Doctor’s Tip: Fenugreek facts
Fenugreek seeds are a spice used in southern Europe, the Mediterranean region, western Asia, India and northern Africa. Multiple health benefits have been attributed to Fenugreek, but only a few have been substantiated.
In his evidence-based book “How Not to Die,” and in a recent video on his website nutritionfacts.org, Dr. Michael Greger discusses fenugreek’s health benefits proven in scientific studies:
INCREASED MUSCLE STRENGTH: After eight weeks of daily fenugreek, young men had a significant increase in lower and upper body strength compared to men on a placebo. For example, they were able to leg press an extra 80 pounds and bench press an extra 100 pounds.
BODY FAT PERCENTAGE has been shown to decrease in people eating fenugreek regularly.
FEMALE HORMONAL CHANGES: Fenugreek increases the estrogen estradiol, which increases sexual arousal and relieves menopausal symptoms. It also increases testosterone levels, which increases libido (women produce small amounts of testosterone). Women with painful periods who took 1/3 of a teaspoon of fenugreek three times a day experienced a 50% improvement after three months.
MALE HORMONAL CHANGES: Fenugreek increases male testosterone levels, resulting in increased libido and improvement in performance.
LACTATING WOMEN who took 1/4 teaspoon of fenugreek powder daily experienced a doubling of their milk production after a month.
CANCER PREVENTION? In the laboratory, fenugreek prevents growth of cancer cells, although studies have not been done on people.
The only known downside of fenugreek is that people on it can have sweat and urine that smells like maple syrup. Women who take it to enhance milk production should let their pediatrician know, because fenugreek can cause a false positive test for a rare genetic disorder called maple syrup urine disease. Pregnant women should not take fenugreek because at least in lab animals, it causes contractions and premature labor. Finally, it does not appear that any studies have been done to see if the increased testosterone and estradiol levels associated with taking fenugreek long-term could cause health problems.
Fenugreek seeds are available at Natural Grocers. Powder is available online. Aside from the doses mentioned above, it’s very difficult to tell what doses were used in the studies. This might be one case where if you are taking fenugreek for a specific condition, you might want to take a supplement in capsule form, in the dose recommended by the manufacturer.
Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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