Ginger for weight loss: does it work?

last updated: Nov 13, 2023

4 min read

Key takeaways

  • While ginger alone is not the ultimate weight loss solution for most people, incorporating it into your diet, along with general lifestyle changes and increased exercise, may help you lose weight.

  • Ginger contains a range of active compounds shown to reduce inflammation, regulate cholesterol levels, and even reduce appetite.

  • More research is needed to determine if there’s an ideal way to use ginger to promote weight loss.

Ginger, a widely used spice in culinary traditions worldwide, is gaining attention in the scientific community for its potential role in weight loss and weight management. This article delves into current research, highlighting how ginger might affect weight, promote weight loss, and burn fat. Read on to learn more.

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Understanding ginger

Ginger, according to its scientific name Zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root, is widely used as a spice and in traditional medicine. It's renowned for its distinct flavor and a range of health benefits with researchers reporting its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, antidiabetic, anti-nausea, and neuroprotective properties, among other things. 

Most of these claims are tied to chemicals in the root known as phenolic compounds which include gingerols and shoagols. In general, there has been extensive research into phenolic compounds and their role in preventing oxidative damage, which is known to damage cells and eventually lead to many forms of cancer. But what about phenolic compounds and weight loss? 

Ginger and weight loss

There’s evidence that ginger might have some effect on weight loss efforts. Researchers have compared ginger to the weight loss drug orlistat in rats and found that both had a weight-lowering impact. While most of the research regarding the value of ginger and ginger extract as it relates to weight loss comes from animal studies, there are many valuable lessons about the root’s potential properties in managing weight and weight-related risk factors (like heart disease and high cholesterol) in humans. 

Appetite Suppression

One of the major factors that affect weight management is appetite. While weight loss isn’t a simple calories-in-calories-out equation like doctors and scientists used to believe, reduced caloric intake, when combined with diet and exercise, is an integral part of sustained weight management. One complex research study evaluated the use of ginger supplementation on appetite for women with obesity. While participants using the supplement reported reduced appetite compared to those who received a placebo and had a slight reduction in BMI, there was no change in calorie consumption or body composition between the two groups. Researchers concluded that more studies would be necessary to demonstrate a clear effect of ginger on weight loss. 

Thermogenic Properties

Thermogenesis means “heat production” and refers to how our body burns energy from the food we eat to generate heat and maintain our core body temperature. This process inherently uses energy that could otherwise be stored as fat, meaning that something that promotes thermogenesis might promote weight loss as well. One very small study into the thermogenic effects of ginger showed that ginger may in fact, enhance thermogenesis while also reducing feelings of hunger, further supporting the appetite reduction theory mentioned earlier. While the study was far too small to draw any clear conclusions, there’s room for more research into how ginger might be used to stave off cravings.

Anti-inflammatory effects

There’s a lot of research tying obesity and its downstream effects to a state of chronic inflammation (when the immune system is activated and can cause damage to your own body systems). There has also been quite a bit of research, including at the molecular level, into how various active compounds in ginger (such as shoagol and zingerone) might curb inflammatory immune responses by interacting with specific molecules in the inflammatory pathways.

While more research is needed to explore precise mechanisms and how ginger might be used to fight disease, there is evidence that ginger might help people with arthritis, lupus, or even help alleviate nausea associated with chemotherapy, all three associated with inflammation. 

Cholesterol reduction

In general, overweight and obesity can go hand-in-hand with higher cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, which has been shown to be associated with atherosclerosis (plaque buildup), blood vessel disease and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack

A range of small studies have demonstrated that ginger supplementation can help reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL, VLDL) and increase “good” cholesterol in study participants when compared with placebo

Does ginger lower blood sugar levels?

Weight gain and obesity can contribute to the development of insulin insensitivity, prediabetes, and diabetes itself. The characteristic unstable blood sugar levels associated with these conditions can themselves lead to a range of complications down the line for people who have obesity, including nerve damage, kidney damage, and heart problems.

One way to track blood sugar levels is using a measurement known as hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) which reflects blood sugar levels over the previous three months, with a healthy HbA1c typically below 5.7%.In 2019, researchers published a review of studies examining how ginger affects blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that the root had improved participants’ HbA1c from initial evaluation to follow-up. 

How to add ginger to your diet

Incorporating ginger into your diet is relatively simple. It can be added to smoothies, teas, or cooked dishes. However, it's important to note that ginger should complement a balanced diet and exercise regimen for effective weight management. If you have overweight or obesity, other interventions can help you manage your weight and support your health. Speak with a healthcare provider about your medical history so that they can understand if you might be a good candidate for medications like GLP-1 agonists (like Ozempic or Wegovy) or other treatments, which combined with diet and exercise, can help you lose weight. 

GLP-1 Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Ozempic Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Wegovy Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

Potential side effects of ginger supplementation

While ginger is generally considered safe, excessive consumption can lead to side effects like heartburn or stomach upset. Individuals with gallstone disease, bleeding disorders, or those on blood-thinning medications should consult a healthcare provider before increasing their ginger intake.

Ginger presents a promising, natural add-on in the journey towards effective weight management and weight loss. Its potential effects on appetite suppression, metabolism-boosting, blood sugar regulation, anti-inflammatory properties, and cholesterol management have been the subject of quite a bit of research. But it’s still important to take a holistic approach to weight management, combining diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes for optimal results. In summary, while ginger is not a standalone solution, its incorporation into a healthy lifestyle could provide additional benefits for those looking to manage their weight effectively.

DISCLAIMER

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

November 13, 2023

Written by

Yael Cooperman, MD

Fact checked by

Felix Gussone, MD


About the medical reviewer

Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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