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Natural compound prevents obesity in mice

A team of NIH researchers led by NIDDK investigator Elisabetta Mueller, Ph.D., has found that treatment with celastrol enabled normal-weight male mice to avoid obesity and metabolic dysfunction despite being fed a high-fat diet. Celastrol is a natural compound extracted from the root of the thunder god vine. The findings suggest that celastrol kept the mice lean by transforming their white fat, which stores energy, into brown-like fat, which burns calories, and increasing mitochondrial capacity and muscle endurance.

A picture of the Thunder God Vine
Photo courtesy of Frederic Tournay
Thunder God Vine

“Excess white fat tissue is associated with type 2 diabetes and other serious metabolic consequences of overweight and obesity. On the other hand, brown fat consumes and dissipates calories to generate heat,” said Mueller. “Our results suggest that by ‘browning’ white fat, celastrol is critical in preventing obesity in mice. Further study is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of the compound in people.”

Previous research had found that celastrol decreased weight in mice with obesity by enhancing the action of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin. The results from Mueller and her team show that lower doses of celastrol can prevent obesity without affecting hunger, suggesting different capabilities of the herbal extract depending on initial weight of the mice.


Media contact information: niddkmedia@niddk.nih.gov or (301) 496-3583.

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