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Gene Bruno

Could adaptogen superstar ashwagandha be the next great weight-loss aid?

Adaptogens' benefits related to stress have been well studied, but new research on weight loss may create new opportunities for ashwagandha.

This past June, I was a guest speaker at the the International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference in Clearwater, Florida. The topic of my education session was “Ashwagandha for Focus, Performance and Muscle Development.” During the session I discussed human clinical studies on the benefits of supplementation with ashwagandha. Much of the research I presented had been conducted using a full-spectrum root extract of ashwagandha called KSM-66, a branded ingredient from Ixoreal Biomed. About half of the studies focused on sports-related benefits, with the other half on other health benefits.

The demonstrated sports-related benefits were:

  • Increased total testosterone 136 percent compared to placebo in healthy, resistance-trained men (600 mg/day).
  • Increased bench press muscle strength 54 percent compared to placebo in healthy, resistance-trained men (600 mg/day).
  • Increased arm muscle size 51 percent compared to placebo in healthy, resistance-trained men (600 mg/day).
  • Improved cardiorespiratory endurance over placebo in healthy athletic adults, assessed by 108-110 percent increase in VO2 max (600 mg/day).

The demonstrated health-related indications were:

  • Sexual function
    • Infertile and/or middle-aged men (andropause) (675 mg/day):
      • Improved sperm/semen parameters
      • Increased testosterone
    • Women - Improvements in desire, arousal, lubrication and pain (600 mg/day).
  • Stress - Significant reduction compared to placebo 44 percent vs. 5.5 percent (600 mg/day).
  • Memory/cognitive - Significant improvement over placebo for immediate memory and general memory, executive function, attention, and information processing speed in adults aged >35 (600 mg/day).

I certainly found the research to be most interesting, and judging by the excellent turnout for the session, the audience did as well. However, there was one study on KSM-66--just published this year--that I did not review at the conference. The title of the study is, “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.”

New weight-loss study

A total of 50 subjects under chronic stress received either KSM-66 (300 mg) or placebo twice daily for 8 weeks. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of ashwagandha root extract compared with placebo in reducing markers of stress, and in controlling weight gain and improving general well-being in adults under chronic stress. The primary outcome measures were the Perceived Stress Score (PSS) and the Food Cravings Questionnaire-Trait (FCQ-T). The secondary outcome measures included the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ), serum cortisol levels, initial and final body weight. The results were as follows with the treatment group compared to the placebo group:

Outcome Test Results at 4 weeks Results at 8 weeks
Stress PSS score Significantly decreased (22.1 percent, P = 0.0025) Significantly decreased (32.7 percent, P = 0.001)
Food cravings FCQ "Planning" score Significantly decreased (P = 0.0269) Significantly decreased (P = 0.0097)
  FCQ "Positive Reinforcement score" Significantly decreased (P = 0.0067) Significantly decreased (P = 0.0001)
  FCQ "Lack of Control" score Significantly decreased (P = 0.0443) Significantly decreased (P = 0.0097)
  FCQ "Emotion" score Significantly decreased (P = 0.0352) Significantly decreased (P = 0.0068)
  FCQ "Environment" score n/a Significantly decreased (P = 0.039).
Happiness OHQ score Significantly increased (P = 0.032) Significantly increased (P = 0.001), with an overall improvement of 19.18 percent.
Cortisol Serum levels Significantly decreased (P = 0.0328) Significantly decreased (P = 0.0019)
Body weight Scale n/a Significantly decreased (3.03 percent vs. 1.46 percent with placebo, P = 0.0148)
Uncontrolled eating TFEQ "Uncontrolled Eating" score n/a Significantly decreased (P = 0.0247)
Emotional Eating TFEQ "Emotional Eating" score Significantly decreased (P = 0.0207) Significantly decreased (P = 0.0135)


In summary, 600 mg/day of KSM-66 reduced food cravings and body weight more effectively than a placebo, while also reducing measures of stress and cortisol. And one out of five study participants were happier by the study’s end.

Since ashwagandha belongs to the herbal category of adaptogens, it’s no surprise that it offers benefits for stress. Even the sports, sexual and cognitive benefits are not that unusual for an adaptogen. This new research on weight loss, however, is something different. It makes me wonder if, perhaps, adaptogens in general may start entering into the weight-management category of dietary supplements. It’ll be interesting to see if more research of this kind starts popping up.

Is the weight-management category ripe for a new ingredient?

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