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Ginger - a functional food we need in our diet

by Activated Nutrients |

Ginger has some impressive health benefits that are backed up by science. Improvements to digestion, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight loss outcomes have all been seen with the consumption of ginger. Research shows it can also help to protect the brain, provides unique disease fighting antioxidants and even help lessen the severity of seasonal colds and flus.

 

It contains a powerful bioactive called gingerol

Ginger is naturally high in a powerful bioactive compound called gingerol that is both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is gingerol that is responsible for most of ginger’s medicinal properties. Research has shown that gingerol helps decrease oxidative stress, which is the result of having an increased number of free radicals in the body (1). 

Studies have also shown that gingerol may also have anticancer properties and a particular form known as [6]-gingerol is viewed by scientists as the most potent anti-cancerous compound in ginger (5). 

Studies have reported that this special compound in ginger may reduce several forms of cancer cells. A 2011 study showed that a month after participants consumed 2 grams of a ginger extract every day, there was a strong reduction in a potentially harmful type of “signalling” molecule in the colon, ultimately leading to a reduced “trigger” of inflammation (6).

 

It aids digestion

Ginger has been shown to improve digestive and research shows it may relieve bloating and gas that can be caused by certain foods. It appears that ginger is effective in speeding up the emptying of the stomach, a beneficial action for people who suffer from indigestion. Research in 2008 showed that when 24 healthy individuals were given ginger capsules before food, it significantly sped up the emptying of the stomach. It took only 13.1 minutes for people who consumed ginger and 26.7 minutes for people who didn’t receive ginger, (almost twice as long) (4).

 

It may assist diabetes prevention

Research on ginger and diabetes is new; however, it appears ginger may have powerful anti-diabetic properties. In a 2015 study of 41 people with type 2 diabetes, when 2 grams of ginger powder was consumed, this lowered fasting blood sugar by 12%. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is an important marker of long-term blood sugar levels that doctors use to diagnose and monitor diabetes. This study showed that the ginger powder also reduced hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) by 10% in a 12-week period (2). 

 

It has a positive effect on weight loss

In 2019 a literature review of functional foods concluded that ginger supplementation had a very positive effect on weight loss and obesity. Studies show that ginger significantly reduced body weight and the waist-hip ratio in people who were overweight or obese (3, 7).

A further study of 80 women with obesity found that ginger can help to reduce body mass index (BMI) as well as blood insulin levels. This is important as high blood insulin levels are linked with obesity. The women all received 2 grams of a ginger powder dose for 12 weeks (8).

 

It may improve brain function

Evidence has shown that oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can speed up the ageing process, including in the brain. It is believed that these are two key factors that contribute to age-related cognitive decline in the brain and even Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have suggested that ginger may help protect against age-related decline in brain function and improve memory and this is due to the bioactive compounds in ginger being able to reduce brain inflammation (9, 10). 

There has also been research that shows ginger can help enhance healthy brain function. In 2012 a study of healthy middle-aged women showed that when ginger extract was taken daily, working memory and reaction times both improved (10).  

 

References: 

1. Wang S, Zhang C, Yang G, Yang Y, (2014). Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. Nat Prod Commun;9(7):1027-30. 
2. Khandouzi, Nafiseh et al, (2015). “The effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin a1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein a-I and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients.” Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR vol. 14,1: 131-40.

3. Venkatakrishnan K et al, (2019). Extensive review of popular functional foods and nutraceuticals against obesity and its related complications with a special focus on randomized clinical trial, Foods Funct;10, 2313-2329.
4. Wu KL et al, (2008). Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol;20(5):436-40. 
5. Kumara M et al, (2017). 6-Gingerol is the most Potent Anticancerous Compound in Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.), J Dev Drugs; 6:1.
6. Zick, SM et al, (2011). Phase II Study of the Effects of Ginger Root Extract on Eicosanoids in Colon Mucosa in People at Normal Risk for Colorectal Cancer, Cancer Prev Res; 4;11.
7. Maharlouei N et al, (2019). The effects of ginger intake on weight loss and metabolic profiles among overweight and obese subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr;59(11):1753-1766. 
8. Ebrahimzadeh A et al, (2016).  Changes of serum adipocytokines and body weight following Zingiber officinale supplementation in obese women: a RCT. Eur J Nutr 55, 2129–2136. 
9. Wattanathorn J, Jittiwat J, Tongun T, Muchimapura S, Ingkaninan K, (2011). Zingiber officinale Mitigates Brain Damage and Improves Memory Impairment in Focal Cerebral Ischemic Rat. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med;429505.

10. Azam F, Amer AM, Abulifa AR, Elzwawi MM, (2014). Ginger components as new leads for the design and development of novel multi-targeted anti-Alzheimer's drugs: a computational investigation. Drug Des Devel Ther; 8:2045-2059.
11. Saenghong N, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S, et al, (2012). Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med:383062.