Tarragon supplements may make healthy women gain weight, study suggests

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08 Oct 2018 --- The benefits of Russian tarragon and bitter melon supplements may be sex-dependent, according to a study that identified that Russian tarragon supplements may lead healthy women to gain weight. The study's findings are important because women who are normal weight and generally in good health account for a large portion of the population that takes dietary supplements, according to the researchers.

“Our studies in mice have always used male mice that are obese and insulin-resistant as a result of eating a high-fat diet,” says Elizabeth Floyd, Ph.D., Co-Director of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center's Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center.

“In this study, we looked at female mice on the same high-fat diet and asked if an extract from Russian tarragon or bitter melon had the same positive metabolic effects in females as we've always seen in the male mice.”

The study, published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences, found that female mice on a high-fat diet given supplements of Artemisia dracunculus L. (Russian tarragon) gained more weight and body fat than the mice that just ate a high-fat diet. However, the female mice did not become overweight or obese.

Early indications show the female mice did not benefit as much as the males from the two extracts.

“Unlike the males, the females didn't have improved insulin sensitivity and the data suggests that the females' livers responded to the botanical extracts by producing more glucose, or blood sugar,” says Dr. Floyd.

Although the female mice's livers produced more blood sugar, both Russian tarragon and bitter melon lowered the fat content in the mice's livers. Fat accumulation in the liver is associated with insulin resistance and poses a serious health concern when coupled with obesity.

The researchers point out that there are some limitations to the study findings. The female mice did not become obese on the high-fat diet, Dr. Floyd said. That may be due to the females' much higher activity levels compared with male mice fed the same diet.

“Because the females remained normal weight, it may be that the benefits of the botanical extracts are only observed with obesity,” Dr. Floyd says. “We're conducting studies to answer this question. But the results could also point to important sex-dependent differences in how men and women respond to dietary supplements, particularly if the women are not overweight or obese.”

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