Milk thistle benefits in weight loss

Know in one minute about milk thistle benefits in weight loss

  • Milk thistle fruit and seeds contain silymarin which has high medicinal value.
  • It is available in powder form, capsule form, tablet, or liquid extract.
  • Treat various liver diseases such as hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver disease, toxin-induced liver diseases, and liver cancer.
  • Lower blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity
  • It treats Alzheimer’s disease by reducing stress in the aging brain.
  • Prevent the skin from aging or wrinkles and maintain skin elasticity.
  • Fight against allergic rhinitis diseases and treat inflammation.
  • Treats obesity and obesity-induced complications. 

Introduction

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an annual or biannual plant. It has red to purple flowers, shiny green leaves along with white milky veins, and sharp thorns. This herb is belonging to the Asteraceae family. The fruit and seeds have been used for more than  2000  years to treat various liver and gallbladder diseases (1). Milk thistle benefits for weight loss are as follows.

Geographical distribution

This plant is native to southern Europe, southern Russia, Asia Minor, and northern Africa. It is now growing and cultivated in North and South America as well in South Australia.

Common name

It is known as holy thistle, lady’s thistle, St. Mary’s thistle, Cardus marianus, Marian thistle, and Mary thistle. This plant is also called our lady’s thistle, sow thistle, blessed virgin thistle, Christ’s crown, venue thistle, heal thistle, variegated thistle, and wild artichoke (2).

Medicinal component of milk thistle

The remedial parts of the plant are fruit, seeds, and even leaves that produce silymarin as the main component. This silymarin is a mixture of silibinin, isosilybin, silychristin and silydianin.

Silibinin is the most biologically active.  It has minor fractions of other flavanols, betaine, apigenin, silandrin, silymonin, silybonol, proteins, fixed oil, and free fatty acids (3).

Benefits of Milk thistle

1. Treat the liver disease

Milk thistle contains silymarin which acts as an antioxidant that reduces harmful radical production and lipid peroxidation. It treats liver problems such as hepatitis (B or C), alcoholic liver disease, viral hepatitis, toxin-induced liver diseases, and liver cancer (4). However, these research studies give mixed results thus more evidence is needed to confirm the effectiveness of this plant on liver diseases  (5).

2. Lower blood glucose level

Diabetes is linked with liver dysfunction that impairs the efficiency of glucose storage in the liver. This may trigger an excessive amount of insulin in the blood due to the reduction of liver clearance of insulin (6).

Silymarin helps to lower blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity in the blood thus managing type 2 diabetes. However, due to low quality and small studies, further evidence is needed to confirm its benefits (7).

3. Anti-aging properties

Silymarin reduces oxidative stress in the aging brain. It also treats behavioral abnormalities in Alzheimer’s disease (8). Moreover, the minor components of silymarin prevent the skin from aging or wrinkles and maintain skin elasticity. Thus this plant prevents sunlight-induced damage and slows down skin (photo) aging (9).

4. Treat allergic rhinitis or hay fever

Allergic rhinitis is caused by natural pollens or house-dust mites, with symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion.  Intake of silymarin of 140-mg tablets at 3 times daily relives all these symptoms and treats inflammatory disorders (10).

Milk thistle benefits weight loss (How it do weight loss) and how to eat

Obesity is associated with liver abnormalities and increases the risk of other diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (11).

Milk thistle contains polyphenols known as silibinin and silybin that reduce the swelling in fat tissue and block the progression of weight gain and obesity development (12).

It also reverses high blood sugar levels, fatty liver disease, and obesity-induced liver cancer. Furthermore, silibinin inhibits pancreatic lipase, which will reduce fat absorption and therefore will decrease the amount of energy from food intake (13).

Thus, this plant and its cold press oil can be used as an anti-obesity remedy in the diet of obese individuals (14). It is available as a dietary supplement in powder form, capsule form, tablet, or as a liquid extract.

Side effects of milk thistle 

Milk thistle is a considered safe and well-tolerated herbal product during pregnancy, in children, and adults older than 75 years. However, some of the side effects of this plant are as follows

1. Milk thistle can cause mild laxative effects and gastrointestinal discomforts like nausea, diarrhea, headache, flatulence, abdominal bloating, abdominal fullness, or pain.

2. It causes skin problems such as itching, rash, hives, and eczema. Also cause sweating, uneasiness, joint pain, impotence, insomnia, lack of energy and strength. 

3. An herbal tea containing an extract of the milk thistle may cause a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock (15).

4. The person, who is diabetic, should take precautions when taking silymarin because it may lower the blood glucose level. It also increases insulin sensitivity and causes hypoglycemia thus carefully monitoring is needed.

5. Silymarin has low-drug interactions but takes precautions when co-administered with narrow therapeutic window drugs (16). These drugs are warfarin (blood thinner) amitriptyline (for depression) and verapamil (treat high blood pressure) (17).

Furthermore, silymarin may increase the clearance of drugs, e.g. paracetamol (acetaminophen), diazepam, and morphine in the liver (18).

Q&A

1. How long do you have to take milk thistle to see results?

There is no research available for the recommended dosages and duration of milk thistle (silymarin) as a nutritional supplement. Although silymarin appears to be safe for up to  41 months of use (19).

2. Can you lose weight on a thistle?

A research study suggested that milk thistle blocks the progression of weight gain and obesity development. However, most of the studies are done on animals thus further study is needed to know the exact effect on humans. 

3. How much milk thistle should you take a day?

No recommended dosages are reported for milk thistle on weight loss in humans. However, it is safe if consumed in moderation (300 mg / 3 days, before each main meal. ongoing study) (13).

4. Is 1000 mg of milk thistle too much?

Milk thistle is well tolerated and safe at the dose of 560 mg/d for pregnant women. No toxicity is seen at a dose of 20  to  50  mg/kg body weight intravenously for children and  420  mg/d  in older adults. Silymarin can be taken in various forms like tablets and capsules in different strengths, from 150 mg to 1000 mg. Moreover, it is safe even at a high dose of 700 mg three times a day for 24 weeks. However, a higher dosage like more than 1500 mg/d may cause mild allergic reactions (1).

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