Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saffron Extract Facts

What exactly is Saffron?

Saffron is a spice that derives from the flower Crocus Sativus. Saffron is a supplement that extracts specific compounds out of the Saffron flower. Saffron has been commonly used in Europe as part of its diet for centuries. It has always been considered an expensive spice primarily because of its difficulty to harvest and cultivate.

Modern research has suggested that saffron has potential anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic, and antioxidant properties.

Another reason saffron extract with saffron has gotten tremendous attention recently is due to Dr. Oz mentioning this product as a “Miracle Appetite Suppressant.”

Uses and Research

Saffron extract is one of those supplements that has been associated with a large number of potential benefits. Here is a list of its potential benefits. Weight loss, reduced urge to snack, increased satiety, increased energy, better mood, antioxidant, antitumour, and memory loss effects. There is plenty of research done on this spice. I must mention that almost all studies have shown very positive results.
Nutr. Res. 2010 May;30(5):305-13.

Saffron, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women.
Snacking is an uncontrolled eating disorder which predisposes to weight gain. It affects primarily women and is commonly associated with stress.

This study intends to prove whether oral supplementation of Saffron reduces snacking due to its potential mood improving effect, thus producing weight loss.
60 mildly overweight females participated in this placebo controlled, double blind, randomized clinical trial. Body weight measurements were made over an 8 week period. 31 subjects received Saffron (176mg/day), 29 subjects received placebo. After 8 weeks, the mean snacking frequency was significantly decreased in the Saffron group versus the placebo group (p <0.05).

Conclusions are that Saffron consumption produces a reduction of snacking and creates a satiating effect that could contribute to body weight loss.

Phytother Res. 2000 May;14(3):149-52.

Effects of Saffron Extract and its constituent crocin on learning behaviour and long-term potentiation.
Modern pharmacological studies have demonstrated that saffron extracts have antitumour effects, radical scavenger properties, or hypolipaemic effects. Among the constituents of saffron, crocetin is the compound found to be mainly responsible for these effects.
Recent electrophysiological studies in experimental animals have demonstrated that saffron extract improves learning and memory.

Conclusions state that saffron extract could be useful as a treatment option for certain neurodegenerative disorders and memory loss.

Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008 Nov;46(11):3443-7. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

Study of cytotoxic and apoptogenic properties of saffron extract in human cancer cell lines.
This study measured the cytotoxic (cell damaging) effect of saffron extract in certain cell lines. Malignant and non malignant cells were cultured with different concentrations of ethanolic saffron extract. Results were that saffron could cause cell death in HeLa and HepG2 cells, in which apoptosis (programmed cell death) plays an important role.

Conclusions state that saffron extract could be considered a promising chemotherapeutic agent in cancer treatment.

J. Agric. Food Chem. 2009 Apr 22;57(8):3080-6.

Further examination of antiradical properties of Crocus sativus stigmas extract rich in crocins.

Data for antiradical (antioxidant) properties of saffron extract are limited and poor. This study provided further examination of its antiradical properties. Results were that saffron extracts or free crocetin were found to reduce ROS production as effectively as the phenolic antioxidants.

Conclusions state that saffron extracts exhibit a remarkable intracellular antioxidant activity.

The first article listed is perhaps the most recognized article about saffron extract. It studied overweight females with stress induced snacking. The study was able to clearly show a decrease in snacking in the control group (saffron group). The possible reasons for these results are linked to stress relief thus anxiety relief and better overall mood. I was very surprised when I read these findings. That fact that a dietary supplement was able to significantly improve eating habits and produce certain weigh loss within an 8 week period is simply remarkable.

Other studies aimed at measuring more molecular effects within saffron and its constituents known as crocin and crocetin and also found positive results. Electrophysiological studies performed in experimental animals were able to clearly demonstrate that saffron extract was able to improve learning and memory.
A different study measured the effect of saffron extract on different cell lines and found promising results that could one day provide a different chemotherapeutic option.


The results from all the studies are very conclusive and show clear benefits. For now, I can clearly recommend saffron extract for people who desire weight loss. The main benefits were seen in people who have abnormal eating habits that consist in frequent snacking. Taking this supplement appears to reduce the urge for snacks, produces satiety (sense of fulness), less stress, and less anxiety. These results are very positive due to the fact that most people, especially females, tend to gain weight during times when they are exposed to stress and anxiety.

3 Significant Findings

Saffron extract improved snacking 55% compared to 28% placebo.
Saffron extract decreased appetite 84% compared to 52% placebo.
Saffron extract decreased urge for sugary snacks 78% compared to 46% placebo.

Diet and exercise are still the best way to loose weight and live a healthier life. Taking saffron extract can be a useful supplement to help you achieve weight loss especially when combined with a correct diet and exercise.

Better mood, less anxiety, and less stress are all claims that have been associated with higher levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a primary role in depression and other psychological disorders. Saffron extract is believed to produce higher levels of serotonin, thus improving eating impulses and improving mood.

Other claims about memory improvement and improved learning have shown positive results in experimental animals. I would not suggest taking saffron extract for that purpose alone, due to a lack of research in humans even though results thus far have been positive.

Bottom line, if you’re one of those people that constantly snacks and wishes to stop this habit and loose weight, evidence suggests that saffron extract may work well for you.


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