A natural compound found in spinach can help prevent putting on unnecessary weight, a new study, says.vanessayavonne/Flickr

A natural compound found in spinach can help prevent putting on unnecessary weight, a new study says.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden found that an active compound found in spinach and green leaves, known as thylakoid, was highly effective in slowing down food digestion, thus giving a feeling of fullness.

However, according to Professor Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, eating fresh spinach may not be of much help as the body cannot break down the compound directly. To free the compounds from the plant cells, spinach has to be crushed, filtrated and centrifuged.

Fat digestion involves entry of food into the distal intestine, and release of satiety hormones into the brain, signalling about fullness. However, while eating processed food, only the upper intestine gets utilized and thus affects proper function of the process. "I like to say our intestines are unemployed", Professor Erlanson-Albertsson at Lund University, said in a news release.

Thylakoids, on the other hand, consists of several substances like antioxidants, beta-carotene, lutein, proteins, vitamins A, E and K, and helps slow down the fat digestion, thus making the whole intestine involved in the procedure.

For the study, a group of people received a shot of spinach extract in the morning, while another group received a shot without the active substance.

Results showed that drinking the spinach extract rich in the substance in the morning activated satiety hormones in the intestine and thus curbed appetite and food cravings the whole day. Professor Erlanson-Albertsson found that the spinach extract helped people confine into a strict schedule of three meals a day. Apart from these, people who received the spinach extract had high blood levels of satiety hormones and stable blood glucose levels.

Similarly, researchers from the same university had earlier reported a decline in ghrelin, a hormone that signals appetite, and spike in leptin, that signals satiety, even six hours after taking a thylakoid-rich food.

Watch Professor Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson talking about her research below: