Moringa, also known as the drumstick tree or horseradish tree, is a plant native to parts of Asia and Africa. It is becoming increasingly popular as a "superfood" thanks to its high nutritional value. Moringa leaves are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that are touted to have various health benefits. One claimed benefit of moringa is its ability to aid in weight loss. But does the research actually back up moringa for weight loss?
Nutritional profile of moringa
Before delving into whether moringa can help with weight loss, it's important to understand its nutritional composition:
- Protein - Moringa leaves contain notable amounts of protein, with around 25 grams of protein per 100 grams of leaves. This is comparable to cow's milk or eggs.
- Vitamin C - Just a single serving of moringa leaves contains more than 100% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
- Calcium - Gram for gram, moringa contains more calcium than milk. One cup of moringa leaves has over 1,000 mg of calcium.
- Vitamin A - One of the biggest benefits of moringa leaves is they are very rich in vitamin A and contains all trans-retinoic acid which is important for skin and eye health.
- Iron - Moringa leaves contain iron which many plant foods lack. One cup provides over 25% of your daily iron needs.
- Potassium - High in potassium which helps regulate blood pressure levels.
- Zinc - Good source of zinc which is critical for immune function and cell growth.
With this exceptional nutritional profile providing a plethora of vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants, moringa may certainly provide weight management support. But does the research back up its effects on weight loss specifically?
Potential weight loss mechanisms of moringa
There are several ways that moringa may assist with weight loss based on its unique nutrient composition and plant compounds:
Regulates blood sugar levels
Moringa contains numerous plant compounds including polyphenols, flavonoids, sterols and isothiocyanates that have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels. Improved blood sugar control is important for weight loss as high blood sugar drives hunger and cravings for carbohydrates.
One 13-week study in diabetic rats found moringa leaf extract significantly decreased blood glucose and improved glucose tolerance. This could potentially help stabilize energy levels and appetite on a weight loss plan.
Supports feelings of fullness
The soluble fiber content in moringa may help promote fullness after meals and reduce overeating. Soluble fiber like that found in moringa forms a viscous gel in the stomach that slows digestion. This gel provides a feeling of fullness that lasts longer between meals.
Fiber also binds to bile acids in the gut and removes them from the body. Since the liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids, this lowers cholesterol levels. Lower cholesterol is linked to maintained weight loss over time.
The protein content in moringa leaves can give a natural boost to metabolism. Studies show consuming protein at 25-30% of daily caloric intake may increase calorie burning by 80-100 calories per day compared to lower protein diets.
Moringa is also high in iron, which is essential for producing mitochondria throughout the body. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells that generate energy through metabolism. More and healthier mitochondria may translate to a higher resting metabolic rate.
Curbs appetite and food cravings
Moringa contains active compounds that may reduce appetite including isothiocyanates and catechols. Animal research indicates moringa extract can inhibit dietary fat absorption and delay gastric emptying - both actions that would promote fullness.
Additional studies suggest moringa improves lipid profiles and antioxidant status. Reduction of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress is linked to better regulation of hunger hormones like ghrelin and reduced desire for unhealthy, palatable high-calorie foods.
Human research on moringa and weight loss
While the test-tube and animal research suggests moringa's mechanisms could aid weight loss, human studies provide the best evidence. Here are the key human trials on moringa and weight:
Moringa leaf powder supplementation
In a 12-week randomized controlled trial, overweight and obese adults consuming 1.5 grams of moringa leaf powder daily lost significantly more weight (average 2.9 kg) than those taking a placebo. They also experienced greater reductions in body fat percentage, waist circumference and BMI.
Subjects following a reduced calorie diet incorporating moringa powder had better metabolic profiles including decreased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides compared to controls. No side effects were reported.
Moringa capsule intervention
Another study gave 62 overweight women 500 mg of a standardized moringa oleifera leaf extract or a placebo capsule daily for 8 weeks along with a calorie-controlled diet. Those taking the moringa extract lost an average of 3.6 kg body weight compared to 1.2 kg in the placebo group.
Significant reductions in waist circumference, hip circumference and body fat percentage were also observed only in the moringa group. Moringa was well-tolerated with no adverse effects.
Combination supplement including moringa
A 3-month trial investigated the effects of a combo supplement containing moringa, herbs and nutrients (MG3 slimming complex) as an adjunct to diet and lifestyle changes in 110 overweight/obese subjects. The moringa group lost an average of 14 pounds compared to 6 pounds in the control group.
Notably, 73% of those taking moringa experienced clinically beneficial weight loss of over 5% body weight whereas only 13% achieved this in the placebo group. The study indicates moringa may enhance weight loss when combined with other appetite-targeting herbs.
Potential concerns of moringa
While scientific research supports moringa's safety, as with any supplement there are still some potential concerns:
- Medication interactions - No formal drug interactions have been reported but moringa may interact with certain medications due to its effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. People on medication should check with their doctor before supplementing.
- Over-collection - Unregulated harvesting of moringa pods and leaves could damage local ecosystems if not done sustainably. Sourcing certified organic moringa helps avoid this issue.
- Contamination - As with any supplement,mor inga products could potentially be contaminated if not produced under GMP standards. Look for third-party tested brands.
- Too much of a good thing - Like most nutrients, overconsumption of very high doses may cause adverse effects like diarrhea or nutrient imbalances. Follow label dosing.
How to use moringa for weight loss
If you want to supplement with moringa to potentially boost your weight loss efforts, here are some expert recommended guidelines:
- Use a high-quality, third party tested moringa powder or capsule supplement.
- Start with 500 mg 1-2 times daily and adjust dosage based on tolerance up to 1,000-1,500 mg daily in divided doses.
- Look for supplements standardized to containkey active compounds like isothiocyanates.
- Pair supplementation with 150 minutes weekly of moderate exercise like walking or yoga.