Ashwagandha for Weight Loss Under Chronic Stress

Ashwagandha for Weight Loss

Modern society places so much strain on people. In many cases, we suffer from chronic stress, not to mention obesity and inflammation, often caused by the food that we eat. All of these areas have significant negative implications for health in the short-term and in the long-term.

The simplest answer to these challenges is to turn toward more natural diets and away from all the processed junk that is so readily available.

At the same time, herbal supplements offer an effective way to get access to the healing properties of plants and the powerful compounds that they contain.

In this post, we’re taking a brief look at one specific example, ashwagandha supplements. Specifically, we’re highlighting the potential of ashwagandha for weight loss, particularly for people experiencing chronic stress.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha Root

Ashwagandha is a common name for the herb Withania somnifera and it tends to be cultivated in dry regions of India, along with Yeman, Nepal and China.

The herb is particularly interesting because it plays a key role in Ayurvedic medicine. This is a specific type of traditional medicine that heavily relies on herbs and minerals to promote health benefits.

Like other herbs, ashwagandha contains a range of plant-based compounds, many of which have the potential to help promote health. In this case, the supplement is most commonly associated with improving sexual health and testosterone levels (1,2,3,4) but it is also connected to other benefits, including reducing knee pain and fighting stress (5,6,7).

Taking Ashwagandha for Weight Loss

So, what about ashwagandha and weight loss?

This effect is strongly tied into the connection between ashwagandha and fighting stress. After all, chronic stress has many negative implications for health and for weight. For example, it commonly contributes to higher levels of blood sugar and can even lead to increased fat storage (8,9).

Concept of midnight snacking

At the same time, people often make poor decisions when they are stressed, particularly in relation to the food they eat. As a result, decreasing chronic stress could be a key mechanism for helping people to lose weight.

One recent study considered this implication in a sample of 52 participants across an eight-week period. With this research, the subjects were broken into two groups.

One group received 300 mg of ashwagandha twice per day, while the other was given the placebo at the same frequency.

As part of the study, the authors took a range of steps to ensure that the placebos were truly indistinguishable from the ashwagandha supplements and that neither participants nor researchers knew who was receiving the supplement.

The overall design of the study falls into a category known as randomized controlled research. ​This is considered the gold standard when it comes to finding effects and produces the most reliable outcomes overall. 

The authors looked at a range of outcomes across the survey, including some that were related to stress and others associated with weight loss. Of these, the most significant outcomes were perceived stress and happiness, both of which were significantly improved in the treatment group.

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Likewise, there were also improvements in other areas, such as food cravings, body weight and reactive eating.

However, the study didn’t show positive outcomes for the way that people thought about food. The authors felt that this was due to the way that ashwagandha interacts with stress.

As such, the supplement helps to reduce stress and some of the eating behaviors that go along with it. By doing so, it could play a role in decreasing weight gain or even promoting weight loss.

For example, the site Women's Health talks about how stress can often contribute to poor decisions and weight gain. This is a topic that Chris Kresser highlights as well. 

Implications of the Research

The evidence here just comes from one study, which did have a relatively low number of participants. This means that more research is needed.

But, the outcomes do align with the findings of other research. Likewise, the study does show that you can safely take ashwagandha supplements without health issues and other research has found similar outcomes (10,11).

Overall, the evidence strongly suggests that ashwagandha can promote health benefits and does have the potential to aid with weight loss by decreasing chronic stress. This is a topic that other authors highlight as well. For example, the site 88 Herbs discusses the concepts and relevant mechanisms.  

So, the supplement is particularly relevant for anyone who faces issues with stress or who isn’t happy with their weight.

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