Our always roving news eye stopped briefly at Salon, where we were pleasantly entertained and educated by food writer Francis Lam, who cleverly coined Gymnema Sylvestre Leaf capsules as a “Sugar Destroyer Pill”.
Gymnema sylvestre is a herb native to southern and central India where some say it has been used as “a naturopathic treatment for diabetes for nearly two millennia”. According to the third edition of Alternative Sweeteners, the extract from the Gymnema leaves reduces the taste of sugar when it is placed in the mouth, and is used to fight sugar cravings. Some researchers claim Gymnema reduces cravings for sugar by blocking sugar receptors in the tongue, as demonstrated by this 2003 study with rats.
Lam also amusingly refers to Gymnema as Miracle Fruit’s evil Bizarro-twin brother. Miracle Fruit — which we covered in an article some three weeks ago — is a berry from the Synsepalum dulcificum plant, and was first discovered in West Africa in 1725. The berry turns everything sweet by numbing sour and bitter tastebuds for a couple of hours after eating it, so Tabasco sauce on the tongue ends up tasting like “hot doughnut glaze!”.
Lam offers an interesting insight into taste deprivation — kind of like an Altered States of the tongue: “The ability to turn off one of our tastes,” writes Lam, “offers a unique look into how we respond to the others, how important sweetness is to flavor, and, conversely, what we can taste in food once the masking effect of sweetness is taken away.”
Then Lam tells his readers to open up their Sugar Destroyer capsules and dump the powder directly on their tongues, swishing it around and letting it coat as much of the inside of your mouth as possible. There is a term for the taste of this stuff, says Lam, and that term is straight-nasty.
Under the influence of Gymnema, Lam describes sugar as melting sand! “The sensation of sugar crystals dissolving on the tongue with essentially no taste means we’re really in business. Though I do swear I can detect something stale and papery, which may say something about my subject acquisition methodology. That is, to steal a fistful of sugar packets from the deli downstairs.”
Lam also describes Sweet’N Low: “You know how there are people who can’t stand to be within five feet of artificial sweeteners because they think they’re so bitter? I’m not really one of those people, because I can suck down Diet Coke like it’s mother’s milk. But without its sweet mask, saccharine dissolves into a thick, metallic bitterness, one I’ve never really noticed before. Ick.”
According to DietSpotlight.com, a health and diet information site that reviews thousands of diet supplements and diet programs (5,702 and counting), most dieters have not heard of Gymnema Sylvestre Leaf because it’s relatively new to the weight loss market.
The active ingredients in the herb are thought to belong to the family of compounds related to gymnemic acid — glycosides isolated from the leaves of Gymnema sylvestre. Purified gymnemic acids have been shown to affect experimental diabetes, as shown in the study “Antihyperglycemic Effects of Gymnemic Acid IV, a Compound Derived from Gymnema sylvestre Leaves in Streptozotocin-Diabetic Mice”. Additionally, gymnemic acids are associated with the reduction of intestinal transport of sugars [see study], and fatty acids [see study].