Two decades ago, scientists discovered the hormone leptin. This hormone regulates energy balance and it suppresses appetite and how much food you eat. Because of this, scientists have been looking for a way to develop weight loss drugs centered around leptin. But you don't have to wait for the drug. A new study shows we may already have the answer.
The researchers in this study knew that people and mice that don't have enough leptin typically become obese from overeating. Unfortunately, when obese people pump up their blood levels of leptin, it doesn't affect their eating habits. And when scientists give it to obese mice, they don't lose weight either. These two realities seemed to indicate that the problem isn't just a lack of leptin, but a resistance to the hormone that's contributing to obesity. So that changed how the researchers looked at solving the problem.
After years of failure, scientists recently discovered that a specialized structure found in brain cells played an important role in leptin resistance. The specialized structure, called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), develops this resistance when it becomes stressed. So researchers from Harvard Medical School began looking for a substance that would change the gene expression in human cells. They found that a substance called Celastrol produced a gene expression profile which could potentially reduce ER stress. This compound comes from the thunder god vine, a plant native to China, Japan, and Korea. Thunder god vine has been a fixture in Chinese medicine for over 400 years. But it's now starting to impress Western researchers.
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For instance, the results of this study showed that thunder god vine caused mice to lose up to 45% of their weight. And it did this by increasing their leptin sensitivity and reducing ER stress. Next the researchers wanted to see if thunder god vine would work in mice engineered to be leptin deficient or lack leptin receptors. Sure enough, it worked just as well in this group of mice.
Will thunder god vine help you lose weight? It's possible if your weight gain is the result of a leptin resistance. So it might be worth trying. However, I suggest using it with the supervision of a doctor knowledgeable in its use. For the most part, thunder god vine is safe. But it can cause serious side effects, including stomach upset, skin reactions, temporary infertility in men, immune suppression, and amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) in women, if you take too much or an incorrect preparation (the leaves and flowers of this plant are highly toxic, so only the root should be used). You also shouldn't take it with immunosuppressive drugs, such as prednisone. So talk with your physician, who might have a source that sells only to doctors.
With these caveats, I think thunder god vine shows great promise. The roots of this plant can fight a lot more than obesity.
Several studies have shown that thunder god vine can help with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other auto-immune diseases. And two other studies found that it can fight cancer very effectively. I'll tell you about these cancer studies on Tuesday.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.