New Type of Drug Shows Promise in Battling Obesity

By K. N. Smith | May 21, 2015 11:10 am

obese woman on scale

Thunder God Vine is a thoroughly deadly plant: Its flowers, leaves, and roots are all highly toxic. But new research suggests that a compound found in its roots could be a brand-new approach to treat obesity.

A compound called Celastrol, found in the roots of Thunder God Vine, may increase the body’s sensitivity to hormones that help fight obesity, according to new research. Mice given oral doses of Celastrol lost an average of about 45 percent of their body weight – and they lost body fat, not lean mass.

Hunger Signals

The story starts with leptin, a hormone that helps control metabolism by carrying information about the body’s energy stores to the brain. When the body has lots of stored energy, it produces leptin, which signals the brain to eat less.

When researchers discovered leptin about 20 years ago, they hoped it might be the key to weight loss, but experimental results were disappointing. Lean mice injected with leptin did exactly what researchers expected: they ate less and lost weight. In obese mice, however, the leptin injections had no effect. Over the intervening years many researchers have come to believe that obesity is therefore linked to a resistance to leptin.

Battling Obesity

But Celastrol may finally crack that puzzle, by restoring leptin sensitivity. Umut Ozcan of Harvard University and his colleagues found that mice given oral doses of Celastrol lost an average of about 45 percent of their body weight and that their food intake also dropped significantly. For comparison, researchers said that mice that have bariatric surgery usually lose between 35 and 40 percent of their body weight.

And mice with lots of leptin in their bloodstreams lost weight when given Celastrol, but the compound had no effect on mice with no leptin, or in mice without any leptin receptors. The research was published in the journal Cell.

“Celastrol is the first efficient leptin sensitizer and has a completely different mechanism of action than any other anti-obesity drug that has been reported to date,” Ozcan told Discover.

Future Testing

Researchers’ next step is to complete human toxicology studies on Celastrol and then move to clinical trials, hopefully.

Celastrol has been studied by scientists before, and it shows promise as an effective anti-inflammatory which could one day be used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis – which, perhaps not coincidentally, is the primary use of Thunder God Plant root extract in traditional Chinese medicine.

However, there have been only a couple of small, short-term clinical trials of Celastrol in humans. One of them, a 2009 study funded by the National Institute of Arthritic and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, found that extract from the root of the Thunder God Vine produced better results in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients than a common RA drug called sulfasalazine.

Of course, it takes more than one or two small trials to prove that a drug is safe for humans in the long run. If Ozcan and his colleagues succeed in bringing Celastrol to a larger clinical trial, then we might learn more about the health promise of this obscure root.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
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  • JessM

    There’s always something new in the world of weight loss. No wonder so many people exhaust themselves trying to keep up. Personally, I stick with the fundamentals and it’s worked quite well for me. The idea is to focus on those things which can most significantly impact your overall LIFESTYLE.

    Actually, the goal of any weight loss program should be to move you towards a healthy way of living. Anything that doesn’t is destined to fail…eventually. In fact, here’s a great little article that covers what you should look for in your weight loss program if you want the best results: fatfreeme(DOT)net/big5

    • KRS

      Moderate obesity can probably be handled with lifestyle choices, but morbidly obese people usually have some physiological issue that also needs to be taken care of, as well as facing greater medical risks from their weight. These are the candidates for drug treatments and surgery.

  • http://type2diabetesdietplan.blogspot.com/2014/10/which-foods-to-eat-with-pre-diabetes.html diabetes

    Avoid all DRUGS for weight loss.

    What works to lose weight was revealed by the Swedish researchers. Learn to eat like the Swedish and you get thin.

    Full dairy fats cause body fat loss, when you learn how to combine the right foods together.

    When researchers combined yogurt and another food together they doubled the weight loss. It worked for 3,000 people.

    justr google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

  • Jerry G.

    If the person ate a healthy diet, did not over eat, did not eat a lot of junk foods with high amounts of fats such as cookies, cakes, candy bars, chips, and etc, and stayed away from drinks and foods that contain a lot of sugar, this would be a start.

    Then there is the need to be active. Regular exercise is the other part of the key. This does not mean breaking your back to work out. This means being properly active. Walking around a lot and doing a light workout program will show a benefit. The key is to burn off calories and help form some muscle from the fat.

  • Aj

    It saddens me to read comments claiming that all one has to do is eat a healthy diet and exercise.

    It’s all about calories in, calories out, right? WRONG!

    All fat people are lazy layabouts who sit and eat Ben and Jerry’s all day, right? WRONG!

    I was thin and muscular my whole life until about five years ago. Nothing changed in my clean, organic diet. Nothing changed in my physical activity/daily workout of either kettle bells, weight lifting, crossfit, Zumba, kayaking, or hiking. But I gained almost 70 lbs over a one year period and it hasn’t budged a pound since. I upped my physical activities and even went raw vegan for 18 months with zero results. I’m still muscular and strong as a horse, but I have this layer of horrible fat covering my six pack!

    I’ve been to dozens of doctors (naturopathic and traditional medicine) all over the U.S. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on their supplements and lab work and dietary restrictions. They all failed and had no explanation.

    Do you know how it feels to work this hard and achieve no results and constantly read comments from people who are completely ignorant about the causes of obesity? It bloody well hurts!

    I’m thankful for these new drugs made from natural plant sources. Maybe they will help people like me. I haven’t taken any kind of prescription drug yet and I hope I’ll never have to. But in the end, I’ll try anything to be at my healthy 130 lb weight again. Meanwhile, I will keep eating the cleanest organic diet available and stick with the physical routine I love so much. Without those efforts in sure I’d weigh 500 lbs.

  • Jeffrey Lee Rynearson

    The only source for this plant online is from a small company called Pharmacy Dropout LLC. Google them.

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