What the Saffron Extract Appetite Suppressant Satiereal Study Really Says
One of the ways to fight obesity is through the development of appetite suppressants. Appetite suppressants such as the saffron extract Satiereal is claimed to put a stop to what is called “emotional eating.” Emotional eating is where under times of stress or low energy, individuals tend to snack on comfort foods, which in turn possibly increases the hormone serotonin that fires up the pleasure center in the brain. The saffron extract Satierial is believed to suppress appetite by turning up serotonin levels and thereby making individuals less likely to feel the need to snack in order to feel better.
While the claims on television do not identify a specific study, a search of relevant scientific literature has turned up one 2010 study that tests the effects of the saffron extract Satiereal against a placebo on a small group of mildly overweight women.
The Saffron Extract Study
The foundation of the saffron study is based on what the authors refer to as “disturbed dietary behaviors” that include compulsive, uncontrolled snacking. Snacking is significantly affected by mood swings related to stress and has been shown to manifest as a strong preference for high-sugar and high-fat snacks. Stress snacking or “emotional eating” occurs primarily in females and affects 2% to 5% of this population.
Previous studies have shown that satiety or a “feeling of fullness” can be achieved by eating fiber rich foods and thereby can result in weight loss. Unfortunately however, such measures are often temporary and necessitate the need for other measures to address appetite suppression.
Because uncontrolled snacking is associated with a depressed mood and/or feelings of stress and anxiety, the authors of the paper hypothesized that preventing uncontrolled snacking can be remedied through spices that have previously been shown to have anti-anxiety, mood enhancing properties. One such spice is Corcus sativus, more commonly known as saffron that has been used in traditional medicine for treating digestive, inflammatory and cerebral disorders. More recently, however, saffron has been shown to possess antidepressant properties.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers designed a study that assesses whether an extract called “Satiereal” isolated from the saffron plant can reduce snacking behavior and result in weight loss. The study was designed to look at two primary components: actual weight lost and snacking frequency per a daily log kept by each individual in the study.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study consisting of 61 healthy, mildly overweight women between the ages of 25 to 45, the researchers divided the participants into two randomized groups. Prior to the random division, at least 50 % of the women were identified as having some compulsive snacking behavior, but not suffering from complicating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa, excessive anxiety and/or depression or other mental disorders. The average weight of each woman was approximately 162 pounds.
Twice daily during an 8-week period, one group was given a Satiereal extract supplement and the other group an identical appearing placebo. Each dose of Satiereal was approximately 88 milligrams and had been isolated from the stigmas of the mature saffron flower (Crocus sativus L; Iridaceae).
All participants were instructed to keep a daily snacking log and made reporting visits every two weeks. During the visits the participants were weighed and measured and given questionnaires that rated feelings of hunger and satiety as well as their snacking behaviors. Blood and urine analyses were also made to ensure that dosage of the extract was not causing undue harm.
The Saffron Extract Study Results
At the end of the study period, 60 participants—31 receiving the extract, 29 receiving the placebo—successfully completed all tasks and their data were statistically analyzed. One participant from the placebo group exited the study prematurely and her data was not used in the analysis.
What the researchers found was that in a group by group comparison within the first two weeks of the study, the Satiereal group began to show statistically significant weight loss as a group in comparison to the placebo group. Furthermore, the weight loss trend for the Satiereal group continued throughout the remainder of the 8-week period. No adverse effects except for a few complaints of minor digestive disorders were reported.
The baseline snacking behavior of all the participants at the beginning of the study was approximately one snack per day. At the end of the 8-week study, the Satiereal group demonstrated statistically significant reduction in snacking beginning with week 4 of the study that continued throughout the study, whereas the placebo group showed only a one-time statistically significant reduction in snacking at week 6. By the end of the 8th week, the Satiereal group participants were snacking about half as much as they had at the beginning of the study.
However, even though the Satiereal group showed statistically significant weight loss in comparison to the placebo group, the actual pounds lost comes to approximately 2 pounds per participant for the Satiereal group. The study’s findings are therefore significantly different to televised claims that taking Satiereal can cause weight loss of 1 pound per day. If this is the same study that televised claims are referring to, then the claims are misleading. Furthermore, the authors point out that their data cannot be predictive of what might occur if the test subjects were obese rather than mildly overweight—a point that sellers of Satiereal fail to address.
The authors of the paper state that the most significant result of their study is that the Satiereal extract does in some way cause a significant reduction in snacking behavior by inducing feelings of satiation, which they believe can contribute to eventual weight loss as a supplement to a weight loss program and/or diet. They also believe that their data shows that the group consuming the Satiereal extract had a markedly enhanced mood over the placebo group. The authors of the paper report that the actual mechanism by which Satiereal acts is currently speculative and in need of further study.
In summary, the available scientific evidence appears to show that while the saffron extract appetite suppressant Satiereal does have some benefits that could lead to weight loss, they are not as pronounced as some would have you believe that Satiereal is a miracle appetite suppressant for weight loss. Repeated (cut and pasted) online reports of a 2006 clinical study claiming that a very similar study to the one described resulted in an average weight loss of approximately 3 pounds in 4 weeks has not been identified as of yet. It is possible that a trial did occur and that the results are unpublished in a scientific journal, but it would be nice to know where these claims of support are coming from. The authors of the described study make no mention of this mysterious 2006 study or include it in their reference list.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: “Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women” Nutrition research 30 (2010) 305-313; Bernard Gout, Cedric Bourges and Severine Paineau-Dubreuil.