Take two tablets a day containing an extract of the Asian climbing plant Gynostemma pentaphyllum, and you'll lose nearly a kilogram fat in a month. Without dieting, and without extra exercise, according to a study published by nutritionists at Chonbuk National University, Korea in Obesity.
Gynostemma pentaphyllum – or Jiaogulan – is related to cucumber, pumpkin and melon. Traditional healers in Asia use the leaves of the plant in particular. They use them to make a number of potions, including tea, which they say has the same properties as Ginseng.
And indeed, Gynostemma pentaphyllum contains gypensapogenins, which resemble the active substances in Ginseng, the ginsenosides. One of these – Ginsenoside-Rg1, to be exact – is shown here.
Bodybuilders may be familiar with Gynostemma pentaphyllum, as an ingredient in NO boosters. Some supplements manufacturers use Jiaogulan extracts for these products because in-vitro studies have shown that gypensapogenins do indeed boost NO concentration. [Nitric Oxide. 1999 Oct;3(5):359-65.]
But the Koreans are looking for other uses of Gynostemma pentaphyllum, in particular whether it's likely to be an interesting slimming supplement. They base this reasoning on in-vitro and animal studies in which some components of Gynostemma pentaphyllum activate the energy sensor AMPK, which then boosts fat burning and makes muscle cells more insulin sensitive. [Bioorg Med Chem. 2011 Nov 1; 19(21): 6254-60.] [Biotechnol Lett. 2012 Sep; 34(9): 1607-16.]
Korean scientists have already developed an extract of Gynostemma pentaphyllum, which contains a high concentration of the AMPK-stimulating components Damulin A and B [structural formulas shown below]. The extract is called Actiponin.
The Korean researchers gave 40 overweight people 450 mg Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract daily for 12 weeks. The dose was given in 2 tablets a day. An equal number of subjects were given a placebo. The subjects made no changes to their lifestyle.
The researchers monitored the subjects' blood, but observed no effect on cholesterol balance or triglyceride levels.
The bodyweight, fat mass and waist measurement of the placebo group did not change during the 12 weeks.
The subjects who had taken the extract lost weight, fat mass and centimetres round their waist.
"Data from our study suggest that Actiponin is a safe and effective antiobesity agent", the Koreans conclude. "It will be of interest to investigate long-term effect of Actiponin supplementation on improving severe obesity. Combined with life style modification or weight-reducing diet program, the antiobesity effect of Actiponin will become more pronounced."
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Jan;22(1):63-71.
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