Treatment for Leptin Insensitivity With Thunder God Vine Looks Promising in Obesity Studies
Modern medicine is a wonderful thing – we have found cures for diseases across the world that have caused devastation and death, and people are living longer than ever.
For the first time in decades, the average life expectancy is starting to decline in American society. At the same time, the average American’s waistline is growing. People are getting fatter and fatter, and now life expectancy is finally reflecting that as it trends downward. Is this a cause and effect relationship? Scientists have not said for sure, but it seems that the evidence is there.
Why, though, are Americans especially, getting so FAT? People theorize about this all the time. Some say it is the increased availability of junk foods – highly processed food, fast food, cheap food, laden with chemicals and high in carbohydrates and bad fat. Does this make sense? Absolutely.
Others say it’s because we are becoming more and more sedentary. Kids don’t go outside to play – whether that’s because they have video games and computers now, or because their parents don’t feel they are safe outside, or even because there is just less ROOM to play outside as population grows. People watch TV, sit at their desks for 8 hours working … the list goes on. Does THIS make sense? Yes.
In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 1.4 billion adults worldwide were overweight; of these, 200 million men and 300 million women were obese (Finucane et al., 2011). It is predicted that more than one billion people in the world will be obese by 2030 (Kelly et al., 2008). Obesity is a major cause for the development of debilitating conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, all of which reduce life quality as well as lifespan (Olshansky et al., 2005). (Ozcan et. al., 2015)
I’m sure there is no single reason for the increase in obesity in America. However, scientists and doctors are showing that more and more – whatever the external cause of obesity – the internal cause may be resistance to the hormone Leptin.
Leptin is like a messenger in the body, conveying information about our energy stores to our brain, which will then regulate things like how much we eat, hunger, when to stop eating and things like that. However, in we are resistant to Leptin, we cannot get those signals correctly, and therefore we overeat. When Leptin resistance happens, “it [becomes] clear that, despite the presence of very high levels of circulating leptin in murine models of obesity and in obese humans, the hormone is ineffective in creating satiety and suppressing food intake” (Ozcan, et al., 2015). To date, no medication has actually been approved by the FDA that will increase Leptin sensitivity.
Dr. Ozcan’s study on the effects of Celastrol on lab mice has some exciting results when it comes to fighting Leptin resistance, however. Dr Ozcan and his colleagues studied Celastrol, which is a compound in an extract from the thunder god vine root which appears to reduce food intake by up to 80% within the first WEEK of taking the extract, and a weight decrease of about 45% in obese mice. The mice were made obese by overfeeding and diet, and therefore, they because insensitive to Leptin. Once Celastrol was introduced to them (via injection which would control dosing exactly), the mice that were treated were the ones that reduced food intake and lost weight. Moreover, the Celastrol reduced cholesterol levels and improved liver function and glucose metabolism/receptivity (which also seems to go hand in hand with Leptin impairment), which may indicate that the Thunder God Root Extract may lower risk of heart disease, fatty liver, and adult onset or type 2 diabetes.
Here is a graph (f1.) directly from Dr. Ozcan’s study that visually shows the effect of the Celastrol on mice …
The findings are an early indicator that Celastrol could be developed into a drug for the treatment of obesity – which will of course, mean synthesizing the extract into a patented chemical compound for sale by big pharma.
“During the last two decades, there has been an enormous amount of effort to treat obesity by breaking down leptin resistance, but these efforts have failed,” says senior study author Umut Ozcan, an endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “The message from this study is that there is still hope for making leptin work, and there is still hope for treating obesity. If Celastrol works in humans as it does in mice, it could be a powerful way to treat obesity and improve the health of many patients suffering from obesity and associated complications, such as heart disease, fatty liver, and type 2 diabetes” (Cell Press).
This kind of weight loss is greater than that of bariatric surgery patients, without the tremendous expense of the surgery, or the months of recuperation, the diet restrictions and the life altering habits that come along with it.
Dr Ozcan, of course, urges caution “because in-depth toxicology studies and controlled clinical trials are needed to demonstrate the compound’s safety in humans” (Cell Press).
In future studies, Ozcan and his team will investigate the molecular mechanisms by which Celastrol improves leptin sensitivity and produces weight loss. “We have been heavily focusing on this line of research in my laboratory and hope that this approach will help us to understand the mechanisms in nature that are leading to the development of obesity,” Ozcan says. “In the end, my main goal is to see this research leading to a novel and powerful treatment for obesity in humans.”
Cell Press. “Thunder god vine used in traditional Chinese medicine is a potential obesity treatment.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150521133630.htm>
Finucane, M.M., Stevens, G.A., Cowan, M.J., Danaei, G., Lin, J.K., Paciorek, C.J., Singh, G.M., Gutierrez, H.R., Lu, Y., Bahalim, A.N., et al.; Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors of Chronic Diseases Collaborating Group (Body Mass Index) (2011). National, regional, and global trends in body-mass index since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemio-logical studies with 960 country-years and 9$1 million participants. Lancet 377, 557–567.
Kelly, T., Yang, W., Chen, C.S., Reynolds, K., and He, J. (2008). Global burden of obesity in 2005 and projections to 2030. Int J Obes (Lond) 32, 1431–1437.
Olshansky, S.J., Passaro, D.J., Hershow, R.C., Layden, J., Carnes, B.A., Brody, J., Hayﬂick, L., Butler, R.N., Allison, D.B., and Ludwig, D.S. (2005). A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N. Engl. J. Med. 352, 1138–1145.
Ozcan, Umut, Liu, et. al. “Treatment of Obesity with Celastrol” Cell, DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2015.05.011. Supported by Boston Children’s Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, the American Diabetes Association, and the Fidelity Biosciences Research Initiative.