite having a slightly higher food intake. In addition, the rodents in the cardamom group lost fat while increasing lean muscle mass.

When the scientists examined this further, they found that cardamom modulated brain circuits that influence appetite and regulate body fat-burning processes. In addition, the spice appeared to increase mitochondrial oxidative metabolism in liver and skeletal muscle.

Based on these findings, the team calculated an estimated cardamom dose for humans using a body surface area normalization equation. They say the optimum amount for a 132-pound adult is 76.9 to 308.4 milligrams of cardamom bio-actives per day, which equals 14.5 to 58.3 grams of cardamom seeds or 18.5 to 74.2 grams of cardamom pods.

Still, the study used mice, so it's unclear if the weight loss and lean muscle-boosting effects would be the same in humans. While human research is lacking, one 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis of six studies including human participants found that cardamom showed no significant weight loss effects.

In addition, currently, there is no recommended or established dose of cardamom — though it appears to be safe to consume in amounts typically found in food.

Moreover, females with overweight or obesity and pre-diabetes who participated in a 2017 study consumed a cardamom dose of 3 grams daily and reported only mild side effects, including diarrhea and skin or tongue inflammation.

"Our team has discovered an amazing opportunity to utilize cardamom as a promoter of overall health. Cardamom seeds, with this new functionality, can be used in different industries, including the sports industry, functional foods, and dietary supplements to favor the production of healthier foods," said lead author Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, Ph.D., horticulture and food science professor at the Department of Horticultural Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in a news release.

According to 2011 United States Agency for International Development (USAID) data, Guatemala is a leading producer of cardamom.

Cardamom is of great importance economically for Guatemala. Expanding its use in the U.S. and globally could provide stability to farmers and aid in the immigration crisis observed in recent years.

- Cisneros-Zevallo

Notably, Heifer International in Guatemala and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in Costa Rica funded the study.

In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture of Guatemala, the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Community Revitalization and Investment Authority program, and the Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture at Texas A&M AgriLife provided added support.

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