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What Is Gymnema Sylvestre and Can It Kill Sugar Cravings?

Gymnemic acid binds to the taste receptors on your tongue that perceive sweetness. As a result, it makes sweet things taste a lot less sweet.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
July 11, 2018
Episode #485
image of gynmema sylvestre

If you have a sweet tooth or find it difficult to keep yourself from overeating sweet foods, here’s something that could be useful.

Sweet Defeat is a product that claims to lessen your desireand therefore your consumptionof sweets. Does it work? I reviewed the science behind this interesting product and also put it to the test—and I have a full report for you.

The active ingredient in Sweet Defeat is an herb called gymnema silvestre. It’s been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a treatment for diabetes. In fact, the Hindi name for this herb translates to "destroyer of sugar."

Modern pharmacological research seems to support this traditional wisdom. Compounds extracted from gymnema have been shown to reduce the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and boost insulin production, all of which could help lower blood sugar. Animal testing confirms that gymnema reduces blood glucose levels. 

Lab rats given gymnema extract also eat less and lose weight. As a result, you’ll also find lots of weight loss supplements containing gymnema. Unfortunately, the research on humans is all but non-existent. And, as we know all too well, what works for lab rats does not always work for humans. I wouldn’t waste your money on gymnema-based supplements for weight loss.

The idea is that if sweet stuff doesn’t taste good, you won’t eat it.

But gymnema has another interesting property—one that you can test yourself. It binds to the taste receptors on your tongue that perceive sweetness. As a result, it makes sweet things taste a lot less sweet. Sweet Defeat lozenges coat your tongue with gymnemic acid, rendering you temporarily unable to taste sweetness. The idea is that if sweet stuff doesn’t taste good, you won’t eat it.

A small placebo-controlled trial (in humans!) seems to bear this out. The lucky subjects in this study were allowed to select their favorite type of candy and eat a piece of it. After they enjoyed their candy, some were given a gymnemic acid lozenge and others were given a placebo lozenge. Then, they were all offered more of their favorite candy. Those who got the active lozenge consumed 44% less candy than those who got the placebo.

I did my own n-of-1 experiment and here's what I experienced. After lunch one day, I unwrapped a Sweet Defeat lozenge and popped it in my mouth. It was slightly sweet and pleasantly minty but as it dissolved on my tongue, the strangest thing happened. As the gymnemic acid interacted with the taste receptors on the surface of my tongue, the taste of the lozenge changed. It was like watching a color photograph fade to black and white. The sweetness diminished until the lozenge had no flavor whatsoever.

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