Pilot study hints at potential of Rhodiola-Cordyceps mix for body composition benefits

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The study used a combination of Cordyceps (pictured) and Rhodiola crenulata.   Image © Getty Images / Supersmario
The study used a combination of Cordyceps (pictured) and Rhodiola crenulata. Image © Getty Images / Supersmario

Related tags Cordyceps Rhodiola rosea Sports nutrition body composition

A combination of Rhodiola crenulata and Cordyceps sinensis may enhance training-related body composition adaptions in young people, suggests a small preliminary study from Taiwan.

Young adults undergoing endurance training and receiving a combination of Rhodiola crenulata​ and Cordyceps sinensis​ displayed greater beneficial changes in muscle mass and fat mass, compared to training plus placebo, according to findings published in the journal Nutrients​.

“For better training adaptations, the combination of RC and endurance exercise training may show the possible benefits of combined intervention through positive changes in body composition in this young inactive population,” ​wrote researchers from National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences and the University of Taipei.

‘Let’s see more data’

Commenting independently on the study’s findings, Dr Chad Kerksick, director of the Exercise and Performance Nutrition Laboratory at Lindenwood University in Missouri, told us that the question of combining Rhodiola and Cordyceps is under-explored. “I'm interested on the scalability and production of this combo, but that's another issue,”​ he added.

Dr Kerksick cautioned that the findings are based on a very small sample size for what is anticipated to be small effects. He also noted that there is no defined mechanistic link or reason for body composition to change, but body composition did change.

“Overall, the authors did a nice job with a small pilot trial,” ​he said. “My biggest takeaway is let's see more data.  Larger studies, better body comp assessment, etc.  Notably, aerobic outcomes didn't change and that is where cordyceps have been linked previously so that makes you wonder what is up as well.”

Study details

The researchers recruited 14 young sedentary men and women to participate in their pilot study. Using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study design, the participants underwent an eight week endurance training regimen with addition supplements of Rhodiola crenulata​ and Cordyceps sinensis​ or placebo.

The results indicated that body composition improvement significantly greater in the Rhodiola-Cordyceps ​group, compared to placebo. Specifically, Rhodiola-Cordyceps ​consumption in addition to training was associated with greater reductions in body weight and upper extremity fat mass, and greater increases in lower extremity muscle mass.

On the other hand, no significant differences between the groups were reported for blood lipid profiles and systemic oxidative stress makers.

“After intensively reviewing the related literature, no earlier studies, to our knowledge, have been conducted to determine the benefits of using a Rhodiola/Cordyceps mixture during long-term exercise training (>6 weeks) on the metabolic health of exclusively young sedentary individuals,” ​wrote the scientists.

“For the sedentary populations, although the participants involved in this study seems unlikely to spontaneously adopt an intensive exercise regime, their motivation to adhere in the training may be boosted with more substantial training outcomes through utilizing effective nutritional aids,” ​they added. “Our findings, therefore, suggest a potential nutrient approach of using RC-based herbal supplementation to further enhance endurance training adaptations in individuals who intend to initiate their training program.

“However, the precise underlying mechanism(s) by which RC supplementation induces fat mass loss during exercise training warrants further investigation, meanwhile the future study with longer intervention would be needed to pursue the possible long-term effects.”

Source: Nutrients
2019, 11(10), 2357; doi: 10.3390/nu11102357
“Rhodiola/Cordyceps-Based Herbal Supplement Promotes Endurance Training-Improved Body Composition But Not Oxidative Stress and Metabolic Biomarkers: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Study”
Authors: Y-H. Liao et al.

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