The scientists were able to show that the herbal active substance, celastrol -- used in Chinese medicines -- leads to a significant weight loss and an improvement of diabetes in obese mice, Xinhua news agency reported.
The findings showed the celastrol specifically activates satiety centres in the brain, which play a central role in the control of body weight.
"Normally, those affected lose their satiety because the corresponding hormone leptin no longer works. The drug celastrol we investigated restores leptin sensitivity and hence satiety," said lead author Katrin Pfuhlmann from Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health.
The study, published in the journal Diabetes, observed a significantly altered eating behaviour in overweight animals.
"The administration of celastrol resulted in significantly reduced food intake in the mouse model. Accordingly, we were able to determine an average loss of about 10 per cent body weight within a week," the researchers said.
To what extent the findings can also be confirmed in humans is still unclear, according to the authors. However, study leader Pfluger is confident, "The satiety hormone leptin in humans and the mouse is almost identical, so celastrol has great potential," the report said.
The clinical trials are currently under way in the US.
"The satiety hormone leptin in humans and the mouse is almost identical, so celastrol has great potential," the researcher said.
Overweight and obesity may increase the risk of many health problems, including diabetes, heart diseases and certain cancers.
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