Could Spices Improve Your Weight Loss?

Call me old-fashioned, but I am always very wary of weight-loss supplements. From everything I’ve ever read, diet pills are either totally ineffective, or they have deadly side effects. Most of the time, the greatest effect you’ll get from a diet pill or weight loss supplement is an increase in heart rate from caffeine. However, there has been some exciting research lately about some natural herbs and spices that may aid in your weight control or even help reduce your diabetes. Keep in mind, these are not magic bullets and adding these spices probably won’t mean you’ll drop 20 pounds by tomorrow.


There have been several studies done on the effects on cinnamon, specifically looking at whether cinnamon can reduce your glucose and insulin response to a meal. (For more info on glycemic index, glucose and insulin, check out a past blog entry) In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding cinnamon to pudding significantly reduced the blood glucose of subjects as compared to eating pudding alone. This means that a meal with cinnamon won’t spike your glucose (and therefore insulin) as much as that meal would without the cinnamon. Other studies have also shown that cinnamon can reduce your fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Cayenne Chili

Keeping your meals spicy may also help reduce your glucose and insulin levels after a meal. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that adding cayenne chili powder to a meal reduced insulin levels as compared to that meal alone. Using fresh chili powder may also affect your metabolic rate (how fast you break down nutrients and burn calories). In a study in Thailand, women who added fresh chili pepper to their meal  not only reduced their blood glucose following the meal, but also increased their metabolic rate for 30 minutes after eating.



Curcumin, derived from tumeric, is an orange/yellow spice often found in Indian or Asian food, and has been a topic of interest because of its anti-inflammatory properties. There is some new, exciting research about curcumin’s ability to inhibit the fat storage process and reduce obesity. This study demonstrates that curcumin reduced the number of adipocytes (fat cells) that were produced and reduced Fatty Acid Synthase, which is an enzyme that stimulates the production of fatty acids. While this is exciting, do keep in mind that this research has not yet been done in humans, and the effects may not be dramatic.

While this type of research is still new, it’s a interesting way to think about your weight loss. Just by adding some spices, you could improve your blood glucose and potentially increase your metabolism. Plus, food that is spiced increases your olfactory response (meaning you enjoy the smell and taste) and you may find a meal more enjoyable. You may slow down your meal and realize you are full sooner, therefore decreasing your total calorie intake.

Have you ever experimented with spices? Do you think they could aid in weight loss?



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marie on January 18, 2012 at 3:18 am

    Cool ideas! I looked at your cinnamon study and read the top line which is a reference to another study on effect of cinnamon on people with adult onset diabetes: “Previous studies of patients with type 2 diabetes showed that cinnamon lowers fasting serum glucose, triacylglycerol, and LDL- and total cholesterol concentrations.” That’s pretty neat too. I wonder how it works though?


    • As far as I understand, cinnamon has been shown to slow gastric emptying. This means that your meal will leave your stomach at a slower pace, reducing the blood glucose and insulin spike following a meal. Over time, perhaps that can lead to a lower fasting glucose? As fas as the reduction in cholesterol, there may be some evidence that cinammon is anti-inflammatory.
      Definitely makes me want to add cinnamon to my diet!


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