Could Licorice Help You Get Lean?
July 14, 2000 -- For adults battling body fat, the results of a new study
could make them feel like a kid in a candy store. Eating black licorice
regularly may reduce body fat without any side effects, according to an Italian
report presented at a recent endocrinology meeting in Toronto.
Throughout the world, licorice is used as a mouth freshener and in sweets.
Its intense flavor comes from the root of a Mediterranean plant, Glycyrrhiza
glabra, which contains a powerful chemical known as glycyrrhizic acid.
Eating excessive quantities of licorice containing this active ingredient can
actually cause potassium loss, resulting in higher blood pressure.
But according to the authors of the small study, eating moderate amounts of
licorice has no adverse effects. "Our study showed that licorice intake of
3.5 grams a day [roughly 1.4 ounces] reduced body fat by up to 4%, without any
change in blood pressure," says co-author Carlo De Palo, MD, a clinical
researcher at the University of Padua. "One explanation is that the strong
taste of licorice suppresses the appetite," he adds.
American doctors think it may be too soon to draw any conclusions.
"Another explanation is that eating licorice makes you feel full, so that
you eat fewer calories," says weight-control expert Terry Jacobson, MD,
director of health promotion and disease prevention at Atlanta's Grady Health
System and an associate professor of medicine at Emory University.
"That's how dietary fiber works, but without all the sugar," he
explains. Foods that contain dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and
whole grains, also provide vitamins and nutrients.
"We all like to think that there's a magic bullet, but a balanced diet
and regular exercise are the only proven methods of long-term weight
management," Jacobson tells WebMD. "And to become part of clinical
practice, new findings have to be validated in much larger studies."
De Palo and colleagues explored the effect of eating licorice in seven men
ages 22 to 26. The participants ate a commercial Italian product that contained
more than 7% glycyrrhizic acid daily for two months. Before and afterward,
researchers measured the men's weight, blood pressure, body fat, and body
The data showed that body fat dropped an average of 1.2% and body water rose
an average of 5%, yet both weight and blood pressure remained the same. The
authors link the rise in body water to suppression of hormones that affect the
balance of salt and fluid.
Given the intriguing results, perhaps the best approach is to get regular
exercise, eat balanced meals -- and have a little licorice for dessert!
For more information from WebMD, visit our Diseases & Conditions Weight Control page.
- New research shows that eating licorice may reduce body fat without any
- Two proposed theories are that the strong taste of licorice suppresses the
appetite, and that eating licorice makes people feel full, so they eat fewer
- One expert notes that a balanced diet and regular exercise are still the
only proven methods of weight management.