Have you ever heard of amla before?
Amla (Indian gooseberries) have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a wide variety of health conditions. The single most mentioned fruit in all of Ayurveda (an ancient natural medicine practice used in India for the past 5,000 years), amla is a medicinal plant with incredibly effective capabilities to minimize inflammation and reverse chronic disease.
Indian gooseberries have been used for centuries in India to treat respiratory diseases, intestinal inflammation, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, skin inflammatory disorders, skin trauma, cancer, and liver diseases. Additionally, amla is the go-to for Indian women to make their hair healthy, long, free from breakage, and keep it from going gray. Even Indian men use amla to keep their hair full and thick.
When you look at the list of health benefits that amla brings, it looks too good to be true. How can a single berry ameliorate the symptoms of so many health conditions?
The truth is that amla is one of the most powerful foods ever discovered, and there is almost no chronic disease that amla can’t improve. Because of this, we believe that it's only a matter of time before this berry becomes the next “superfood.” Be prepared to hear a lot about this magical Indian berry in the future.
Amla is the king of whole food antioxidants, boasting more antioxidant power than any other in-tact whole food. These gooseberries are abundant in India, and are an antioxidant powerhouse that modern medicine is only beginning to understand.
To gain some perspective, Indian gooseberries contain 75 times the antioxidant power of goji berries, 60 times the antioxidant power of pomegranate, 50 times the antioxidant power of raw blueberries, 13 times the antioxidant power of black raspberries, 2.5 times the antioxidant power of acai berries, and 2 times the power of ground turmeric.
Antioxidants are extremely important components of plant foods because they quench free radicals in your tissues and blood. Think of antioxidants as front-line soldiers with a very important task at hand: donate electrons to damaged cells (1-6).
Every second of every day, cells in your body are exposed to free radicals - unstable molecules missing a single electron. Free radicals are dangerous to cell membranes, DNA, RNA, and cellular proteins because they bombard these cellular structures in search of electron stability.
Free radicals are formed in your skin when you expose yourself to the sun. Free radicals are formed in tissues when they absorb oxygen donated from red blood cells. Cells in your liver create free radicals when you drink alcohol. Cells in your muscle tissue are exposed to free radicals through exercise.
When free radicals eventually find electron stability, they are quenched of their maniac-like behavior, but in the process they have caused cellular damage that can be difficult to repair. This cellular damage is collectively called “oxidative stress.” The more oxidative stress present in your body, the higher your risk for the development of chronic disease.That’s where antioxidants come into the picture...
No matter how you slice it, you can’t avoid free radical formation. Instead, a simple nutritional goal is to limit free radical damage by adopting an antioxidant-rich diet. Eating antioxidants from a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is the #1 most powerful long-term method of quenching free radical activity, therefore protecting your body from oxidative damage.
Whole food antioxidants are nature’s most powerful free radical defense mechanism, and they are significantly more powerful than antioxidants found in supplements. Food-borne antioxidants do the following:
Frequent exposure to whole food antioxidants improves cellular longevity in tissues all throughout your body.
When cells are capable of living for a longer period of time, the tissues in which they live are less prone to inflammation, which in turn reduces your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Even though you may not have heard about amla, the research world has been studying this magical wonder-berry for decades.
Amla has been shown to prevent against fatty liver in the setting of a high cholesterol diet. Amla significantly reduced cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids, and LDL cholesterol levels by 82%, 66%, 77% and 90%, respectively. In addition, aortic plaques were significantly reduced in only 60 days (7).
Other studies have shown that amla is potently anti-atherosclerotic, improving many aspects of cardiovascular metabolism including improved elasticity of blood vessels, reduced arterial plaque buildup, reduced cholesterol, and reduced triglycerides (8, 9).
In 1988, researchers studied the effect of taking an amla supplement in men with normal and high cholesterol between the ages of 35 and 55 (10).
They fed both groups of men a raw amla supplement for a total of 28 days, and measured their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides at the end of the initial 28 day period. During this 28-day period, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol dropped significantly.
These men were followed for another 14 days eating a diet without amla supplementation, to determine whether their cholesterol values would change when the supplement was withdrawn.
When the men in the high cholesterol group stopped taking amla, their cholesterol levels rose to almost baseline levels – in half the time that it took for their cholesterol to drop in the first place. This cholesterol rebound was sharp, occurring twice as fast as their initial cholesterol drop.
In a 2011 study, scientists investigated the effect of consuming 1, 2, or 3 grams of amla powder per day on blood glucose and cholesterol levels vs. Glimepiride, a commonly prescribed diabetes medication. They investigated the effect of both daily amla powder and Glimepiride in normal subjects and those living with type 2 diabetes (11).
In comparison with baseline values, daily consumption of amla led to a significant decrease in blood glucose values after 21 days across all subjects. All doses significantly reduced blood glucose values - and using only 1 gram of amla per day was just as effective as Glimepiride. Both fasting and post-prandial (post-meal) blood glucose values were significantly reduced within 3 weeks.
They also observed significant decreases in total cholesterol and triglyceride values in both normal and diabetic subjects given either 2 grams per day or 3 grams per day. LDL cholesterol was reduced by more than 40% in 3 weeks, triglycerides were cut by more than 45%, and HDL cholesterol increased by more than 25%.
In 2012, researchers in India compared the effects of a 500 mg daily amla capsule in a head-to-head competition with 20 mg of Simvistatin, one of the leading statin medications. They investigated the effect of amla and Simvistatin in sixty patients with total cholesterol greater than 240 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol greater than 130 mg/dL (12).
Forty of the sixty patients were treated with a 500 mg capsule containing pure amla powder, and the remaining twenty patients were treated with 20 mg Simvistatin. All patients were followed for 6 weeks, to determine the effect of each treatment on lipids and blood pressure.
Amla was found to be just as effective as Simvistatin at reducing total cholesterol, reducing LDL cholesterol, and increasing HDL cholesterol. Simvistatin treatment was found to be more effective than amla at reducing VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Given the results of this study, one may conclude that amla is just as effective as Simvistatin, however prolonged use of statin medication results in a laundry list of side effects that cannot be ignored.
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public that statin medications have been shown to significantly increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that the higher the dose of statin medication, the higher your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
A meta-analysis published in 2010 in the journal Lancet that analyzed 14 clinical trials involving more than 91,000 people found that using statin medication to control cholesterol increases your risk for type 2 diabetes by approximately 9% (13).
Another meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2011 including more than 32,000 people found that statin medication increased your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by approximately 12% (14).
In addition to increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes, statin medications have a long list of side effects which are important to understand. These side effects include (but are not limited to):
In a paper published in 2013, researchers found that statins induce a collection of unwanted side effects (15) in addition to those listed above, shown below:
That’s EXACTLY why we decided to create our own amla product.
We figured that if the benefits of ingesting small amounts outweigh the leading pharmaceutical medications, we had better find a way to make it delicious, otherwise no one will consume it.
At this point you may be asking yourself a simple question:
The reason why this stuff isn’t everywhere is because there are many roadblocks to getting high quality amla on the shelf.
Since this berry is primarily grown on an industrial scale in India and not in the United States, it must always be imported. This results in higher prices and delays due to shipping, which make it challenging to create amla products in the United States.
Raw amla berries are often contaminated with lead, fungus, and microbes. As a result, untreated amla powder does not meet strict US import standards. This is a huge problem, and obtaining a fresh, uncontaminated crop has become a very challenging task indeed.
Due to differences in geography, soil conditions, humidity, and availability of water, not all Indian gooseberries are created equal. Crops grown in different regions of India can have varying levels of antioxidant power, resulting in large crop-to-crop variability that decreases consumer confidence.
Not all amla sources in India grow the gooseberries under organic standards. As a result, some berries contain pesticide residue, which gets concentrated when the berry is ground into a dry powder.
Amla does have one known side effect – it has a very (disgustingly) sour taste rendering it inedible for most people.
Taste any amla product and you’ll recognize that these gooseberries are so tart, you might not be able to drink it at all. Product manufacturers recommend diluting the sour berries in a sweet flavored drinkcto mask the otherwise off putting flavor.
Before I move on, I want to make an important point.
Eating low-fat plant-based whole foods like leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables, starches, fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains, and spices/herbs is the single most powerful thing you can do to reverse insulin resistance and master your diabetes health. This is the key to our program, and the key to your success.
That being said, as a a nutrition and fitness coach responsible for helping thousands of people towards a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet, I am eager to get amla into the hands of more people living with high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
As an evidence-based super nerd, adding amla to a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet is a no-brainer that has untold metabolic benefit. I believe so strongly in amla powder, that I decided to dust off my lab coat, hit the laboratory, and formulate a new amla product that solves all of the problems listed above.
We are working hard with top-tier growers in India who are capable of supplying high quality, contamination-free amla that tastes great. What we’ve created doesn’t exist in the food market today, and we are very excited to release it to the public for exceptional metabolic health.
The amla product we have created is an Indian green tea called Amla Green™ that meets the following requirements: