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Fenugreek extract reduces fat intake.

Chevassus H, Gaillard J, Farret A et al. 2010. A fenugreek seed extract selectively reduces spontaneous fat intake in overweight subjects. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 66:5;449-55.

Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum) have long been used as a herbal medicine for treating metabolic and nutritive dysfunctions. They have been shown to modulate feeding behaviour in animals, often attributed to the properties of stimulating appetite and promoting weight gain. This study examined the role of fenugreek in modulating dietary intake in overweight adults.

Thirty nine healthy overweight male volunteers (18-59 years, mean: 38) completed a six week double blind randomised placebo controlled parallel trial of a fixed dose of a fenugreek seed extract. The extract was a dry hydroalcoholic fenugreek seed extract administered three times daily as oral coated tablets. The total daily dose was 1176 mg (approximately 14 mg/kg), standardised for diosgenine, steroid saponins, 1.38% trigonelline and 1.50% 4-hydroxyisoleucine, characterised by thin layer chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Placebo tablets were manufactured using the same excipients, the same process and the same packaging as for active tablets, making them indistinguishable.

The diet and physical activity of the patients were assessed before and at the end of the ambulatory treatment period, using a seven day record that was reviewed by a trained dietician and a physician for its accuracy.

At baseline macronutrient intake was similar between the fenugreek and placebo groups. Researchers expected frequent underreporting of energy intake (approximately 40%), but this underreporting was similar in the treatment and control groups. Daily fat consumption, expressed as the ratio fat reported energy intake/total energy expenditure (fat-REI / TEE), was significantly decreased in the overweight patients administered fenugreek seed extract relative to those receiving placebo (fat-REI/TEE 0.26 [+ or -] 0.02 vs. 0.30 [+ or -] 0.01 respectively; P=0.032). Protein and carbohydrate intake was not significantly modified.

There was a significant decrease in the insulin/glucose ratio in those patients treated with fenugreek seed extract relative to the placebo group (0.89 [+ or -] 0.09 vs 1.06 [+ or -] 0.10 mUI mmol-1, respectively; P=0.044). The lower ratio of fasting serum insulin/plasma glucose may reflect improved insulin sensitivity as previously described in patients with type 2 diabetes receiving fenugreek preparations.

One subject detected an unusual smell in his urine and sweat during the treatment period. This unique case of a subject possibly identifying the treatment did not lead to any deblinding of the study for the rest of the volunteers.

The repeated administration of a fenugreek seed extract slightly but significantly decreased dietary fat consumption in human volunteers in this short term study. This novel property of fenugreek seeds, together with a potential favourable effect on insulin sensitivity, may be helpful in subjects who need to decrease their fat intake. It may also improve the metabolic status of overweight subjects. The components involved and the mechanisms of this effect remain to be elucidated for fenugreek seed.

Kathleen Murphy MNHAA

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Author:Murphy, Kathleen
Publication:Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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