Licorice Oil Supplement May Help with Weight Loss

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Oil extract from licorice may increase fat loss and help with weight loss, according to a recent study published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. The researchers found that the fat loss was not associated with reduced intake of food.

The randomized, double-blind-placebo-controlled study included 56 overweight men and 28 overweight women who were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or 300, 600, or 900 mg daily of the licorice flavonoid (a plant compound that has antioxidant effects) oil supplement. After eight weeks, the investigators found that while the volunteers had consumed about the same amount of food, those who had taken the licorice supplement had lost weight and total body fat mass.

Specifically, the amount of weight loss among the volunteers who took the licorice supplement was about 2 pounds of body fat at both the 300 and 900 mg levels. In addition, the 900 mg dose was associated with a significant reduction in visceral fat, which is the type of fat that surrounds the abdominal organs and is also linked with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Volunteer who took the highest dose also had a reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

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The scientists suggest that licorice helps with body fat loss because the licorice flavonoid may down-regulate (decrease) the genes involved in fatty acid synthesis and up-regulate (increase) the genes for enzymes associated with fatty acid oxidation, a series of events that could explain the weight loss.

Licorice has a long history of medicinal use in Europe and Asia, and has been used as a flavoring agent around the world. When taken at high doses, it can cause severe side effects, including hypertension, fluid retention, and low potassium levels (dangerous for the heart). Most adverse effects are associated with the chemical component glycyrrhiza, which is typically processed out of licorice before it is brought to market. Such licorice products are called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). The licorice used in this weight loss study was DGL, and it was well tolerated by the participants. A previous study showed that licorice oil extract was safe at doses up to 1,200 mg daily.

As with other weight loss aids, licorice flavonoid oil supplements should be used along with a calorie-restricted eating plan and moderate exercise in order to achieve weight loss. The authors of the current study note that further studies are necessary to identify why body fat was reduced and to examine the impact of licorice flavonoid oil on fat tissue and muscle.

SOURCES:
Aoki F et al. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2007; 26(3): 209-18
National Institutes of Health
Tominaga Y et al. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice 2009 Aug; 3(3): 169-78

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