Fenugreek extract may ease heart-burn: Frutarom study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Stomach

A galactomannan-rich extract from fenugreek may be a safe alternative to pharmaceutical acid-reflux and heartburn medications, suggests a new study from Frutarom.

Results of a pilot study showed that consumption of Frutarom’s FenuLife ingredient 30 minutes prior to a meal significantly reduced heartburn severity, with effects “generally similar to the results produced by an OTC antacid medication (ranitidine at 75 mg, twice a day)”​, according to findings published in Phytotherapy Research​.

“In this study, for multiple types of assessments of heartburn symptom prevention, a water soluble fiber fraction of fenugreek was more effective than placebo, and similarly effective as a positive control (ranitidine),”​ wrote researchers, led by Dr Robert DiSilvestro from Ohio-based Columbus Nutraceuticals Consulting Inc.

“Thus, this study raises the possibility that the intake of fenugreek fiber provides a natural alternative to over the counter antacids for preventing certain degrees of heartburn.”

Heartburn, usually manifested as a burning pain in the chest, occurs when the sphincter fails to prevent the escape of some stomach acid back up the esophagus. America has the largest population of heartburn and acid-reflux sufferers, with 20 percent of the population experiencing so-called reflux symptoms at least weekly, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).

Usual treatments for the condition include antacids and foaming agents. However, according to the researchers of the new study: “Some people prefer not to use these approaches to treating heartburn. One reason is a concern that chronically reduced stomach acid could diminish protection against bacterial infection and cause other side effects.

“Therefore, the use of natural products to treat heartburn has drawn public attention, though evidence for the effectiveness of these products has been mostly limited to anecdotal evidence.”

Study details

In collaboration with Marian Verbruggen from Frutarom Netherlands and E. Jann Offutt, a Ohio-based private medical practitioner, Dr DiSilvestro recruited 45 people suffering from heartburn on average of 3-8 times per week. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either fenugreek extract (FenuLife, 4 grams per day), placebo (starch), or the OTC ranitidine (150 mg per day). The interventions were taken 30 minutes before meals for two weeks.

Results showed a decrease in heartburn severity, based on a self-assessment of symptoms, during both weeks for the FenuLife group as well as a reduction in the use of a mild antacid as a rescue medicine. The reductions in heart burn severity were similar between the fenugreek group and the ranitidine group, said the researchers.

A significant reduction in the placebo was also observed during the second, but not first, week. Furthermore, the reduction in heartburn severity was significantly less than that observed for the other two groups.

Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers speculate that it is linked to the expansion of the fiber in water, which forms a barrier to acid rising into the esophagus. There is also ‘indirect evidence’ from an animal study, said the researchers, whereby the fiber may inhibit the formation of stomach ulcers.

“The practical question that arises from this study is: Can fenugreek fiber present an effective option for dealing with heartburn?”​ said the researchers. “The presented data suggest that the answer is yes based on the observations that the fenugreek product showed similar effectiveness to ranitidine.

“Still, it can be noted that physicians can prescribe higher doses of ranitidine than the dose used here, or prescribe drugs that show stronger effects than ranitidine. Similarly, it is not known if higher doses of fenugreek fiber would lead to further improvement,”​ they added.

Comparable to pharmaceuticals?

The results were welcomed by says Laurent Leduc, VP of the health division and marketing for Frutarom USA, who said they “clearly suggest that naturally derived FenuLife is a safe and effective alternative with comparable benefits to pharmaceutical acid reflux/heartburn medications”.

“The recommended start dosage of FenuLife is 2g with a glass of water 20 minutes prior to meal,”​ he added. “It can be consumed in dry capsule, coated tablet or pre-hydrated form.”

Source: Phytotherapy Research
Volume 25, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages: 88-91, DOI: 10.1002/ptr.3229
“Anti-heartburn effects of a fenugreek fiber product”
Authors: R.A. DiSilvestro, M.A. Verbruggen, E.J. Offutt

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