Glycyrrhiza glabra, known as licorice, is a traditional herbal remedy for many health disorders. Some research supports the use of licorice for weight loss and fat reduction. Licorice supplements with the active ingredient glycyrrhiza have possible serious side effects, including elevated blood pressure, when taken in high doses or for long time frames. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, supplements are safer, but may not have the same benefits for health conditions. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking herbs with the supervision of a health-care practitioner qualified in botanical medicine.
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Body Fat Mass Reduction
Preliminary research indicates that consuming licorice may decrease body fat mass, but further studies are needed to confirm these results, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health at its Medline Plus website. A study conducted by the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences-Endocrinology at the University of Padua in Italy and published in the July 2003 issue of the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation evaluated the effects of licorice on 15 participants of normal weight. These individuals consumed 3.5g per day of a commercial licorice preparation for two months. Body fat mass decreased while body mass index did not change.
Fat Thickness Reduction
Research also conducted by the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences-Endocrinology at the University of Padua and appearing in the July 2005 issue of Steroids evaluated the effect on fat thickness after applying a topical cream containing glycyrrhetinic acid, derived from licorice. Eighteen women with a normal body mass index each used either a cream containing 2.5 percent glycyrrhetinic acid or a placebo cream on one thigh for one month. The treatment cream significantly decreased the thigh circumference and superficial fat layer thickness compared to the untreated thighs and those receiving the placebo cream application. The authors concluded that glycyrrhetinic acid could be effective for decreasing unwanted fat accumulation in specific body areas.
Effects on Obesity
An animal study published in the January 2007 issue of Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, conducted by the Functional Food Ingredients Division of the Kaneka Corporation, investigated the effects of licorice flavonoid oil on obese mice. Supplementing with this oil prevented worsening obesity or reduced obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet compared with a group of mice not receiving this oil.
Reducing Sugar Cravings and Blood Glucose
People trying to lose weight may have problems dealing with sugar cravings, says chiropractor practitioner Norman Allan. Chewing on licorice root can help, since it is sweet and also binds glucose. This effect may help regulate blood sugar levels, preventing cravings resulting from blood sugar swings. Animal research published in the November 2004 issue of Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, also conducted by the Kaneka Corporation, confirmed that licorice flavonoids have hypoglycemic effects.