Ursolic acid, a pentacyclic triterpene from Sambucus australis, prevents abdominal adiposity in mice fed a high-fat diet

J Med Food. 2011 Nov;14(11):1375-82. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0267. Epub 2011 May 25.


Currently, there is renewed interest in plant-based medicines and functional foods for the prevention and cure of obesity and its associated risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. In the search for potential anti-obesity compounds from natural sources, the effects of ursolic acid (UA), a pentacyclic triterpenoid widely found in medicinal herbs and fruits, was evaluated for its effects on blood glucose, lipids, and abdominal fat deposition in mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD). Adult male Swiss mice treated or not with UA (0.05%, 50 mg/L, in drinking water) were fed HFD for 15 weeks. A sibutramine (SIB)-treated group (0.05% in drinking water) was included as the positive control. Weekly body weights and food and water consumption were measured, and at the end of the study period, the levels of blood glucose and lipids, the plasma hormones insulin, ghrelin, and leptin, and the abdominal fat accumulation were analyzed. Mice treated with UA and fed HFD showed significantly (P<.05) decreased body weights, visceral adiposity, and levels of blood glucose and plasma lipids relative to their respective controls not fed UA. Also, a significant increase was observed in plasma leptin with a decrease in ghrelin, as well as of amylase and lipase activities. The SIB-treated group also manifested effects similar to those of UA except for the blood glucose level, which was not different from the HFD control. These findings suggest that UA ameliorates abdominal adiposity and decreases the levels of blood glucose and plasma lipids in mice and thus manifests an anti-obesity potential through absorptive and metabolic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat / drug effects
  • Abdominal Fat / metabolism
  • Adiposity / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Diet, High-Fat*
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / blood
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Pentacyclic Triterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Sambucus / chemistry*
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Ursolic Acid
  • Weight Loss / drug effects


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Blood Glucose
  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Lipids
  • Pentacyclic Triterpenes
  • Plant Extracts
  • Triterpenes