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An examination into the mental and physical effects of a saffron extract (affron®) in recreationally-active adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

Lopresti, A.L.ORCID: 0000-0002-6409-7839 and Smith, S.J. (2022) An examination into the mental and physical effects of a saffron extract (affron®) in recreationally-active adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 19 (1). pp. 219-238.

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Saffron, derived from the stigmas of the Crocus Sativus flower, has been shown in several studies to improve mood and wellbeing in adults experiencing low mood and anxiety. The goals of this study were to examine its mental and physical effects in healthy, recreationally active adults.

In this 6-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 62 adults engaging in regular exercise were recruited and randomized to receive a placebo or 28 mg daily of a standardized saffron extract (affron®). Self-report outcome measures include the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale, Profile of Mood States, and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System-29. Participants also wore a wrist-worn heart rate, activity, and sleep monitoring device (WHOOP) to measure changes in sleep quality, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability. To help identify mechanisms of action associated with saffron intake, changes in plasma concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, oxytocin, and neuropeptide Y were also measured.

Based on data collected from all participants, there were no statistically significant between-group differences in changes in any of the outcome measures. However, when changes were analyzed by sex, there were statistically significant greater increases in enjoyment associated with exercise (p =.009) and heart rate variability (p =.001) in male participants taking saffron compared to the placebo. No statistically significant between-group differences were identified in females.

The results of this trial suggest saffron may have beneficial effects in recreationally active males, as evidenced by increased exercise enjoyment and heart rate variability. However, no such benefits were identified in females. Future research using larger sample sizes, varying treatment periods, and additional outcome measures will be required to validate the results from this study and help clarify the mechanisms of action associated with saffron intake.

This study was prospectively registered on 30 October 2020 with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (Trial ID. ACTRN12621000501842).

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Routledge part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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