Ursolic acid and mechanisms of actions on adipose and muscle tissue: a systematic review

Obes Rev. 2017 Jun;18(6):700-711. doi: 10.1111/obr.12523. Epub 2017 Mar 23.


This systematic review aimed at addressing the ursolic acid actions as an adjunctive treatment of the obesity-mediated metabolic abnormalities. To explore our aims, we used the literature search including clinical and animal studies using the Medline and Google Scholar (up to December 2015). Out of 63 screened studies, 17 presented eligibility criteria, such as the use of ursolic acid on adiposity, energy expenditure and skeletal muscle mass in mice and humans. In the literature, we found that several physiological and molecular mechanisms are implicated in the effects of ursolic acid on obesity, energy expenditure, hepatic steatosis, skeletal muscle mass loss and physical fitness, such as (1) increase of thermogenesis by modulation adipocyte transcription factors, activation of 5' adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase and overexpression of the uncoupling protein 1 thermogenic marker; (2) enhancement of skeletal muscle mass by activation in bloodstream growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 concentrations secretion, as well as in the activation of mammalian target of rapamycin and inhibition of ring-finger protein-1; and (3) improvement of physical fitness by skeletal muscle proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator alpha and sirtuin 1 expression. Therefore, supplementation with ursolic acid may be an adjunctive therapy for prevention and treatment of obesity-mediated and muscle mass-mediated metabolic consequences.

Keywords: Energy expenditure; muscle; obesity; ursolic acid.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Thermogenesis / drug effects
  • Thermogenesis / physiology
  • Transcription Factors
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Transcription Factors
  • Triterpenes
  • Uncoupling Protein 1
  • ursolic acid