Ginger is the rhizome, or stem, of the Zingiber officinale plant, and it has been used for centuries as a food, spice and medicine. Ginger promotes digestion and stimulates metabolism, which leads to increased calorie burning. Whether ginger burns fat in a person depends on many factors, such as diet, exercise and percentage of body fat. Still, ginger is a natural ingredient in many diet and “fat-burning” supplements. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger for weight loss.
Properties of Ginger
Ginger is a vasodilator,meaning it increases the diameter of small arteries and enhances circulation of the blood. Increased blood flow and circulation typically lead to a small increase in body temperature, called the thermogenic effect, which promotes metabolism and burns more calories, according to “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition.” The body temperature increase caused by herbs such as ginger is less than 1 degree Fahrenheit. Ginger also promotes the production of bile and may stimulate the production of gastric juices, both of which enhance digestion and make more energy available to burn. Ginger may also have anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering effects, although the studies have been inconclusive. The most popular uses for ginger are for stomach upset, sluggish digestion, dyspepsia and constipation, although it is an ingredient in some weight-loss supplements.
Ginger and Metabolism
Claims that ginger can increase metabolism rates by 20 percent are based on animal studies where concentrated ginger extract was applied to external tissues. Consumed internally, even in high doses, ginger and many other herbs that are promoted for their fat-burning abilities don’t increase metabolism beyond 2 percent to 5 percent, which is comparable to ephedrine and caffeine, according to “Advanced Nutrition: Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and Metabolism.” Of course, any increase in metabolism can help you lose weight, including fat, but aerobic exercise and healthy diet choices are still the best ways to burn fat.
Forms of Ginger
You can consume ginger in a variety of ways, such as pickled, boiled, fresh-ground and as a tea. But in order to increase metabolism and burn fat, you need to take higher dosages of ginger, which are available as liquid extracts and capsules. Common recommended dosages are 250 mg of ginger extract three times daily. Ginger is often combined with garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric or green tea for synergistic effects; all have thermogenic properties. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
Ginger is generally considered as safe in food and supplement forms. Ginger has a long history of use and has not shown any severe negative side effects. Ginger overdose is considered to occur at 2 g per kilogram of body mass, which leads to overstimulation of the nervous system and “ginger jitters.”
- “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition”; Martha Stipanuk; 2006
- “Biochemistry of Human Nutrition”; George Gropper; 2000
- “Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices of Herbal Medicine”; David Hoffmann; 2003
- “Advanced Nutrition: Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and Metabolism”; Carolyn D. Berdanier; 2009
- “The Way of Chinese Herbs”; Michael Tierra; 2008