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Tackling fat with food? Tropical plant in China has anti-obesity properties

Scientists have uncovered the potent anti-obesity properties of a tropical plant native to Hainan Island, China, named Mallotus furetianus (MFE). This discovery represents a significant stride towards combating global obesity.

The research was carried out by an international team of scientists led by Professor Akiko Kojima from the Graduate School of Human Life and Ecology at Osaka Metropolitan University.

Focus of the study 

Obesity is a leading risk factor for a spectrum of life-threatening conditions, including hypertension and diabetes. 

The pervasiveness of this health crisis has amplified the necessity for creative and innovative approaches to fight against it. The discovery of MFE’s anti-obesity properties could potentially introduce a natural solution to this complex problem.

The international research team had previously studied the effects of MFE extract on fatty liver prevention. However, the correlation between MFE and obesity, and the mechanisms behind it, had remained elusive until this recent breakthrough.

What the researchers discovered 

To test the antiobesity efficacy of MFE, the researchers turned to obesity model mice. Their experiments revealed that the treatment with MFE extract resulted in a notable suppression in the increase of body weight and adipose tissue weight. 

Additionally, there were observable morphological alterations in the liver and adipose tissue of the test subjects, indicating a significant biological impact.

A more in-depth investigation into the underlying mechanisms exposed the capability of MFE to inhibit fat synthesis. 

The researchers found that MFE effectively suppresses the expression of several transcription factors that play a key role in adipocyte differentiation, thereby controlling the body’s ability to produce fat.

Implications of the study 

Professor Kojima and her team are dedicated to the exploration of food ingredients that can effectively combat obesity. 

“Our research group is searching for food ingredients with anti-obesity effects, based on the idea that if we can find and incorporate them into our daily diets, we can contribute to people’s health and longevity,” said Professor Kojima.

The astounding results of the study not only solidify a connection between the extract of Mallotus furetianus and its anti-obesity effects, but also highlight its potential as a novel food ingredient with anti-obesity properties. This could pave the way for more natural and diet-based solutions to the world’s obesity problem.

The results of the study are published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition.

Mallotus furetianus

Mallotus furetianus is a species of tropical plant that is native to Hainan Island, China. Detailed information about this specific species is limited in the scientific literature. 

However, the genus Mallotus to which it belongs is well-known and includes several species used in traditional medicine across Asia for their potential therapeutic benefits.

Plants and weight loss

There are several plants that may aid weight loss by boosting metabolism, reducing appetite, or decreasing fat absorption. However, these plants alone won’t cause significant weight loss without a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Here are a few examples:

Green Tea

Known for its antioxidant properties, it can help increase your metabolism and fat burning process.


Mint is said to control appetite, and its scent can help suppress food cravings.


Fennel seeds can help suppress your appetite by making you feel full. It’s also known to have diuretic properties.


This common household spice can boost metabolism and has a filling effect, which can help reduce calorie intake.


It’s a common household spice that can slow down stomach emptying and help control appetite.


This spice can help keep you feeling satisfied and prevent hunger pangs.

Cayenne pepper

Capsaicin, the compound that gives cayenne pepper its heat, may help boost your metabolism and slightly reduce hunger.


Its active compound curcumin has been linked to weight loss and prevention of fat accumulation.

More about obesity

Obesity is a complex medical condition characterized by an excessive amount of body fat. It is generally measured using the body mass index (BMI), which is a calculation involving a person’s weight and height. A BMI of 30 or more is usually considered obese, while a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is classified as overweight.

Health risks

Obesity is a significant public health issue due to its high prevalence globally and its association with various health risks. It is linked to a variety of serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and sleep apnea. Furthermore, obesity can also have negative effects on mental health, leading to issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.


The main cause of obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. In other words, consuming more calories than the body uses for physical activity and normal body functions leads to weight gain. 

This can be due to a high intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars, and a decrease in physical activity due to increasingly sedentary forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.


Tackling obesity often involves lifestyle changes. This could involve dietary changes, like eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and reducing intake of sugary drinks, junk food, and high-fat foods. Increasing physical activity is also crucial. For some people, medication or surgery may be necessary.


Preventing obesity is of utmost importance as well. This requires public health initiatives that promote healthy food choices and physical activity, in addition to individual efforts.

Despite the numerous interventions available, obesity remains a challenging condition to treat and prevent, and novel treatments like the one suggested by the recent research on Mallotus furetianus are being actively investigated.


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