A team of researchers may have found a new treatment for obesity in the form of a Chinese plant extract.
The plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine and scientists say that it proved to be efficient in suppressing appetite and helping patients lose weight.
The Chinese plant is a vine known as “Thunder God” and according to the new scientific findings it could be used as the main compound in a drug for treating obesity.
The researchers used the extract on lab mice and found that it can significantly reduce food intake. The Chinese plant extract caused up to 45% decrease in body weight in the obese laboratory mice.
According to the scientists, the compound extracted from the “Thunder God” plant is called Celastrol and it has the property to enhance the action of leptin, which is the hormone responsible for suppressing appetite.
Umut Ozcan, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and one of the lead authors of the new study, explained that if the new plant extract called Celastrol proves to be as efficient on humans as it is on mice, then it could be used as a very powerful treatment against obesity.
Ozcan added that obesity is often associated with other serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease. By finding an efficient treatment for obesity, we could help all the associated illnesses, Ozcan concluded.
The new study showed that in the first week of treatment with Celastrol, the obese mice reduced the food intake by almost 80%, compared to the mice that were not given the plant extract.
After three weeks of treatment, the obese mice lost about 45% of their initial body weight by burning the fat stores.
According to the researchers, the weight loss using this treatment is much greater than what bariatric surgery can produce.
Bariatric surgery is a medical procedure where the stomach and or intestines are operated on in order to help patients who suffer from severe obesity lose weight.
Moreover, the Celastrol treatment helped lower cholesterol levels and also improved liver function. It also helped with improving the glucose level which is often associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver.
Although Celastrol did not have any toxic side effects on mice, the researchers do not know for sure if the compound would be safe for human patients.
The new findings were published in the medical journal Cell.
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