Star anise may assist in weight loss by changing the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
There are many potential bioactive compounds in nature. Salicylates are related to aspirin, and they originate from willow bark. There are many other possible examples. Star anise is one possibility, and it is very similar to licorice. It is a fruit from an evergreen tree, Illicium verum. It is dried and used as a spice for flavoring. The fruit gets its name from its shape which is star-shaped. Star anise has long been suggested as a potential treatment of obesity but research to support its use is limited.
Licorice is sweeter than sugar and is used to flavor candy and drinks. Star anise has similar properties but has not been well studied. Star anise appears to assist with weight loss through two mechanisms:
- Gastric lipase activity: The first mechanism is through the reduction in gastric lipase activity. Gastric lipases are enzymes compounds that assist or catalyze a chemical activity. In this case, gastric lipases break down fats into fatty acids so we can absorb them for energy. A study from 2018 shows that star anise blocks or reduces the activity of gastric lipases. When you block the use of lipases, some of the fat will pass out fo the body undigested. Through reduced digestion, they assist in lowering calories absorbed and thus lower weight gain. This research indicates star anise may be a potential candidate for future application as a gastric lipase inhibitor for the treatment of obesity.
- Reduced blood sugar: The second mechanism is a reduction in blood sugar and insulin resistance. Diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome are caused by increases insulin resistance and increases with worsening obesity. Left untreated, insulin resistance will spiral and become worse and worse. Star anise contains trans-anethole which is research proven to be as effective as one oral diabetic medication. If we can overcome the insulin resistance, body weight should improve. This study showed that this compound, found in star anise, improved sugar storage in the liver and muscle and increased activity of Beta cells in the pancrease which are signs that insulin resistance is being reduced.
The bottom line: Bioactive plants are not novel approaches to improving our health, but researchers are revisiting the possibility. The innovative strategy of using star anise gastric lipase inhibitor is a novel approach to the treatment of obesity. Also, anethole was found to improve blood sugar by regulating some of the key enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Both of these mechanisms should help with weight loss. More research is needed and I am not recommending that you replace your Diabetes medication with star anise.