The Health Hound Review of Saffron Extractby Henry Hound on February 7, 2013
Henry’s rating 3.5 out of 5
Guess I am showing my age a bit, but I remember in the song “Mellow Yellow” how 60’s icon Donavan sang “I’m just mad about saffron…” at the time most people thought he was “tripping” but maybe he was on to something! Saffron, is a popular spice used in many Mediterranean diets, and has a long history of being used medicinally. Published studies purport saffron to have many health benefits from fighting heart disease to improving memory – and now, my good friend Dr. Oz, has recently added it to his growing list of recommended supplements for natural weight loss. So it was time for the Hound not to be “yellow” about taking a closer look at this supplement, specifically Satiereal Saffron Extract.
Saffron is one of the world’s most expensive spices, since it takes something like 75,000 saffron flowers, which are picked by hand, to create one pound of the spice. Actually the Indian saffron which is the one most praised for cooking, is red, not yellow, and it is very expensive, and exclusive. The more common yellow saffron is from Spain. As a food ingredient, saffron has been varyingly described as “bitter,” “hay-like” and “sweet.”
Claims about saffron extract related to weight loss include:
- It can lead to loss of pounds and inches, especially the dreaded “belly fat.”
- It curbs appetite
- Decreases cravings for sugary and salty snacks
- Promotes a healthy lifestyle, improves moods and decreases “stress overeating”
That’s a lot of claim for a flowery little spice. Let’s take a look at the research.
A study published in Nutrition Research concluded that saffron extract could be used to control compulsive overeating. In the study, 60 healthy, mildly overweight women took either a saffron-containing supplement or a placebo every day for eight weeks. Study results showed that members of the saffron group snacked less and had a significantly greater reduction in overall body weight then those in the placebo group. The study’s authors attributed the decreased snacking to saffron’s “mood-enhancing” effects.
There have been other studies that back up these results, specifically one that tested “Satiereal” which is the ingredient in the saffron extract that Dr. Oz specially spoke about on his show. In a press release discussing Dr. Oz’s seeming endorsement of the product the makers of Saffron Pure, a Satiereal Saffron Extract, provided this “Satiereal Saffron Extract Study Review”
- Saffron Decreases Snacking Average: 55% compared to 28% placebo
- Satiereal Decreases Appetite of Feelings of Hunger Between Meals: 84% compared to 52% placebo
- Satiereal Saffron decreases desire for Sugary Snacks: 78% compared to 46% placebo
Here is the thing, even Dr. Oz himself, when discussing the use of Satiereal Saffron Extract, did so in the context of emotional or stress overeating. And that is what these studies seem to indicate. Yes, they say, saffron has the ability to effect serotonin levels much like a prescription antidepressant (maybe that’s what Donavon was “mad about”?), so it helps people who eat out of depression. But that is my beef with calling this the next “miracle weight loss supplement.” Not everyone who struggles with weight is a stress overeater, and none of these studies back up any of the claims of saffron’s “fat burning” abilities.
How to use Saffron
As a spice, saffron is available in just about any supermarket or health food store, but the claims and studies for weight loss specifically evaluated saffron extract supplements with the Satiereal ingredient. This nutritional supplement is generally available in gel caps in a range of 80 – 90 mgs, to be taken twice per day.
Who Should Use Saffron?
According to those who sell supplemental Satiereal Saffron Extract for weight loss — anybody who is struggling with weight should consider adding it to his or her diet and supplement regimen. However, given the evidence, I think that should only be those who cannot stop snacking, and are “stress” or emotional overeaters.
There seems to be good scientific evidence to suggest that saffron extract with Satiereal can increase serotonin levels, improve mood, and therefore help with stress or emotional overeating.
Since saffron has been used as a spice in cooking for centuries, it is generally regarded as safe for consumption. However, in supplement form WebMD cautions possible side effects may include dry mouth, anxiety, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, change in appetite, and headache. Allergic reactions can occur in some people. In addition taking saffron in very large amounts, in excess of 12-20 grams is toxic and can even be fatal. Furthermore, since saffron extract supplements have been shown to alter moods, people with serious mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, or who are taking prescription antidepressants, should avoid the use of saffron.
The Bottom Line
Saffron is generally safe, and seems to show a lot of promise as a mood enhancer and craving curber. But since I think it is more limited in its effectiveness than its proponents for weight loss would have you believe, it gets 3.5 out of 5.