How good is maca root for weight loss?

maca root for weight loss

How many times have we been told that an herbal supplement will magically help us shed pounds? Being of perimenopausal age, I know full well how frustrating it is when sudden weight gain hits. So when I heard the many claims associated with maca root – precisely the claims of maca root’s ability to enhance metabolism, assist with weight loss, and increase energy – I decided to investigate.

What Is Maca Root?

Maca is a root vegetable in the mustard family grown in mountainous regions of Peru that have been cultivated for thousands of years. It was not only used as a food source for the Incans, but also as a ritual energizing potion before the battle, and as an aphrodisiac – two of the health benefits that are still associated with maca root today. In fact, many refer to maca as “Peruvian ginseng,” which causes maca to have a reputation similar to the properties of Siberian ginseng.

What Forms of Maca Are Available?

Maca can be eaten as you would a root vegetable, although it is typically not something that you’ll find in North American grocery stores. It is also available freeze-dried in capsules, or in liquid extract form. You may see maca labeled as cream, red, or black – this indicates the varietal color of the actual root the product has been processed from, and in many cases the particular colors are associated with different health benefits. (For example, the cream colored maca has been associated with energy and vitality.)

What Health Benefits Are Claimed?

Maca is a herb that you’ll find an extensive list of benefits for, including weight loss, energy, speeding up metabolism, chronic fatigue syndrome, male impotence, infertility, and hormone balancing. One of the claims specifically regarding weight gain states that maca has been noted to regulate stress hormones, thereby putting an end to our unhappy binge eating. With all of these claims – and more – it’s no wonder that maca has been under the spotlight lately, being hailed as the newest “superfood.”

Side Effects

Although I haven’t encountered much information regarding side effects of maca, it is reported to be contraindicated for those of us with thyroid issues, as well as polycystic ovary syndrome. Keep in mind, though, that a lack of information on a supplement’s side effects doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any – it may only indicate as has been argued with maca, that the clinical trials were remiss in collecting data on the side effects.

Drawbacks

One of the drawbacks in taking maca root as a supplement is its apparent unpleasant odor and taste, and for this reason, it is usually recommended that you include it in smoothies with stronger flavors that can mask the unpleasant taste.

Another potential drawback is that the dosage recommendations seem to vary wildly, and like many other herbs, the processing procedures may also differ – producing supplements that differ significantly in strength.

Scientific Evidence

There is very little scientific data to back up the claims that maca aids in weight loss or gives the user more energy. Studies that have been conducted on this supplement have focused on hormonal issues, such as menopause, and whether or not it is a useful treatment for male impotence. While maca may have shown some promise in these areas, further testing needs to be done.

One of the reasons that maca has a reputation as an energizing supplement stems from the fact that it was used as a folk remedy for thousands of years – regarding usage this gives maca the appearance of a credible remedy: If it’s been used for so long, isn’t there something to it? However, you have to take into account that maca is a nutritious vegetable, rich in fiber, iron, phosphorus, mineral salts, calcium, and iron. So, if the Incans diet were normally lacking in those nutrients, they may, indeed, have found maca to be a potent health tonic.

The second reason that maca has such a reputation as an energizer and weight loss supplement may be the fact that since it’s called “Peruvian ginseng,” people tend to associate it with the different varieties of ginseng that are available. This kind of supplements have been studied in clinical trials and have been found to help with energy and potentially weight loss.

So, it’s important to keep in mind that although maca might be labeled as a type of ginseng, botanically it is not related to ginseng, and does not necessarily have the same benefits.

Conclusion

When I heard the words “hormonal balancing” and “maca root for weight loss” in the same sentence I became curious. Many of you who are approaching menopause (that long dark path called “perimenopause”) know, hormonal fluctuations can bring new, previously unexperienced, problems into your life like insomnia, hot flashes, fatigue, and most frustrating for me, an area of weight gain around my middle that will not budge with diet or exercise.

With maca, though, I’m afraid the jury is still out: It may show some promise as a supplement, but it simply has not had sufficient, rigorous clinical testing performed to declare it as a supplement for any condition, let alone weight loss.

About the author, Emily Collins

Editor at Health Rebound passionate about health and nutrition, always focusing on creating easy to understand and practical articles.

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