One of the difficulties in encouraging weight loss in patients is that shifts in diet often leave them feeling unsatiated. Studying thylakoids, components found in spinach that are essential to photosynthesis, researchers discovered that these substances delay the digestion of fats and thereby lead to the release of hormones that signal satiety. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, a research team in Louisiana, United States, investigated a spinach extract containing thylakoids to examine its effect on levels of satiety, food intake, lipids, and glucose compared to placebo.
The research team designed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial with 60 overweight and obese participants wherein individuals consumed either the spinach extract or placebo in random order at least a week apart. Testing began with blood panel analysis to check lipids and glucose levels followed by a standard breakfast meal. Four hours later, participants consumed 5 g of the spinach extract (AppethylTM, Green Leaf Medical, Stockholm, Sweden) or placebo and then a standard lunch. Blood work was repeated 2 hours after lunch. Four hours after lunch, a dinner of pizza was offered and participants were instructed to eat until they felt full. These procedures were repeated for the crossover trial.
At the end of the study, analysis of individual satiety ratings revealed that consumption of the spinach extract significantly increased feelings of fullness and reduced hunger, longing for food, and prospective intake over the 2-hour period following lunch as compared to placebo. Interestingly, participants reported that consumption of the spinach extract also reduced their desire for specific kinds of food, primarily something salty (P<0.01), something savory (P<0.01), and something to quench thirst (P<0.01) during the 2-hour period following lunch, though participants’ desire for something sweet did not abate.
There were no differences in plasma lipids and energy intake at dinner, but, interestingly, male participants reported a trend toward decreased energy intake (P=0.08) after consuming the extract while female participants did not. This study positions spinach, and specifically the thylakoids it contains, as a novel way to support reducing calorie consumption and enhancing weight loss.
Rebello CJ, Chu J, Beyl R, Edwall D, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Greenway FL. Acute effects of a spinach extract rich in thylakoids on satiety: a randomized controlled crossover trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015 Jun 1:1-8. [Epub ahead of print]

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