How Spinach Can Help With Weight-Loss | The Paleo Diet®
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Hunger Pangs? Need to Lose Weight? Try This Vegetable

By Dr. O. H. Okoye, MD, MBA, MSEpi
August 18, 2015
Louis Hanssel/ Unsplash.com
Louis Hanssel/ Unsplash.com

In the journey of healthy living, we eagerly seek options that are not only tasty, but nutritious as well. What if there was an easily accessible vegetable that contains packed nutrients, while curbing your hunger pangs? Try spinach, a vegetable that is probably familiar to many people already following The Paleo Diet®.

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of an abundant component of spinach, known as thylakoids.1 Previous scientific studies have shown that thylakoids promote the release of the satiety hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). This hormone signals to your brain that you feel full after a meal and affects appetite regulation.1 Additionally, these studies have also shown that thylakoids decrease the body’s insulin response which prevents postprandial hypoglycemia, the body’s basic decreased glucose level response seen after eating.1

Before bringing out the chopping board to cut up some spinach, let’s breakdown the details behind this discovery.

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What are thylakoids?

Now what exactly are thylakoids? Thylakoids are not exclusive to just spinach, they are actually found in the membrane of green plants.2 They consist of hundreds of different membrane proteins, galactolipids and sulpholipids, including vitamins (A, E and K) and antioxidants like carotenoids, lutein, zeaxantin and chlorophyll.2

Thylakoids are largely responsible for the delay in fat digestion.2 Most importantly, after you eat green-plant membranes, initial prolongation of fat digestion takes place and, ultimately, at the end the thylakoids are also digested. So this means there are no issues seen with steatorrea, which is when the body gets rid of fat quickly, after you eat thylakoids and/or green plants. This is quite contrary to medications such as irreversible lipase inhibitors which also prolong fat digestion.2

A study conducted on thylakoids showed that intake of thylakoids before breakfast, can reduce hunger by about 21%, and increase satiety (feeling of being full) by about 14%.

Benefit of eating spinach and thylakoids

A previous study has shown how a patented extract of spinach with large amounts of thylakoids can have inhibitory effects on lipase activity.3 Lipase is the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of lipids or fats in the digestive system.3 With the delay in fat digestion, there is a noted increase in the production of the satiety hormones cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).3

Additional studies have also shown that consuming this spinach extract suppresses ghrelin, which is the hormone associated with hunger.3 In simple terms, it means when you can eat a green plant such as spinach, it slows down fat digestion, which leads to the release of the hormones and sends a “red light” signal to your brain that you are no longer hungry!

A study conducted on thylakoids showed that intake of thylakoids before breakfast, can reduce hunger by about 21%, and increase satiety (feeling of being full) by about 14%.3 An interesting aspect of this study showed that it can also decrease craving for all snacks and sweets during the day by 36%.3 Those who scored high for emotional eating gained a lot of benefit from receiving treatment, by eating thylakoids. So if you find yourself feeling down on a cloudy day, and wanting to grab a snack throughout the day, you may benefit from a nutritious meal that includes spinach.

Here are some of our favorite Paleo spinach recipes:

Conclusion

In summary, from the results of these scientific studies, a diet high in thylakoids such as spinach, will decrease food intake, and prevent the need to snack randomly during the day.

Additionally thylakoids influence the absorption of glucose in the intestine and reduces the glycemic index after eating foods high in carbohydrates.4 Furthermore studies have shown that it also leads to a decrease in LDL-cholesterol, which is a leading risk factor for atherosclerosis which can lead to many conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease and kidney disease.5 This indicates thylakoids could potentially be helpful in preventing not only obesity, but also cardiovascular risk, diabetes, and many other diseases as well.

With no associated risks, what better reason to stock up your grocery cart with an ample supply of spinach?

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References

[1] Stenblom E, Montelius C, Ostbring K, Hakansson M, Nilsson S, Rehfeld J, et al. Supplementation by thylakoids to a high carbohydrate meal decreases feelings of hunger, elevates CCK levels and prevents postprandial hypoglycaemia in overweight women. Appetite. 2013 Sep; 68: p. 118-123.

[2] Montelicius C, Erlandsson E, Vitija E, Stenblom E, Egecioglu E, Erlanson-Albertsson C. Body weight loss, reduced urge for palatable food and increased release of GLP-1 through daily supplementation with green-plant membranes for three months in overweight women. Appetite. 2014 Oct 1; 1: p. 295-304.

[3] Stenblom E, Egecioglu E, Landin-Olsson M, Erlanson-Albertsson C. Consumption of thylakoid-rich spinach extract reduces hunger, increases satiety and reduces cravings for palatable food in overweight women. Appetite. 2015 August 1; 91: p. 209-219

[4] Montelius C, Szwiec K, Kardas M, Lozinska L, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Pierzynowski S, et al. Dietary thylakoids suppress blood glucose and modulate appetite-regulating hormones in pigs exposed to oral glucose tolerance test. Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Dec; 33(6): p. 1122-1126.

[5] Mayo Clinic. Complications High cholesterol. [Online].; 2015 [cited 2015 Aug 17. Available from: //www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/basics/complications/con-20020865.

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