A plant commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, known as the thunder god vine, has been the subject of some recent research on weight management and obesity control. It contains a compound known as Celastrol, which researchers now say can reduce food intake by up to 80 percent, leading to as much as a 45 percent decrease in body weight.
These conclusions come from a recent study published in the journal Cell, which explored the effects of Celastrol on obese mice. Despite the fact that the compound has not yet been tested on humans, researchers are hopeful about the possibilities that the mouse model test results represent.
“A Powerful Anti-Obesity Agent”
“Despite all modern advances in medicine, an effective drug treatment of obesity has not been found yet,” write the researchers on the recent study(1).
“Discovery of leptin two decades ago created hopes for treatment of obesity. However, development of leptin resistance has been a big obstacle, mitigating a leptin-centric treatment of obesity. Here… we discovered that Celastrol… is a powerful anti-obesity agent. Celastrol suppresses food intake, blocks reduction of energy expenditure, and leads to up to 45% weight loss in hyperleptinemic diet-induced obese (DIO) mice… These results indicate that Celastrol is a leptin sensitizer and a promising agent for the pharmacological treatment of obesity.”
Research estimate that if the compound works as well in humans as it does in mice, it could be a very effective tool in our arsenal against obesity, which is one of the most common health problems in the developed world.
According to a 2012 study, more than 68% of American adults are considered overweight, while 35% are obese(2).
A Fast-Acting Agent
One of the most significant discoveries made about Celastrol during the recent study was that it is not only effective, but works quickly, and with relatively few side effects.
In the mouse model, Celastrol enabled obese mice to cut their food intake by about 80 percent within one week. By the end of the third week, mice being treated with Celastrol had lost up to 45% of their initial body weight.
This is more significant even than weight loss from bariatric surgery – a stomach operation which is used to help patients with obesity lose weight, and is considered one of the current last-resort options for those struggling with extreme obesity(3).
Any potential alternative to bariatric and gastric bypass surgery for extreme weight loss is promising, given the high rate of complications that these surgeries can have.
Celastrol was also shown to improve liver function and glucose metabolism, as well as decrease cholesterol levels, the combination of which makes for a significantly lower risk of heart disease, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes.