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Plant extracts to treat excess weight and/or help with slimming

A patented formulation for a dietary supplement has been developed by scientists in the Joint Research Unit for Human Nutrition (UNH) in partnership with Université Paris Descartes. The synergistic combination of a statin and citrulline may provide a solution to reducing fat mass in overweight individuals.

Plant extract of citrulline and statin. © INRA, Andrey Arkusha
Updated on 03/07/2014
Published on 03/07/2014

Obesity is defined as a disease where an excess of fat mass has accumulated to the point that it has adverse effects on health, is a priority for the World Health Organization (WHO) in terms of its prevalence and management.  Our planet counts 300 million obese people: in industrialised countries, they account for between 15% and 30% of the population.  If those who are overweight are added to this figure, more than 46% of adults and 19% of children are affected in France.

Two principal risk factors contribute to the development of excess weight or obesity: firstly, an unbalanced diet containing too much fat and sugar, and secondly a lack of physical exercise.  The simplest approach to weight control consists in a healthy diet coupled with regular physical exercise, but in some cases, other methods prove necessary to prevent and treat severe body weight disorders.  Furthermore, cosmetic strategies may be sought by people of normal corpulence who are trying to eliminate unpleasant fat masses such as cellulite.

UNH scientists and their partners from Université Paris Descartes have demonstrated a synergistic effect of two active substances, citrulline and atorvastatin (a statin) in reducing total fat mass and improving metabolic syndrome. This can prevent a pathophysiological state that associates clinical abnormalities which may predispose people to diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.  Tested in an obese mouse model, this combination enabled a reduction of between 22% and 32% in total fat mass, by comparison with animals which only received one or other of the substances, or neither.  In the treated group, peri-epididymal fat deposits were reduced by 22% to 30%, while the lean mass of the animals was preserved.


"An approach which prefers a loss of fat mass and preserves lean mass"


It has also been demonstrated that the oral administration of this active combination was able to restore the onset of glucose intolerance and maintain inulin sensitivity, thus contributing to the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome.


Use of this formulation of active substances to treat overweight patients and help people to slim has been patented (WO2013128137) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) .  The development by industry of a pharmaceutical application based on synthetic active substances could be envisaged, as could its orientation towards a nutritional pathway (dietary supplement) using plant extracts only.  Indeed, citrulline exists naturally in Cucurbitaceae (notably in water melons), and in the red yeast rice,Monascus Purpureus,which is an example of the natural production of statins by fermentation.

This invention therefore opens the way towards the management of excess weight and metabolic syndrome via the diet.

Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Nutrition, Chemical Food Safety and Consumer Behaviour
Associated Centre(s):

The Joint Research Unit for Human Nutrition (UNH)

The skills of the "Control of Lipid-Energy Homeostasis and Obesity Team" (CHLEO)

The Joint Research Unit for Human Nutrition, which was set up in 2006 by INRA and Université Clermont-Ferrand, is based at two sites: Theix and the Faculty of Medicine.  Some 170 people work for the unit, seeking to prevent disorders associated with ageing and/or with chronic diseases (sarcopenia, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis).

Through its work, the CHLEO team aims to develop nutritional strategies focused on dietary lipid intake in order to prevent the metabolic diseases associated with ageing and excess body weight.  The approaches developed centre around integrative physiology, from the cell to the whole body, and involve complementary models which include cell cultures, rodent models and clinical trials in humans.  In addition, whole-body analyses of energy expenditure are associated with functional tissue analyses (exploration of mitochondrial functioning, lipid analyses, metabolic biochemistry and molecular biology).

For more information: http://www4.clermont.inra.fr/unh/Equipes-de-Recherches/CHLEO