IT has been used for centuries as a folk medicine and to spice up a wide range of foods. Now ginger could be about to gain a new lease of life as a way of curbing the nation’s expanding waistlines.
Eating the oriental plant has been found to stop the pounds piling on, without the need to cut back on treats.
The Scottish scientists who have made the ground-breaking discovery claim the spice could be part of the answer to curbing Scotland’s obesity epidemic.
They suggest that ginger “supplements” could be come part of a regular diet to help consumers from putting on excessive weight.
The findings have been made by experts from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Aberdeen, which is studying the effects of ginger on body weight. The study was headed by Professor John Beattie, of the Micronutrient Group at the Rowett, working with scientists at the Korea Food Research Institute.
Their report, published in the Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, says that mice given a specially- designed diet that mimics the high fat content of foods eaten by many overweight adults in the UK were less likely to gain weight if also fed ginger every day.
Their body weight increased less when they were given ginger in addition to their “Western” diet, compared to mice given the same high fat diet without the supplement.
The scientists used a number of different varieties of ginger, including the root ginger found in most shops in the UK as well as more exotic forms favoured in East Asia.
Different varieties of ginger gave different results – but all appeared to have a similar effect. For those fed on 6-gingerol – a compound of the ordinary ginger most commonly found in the UK – the weight gain was 10 per cent less.
The reason is believed to be that ginger compounds help break down fatty acids in food, which are then disposed of by the body rather than being stored as fat.
Beattie said: “In our Western society we are increasing our fat intake. It’s difficult to try to get people to change their diet. But a supplement could be taken and that might help you to at least maintain your weight if not lose weight.
“The issue is that the amount of ginger per person you would have to eat – 25g-50g of ginger a day – would blow your head off. Normally you only put a few grams into a dish. So a supplement would make it easier to take.”
Beattie believes that ginger’s dietary affects may have gone unnoticed despite its widespread use. “Ginger is considered a medicinal plant in East Asia and is used for various remedies such as for sickness and cancer. It’s a sort-of cure-all,” he said. “The next step would be to have a trial in humans.”
Currently, ginger supplements are available in the UK from some health food suppliers, but are not generally sold as a weight loss aid. Beattie said more research is needed to work out exactly how much adults would need to take to see any benefit.