Polyphenols from carob linked to performance improvement in pilot study of taekwondo athletes

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Drazen
Getty Images / Drazen

Related tags Polyphenols Sports nutrition

Polyphenols from carob—a plant producing brown pods ubiquitous in the Mediterranean and the Middle East—may have some sports nutrition potential, according to a new paper.

In a study of 23 taekwondo athletes, the 11 participants who ingested powdered pulp and seeds of carob pods exhibited significantly greater improvement in body mass index and scores on aerobic performance than the 12 who ingested a placebo powder.

These results were published in a paper​ in the journal Physiology & Behavior ​in June. ​It was written by a group of researchers affiliated with institutions: University of La Manouba in Tunisia, University Rennes in France, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in the US, University of Mazandaran in Iran, and University of Balamand in Lebanon.

“Findings from the present study show that carob supplementation combined with exercise training are undoubtedly able to, improve some aspects of aerobic capacities as well as weight loss in taekwondo athletes during 6 weeks of training,”​ the researchers reported.

“Additional researches are needed to study mechanisms behind these improvements and to rectify the discrepancies found in the results of some studies.”

Carob plant

The role polyphenols may play in performance nutrition is an increasing area of interest among researchers​, especially as more data is collected linking consumption of polyphenols from fruits to benefits in sports performance.

“Specific polyphenols such as catechins, anthocyanins, curcumin, and resveratrol have been suggested to exert beneficial effects on lipid and energy metabolism,”​ according to the authors of the present study.

In the Middle East and many Mediterranean countries, carob powder can be found prepared into hot beverages or confections. In the US and other Western countries, it can be found in health food stores as a substitute for cocoa.

Carob pods and powder Valentyn Volkov polyphenol GettyImages-925193380
Carob pods and powder. Photo: Getty Images / Valentyn Volkov

As a native and abundant plant in the region, the researchers sought to examine carob’s commercial and nutritive potential in the sports market.

“These effects on energy metabolism and anti-oxidant properties of polyphenols, such as carob, could be of interest to athletes to improve their training; that is, ergogenic effects,”​ they wrote.

“Yet the effects of carob have not been extensively studied in the field of sport nutrition and performance enhancement.” 

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The carob powder used in the study came from pods collected from the region of Tabarka in Northwest Tunisia, dried and blended into a powder of 90% pulp and 10% seeds. Each 40 g of the tested carob powder had 208 mg of total polyphenol and 14.4 mg of flavonoids.

Study protocol

The study had 23 taekwondo athletes, male and female from Tunisia around the age of 22. They were randomized into two groups (supplement or placebo). Both researchers and the participants were ‘blinded,’ which means neither were aware of which beverage they consumed except for one data collector.

At the beginning, researchers collected the participants’ body composition, aerobic capacity (total distance covered in a run and maximal aerobic velocity), and perceived exertion scores.

For six weeks, the participants consumed their assigned beverages. At the end of this, the participants conducted the same exercise protocols and the researchers collected the same body measurements.

Because of the small sample size and short study duration, the researchers recommend future studies on carob and sports nutrition.

Source: Physiology & Behavior
Published online ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.03.003
“Effects of polyphenol (carob) supplementation on body composition and aerobic capacity in taekwondo athletes”
Authors: Nawel Gaamouri, et al.

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