The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide as a result of high-calorie diets and sedentary lifestyles
Current anti-obesogenic therapies have limited effectiveness and/or severe adverse effects
Substances in plants and mushrooms have anti-obesogenic and antidiabetic effects by regulating appetite, nutrient digestion and absorption, adipogenesis, energy expenditure, insulin sensitivity and composition and function of the gut microbiota
Clinical data relating to the effectiveness of plants and mushrooms are limited, but preliminary evidence suggests they can have beneficial effects on body weight and fat accumulation in humans
Herbal and fungal phytonutrients could be combined with existing weight-loss treatments to optimize anti-obesogenic effects
Obesity is reaching global epidemic proportions as a result of factors such as high-calorie diets and lack of physical exercise. Obesity is now considered to be a medical condition, which not only contributes to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and cancer, but also negatively affects longevity and quality of life. To combat this epidemic, anti-obesogenic approaches are required that are safe, widely available and inexpensive. Several plants and mushrooms that are consumed in traditional Chinese medicine or as nutraceuticals contain antioxidants, fibre and other phytochemicals, and have anti-obesogenic and antidiabetic effects through the modulation of diverse cellular and physiological pathways. These effects include appetite reduction, modulation of lipid absorption and metabolism, enhancement of insulin sensitivity, thermogenesis and changes in the gut microbiota. In this Review, we describe the molecular mechanisms that underlie the anti-obesogenic and antidiabetic effects of these plants and mushrooms, and propose that combining these food items with existing anti-obesogenic approaches might help to reduce obesity and its complications.
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The authors' work is supported by the Primordia Institute of New Sciences and Medicine, by grants MOST103-2320-B-182-027-MY3 and MOST103-2321-B-182-014-MY3 from the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan, and grants CMRPD1B0053, CMRPD1C0782, CMRPD190303, BMRPA04 and QZRPD120 from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan.
Y.F.K. is President of Chang Gung Biotechnology Corporation. J.D.Y. is Chairman of the Board of Chang Gung Biotechnology Corporation. The authors (with the exception of S.F.T.) have filed patent applications related to the anti-obesogenic and antidiabetic effects of mushroom polysaccharides.
- Insulin resistance
Pathological condition in which the body produces insulin but fails to adequately respond to it.
- Traditional Chinese medicine
A system of medical treatments that has been practiced in China for at least 2,000 years, including herbal medicine, acupuncture, qigong and meditation.
Dietary supplements or purified compounds that produce beneficial physiological effects on the human body, in addition to their nutritive values.
- Gut microbiota
Community of microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract in animals and humans, which has been shown to participate in various physiological and pathological processes in the gut and systemically.
Bioactive plant components that can have physiological effects in the human body.
- Endoplasmic reticulum
An organelle of eukaryotic cells that is involved in protein synthesis and sorting, and lipid synthesis and metabolism, as well as detoxification.
- Endoplasmic-reticulum stress
Condition in which misfolded proteins accumulate in the endoplasmic reticulum, leading to organelle dysfunction.
- Leptin resistance
Pathological condition associated with obesity in which the body produces the hormone leptin, but fails to adequately respond to it.
- Enterohepatic circulation
Circulation of bile acids from the liver to the small intestine, followed by absorption by enterocytes and transport back to the liver via the blood.
Catabolic process occurring in eukaryotic cells in which fatty acids are broken down to produce ATP and cellular metabolites.
Hormones secreted by adipocytes.
Structural and functional damage to pancreatic β cells and the target tissues of insulin caused by chronic hyperglycaemia.
- Intestinal tight junctions
Connections between two adjacent intestinal cells that limits the space between them and the passage of material from the intestinal lumen to the gut mucosa.
Foods that are not digestible by humans, but promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.
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Martel, J., Ojcius, D., Chang, CJ. et al. Anti-obesogenic and antidiabetic effects of plants and mushrooms. Nat Rev Endocrinol 13, 149–160 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2016.142
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