Curcumin limits weight gain, adipose tissue growth, and glucose intolerance following the cessation of exercise and caloric restriction in rats

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Dec 1;123(6):1625-1634. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01115.2016. Epub 2017 Aug 24.


Weight regain, adipose tissue growth, and insulin resistance can occur within days after the cessation of regular dieting and exercise. This phenomenon has been attributed, in part, to the actions of stress hormones as well as local and systemic inflammation. We investigated the effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring polyphenol known for its anti-inflammatory properties and inhibitory action on 11β-HSD1 activity, on preserving metabolic health and limiting adipose tissue growth following the cessation of daily exercise and caloric restriction (CR). Sprague-Dawley rats (6-7 wk old) underwent a "training" protocol of 24-h voluntary running wheel access and CR (15-20 g/day; ~50-65% of ad libitum intake) for 3 wk ("All Trained") or were sedentary and fed ad libitum ("Sed"). After 3 wk, All Trained were randomly divided into one group which was terminated immediately ("Trained"), and two detrained groups which had their wheels locked and were reintroduced to ad libitum feeding for 1 wk. The wheel locked groups received either a daily gavage of a placebo ("Detrained + Placebo") or curcumin (200 mg/kg) ("Detrained + Curcumin"). Cessation of daily CR and exercise caused an increase in body mass, as well as a 9- to 14-fold increase in epididymal, perirenal, and inguinal adipose tissue mass, all of which were attenuated by curcumin ( P < 0.05). Insulin area under the curve (AUC) during an oral glucose tolerance test, HOMA-IR, and C-reactive protein (CRP) were elevated 6-, 9-, and 2-fold, respectively, in the Detrained + Placebo group vs. the Trained group (all P < 0.05). Curcumin reduced insulin AUC, HOMA-IR, and CRP vs. the placebo group (all P < 0.05). Our results indicate that curcumin has a protective effect against weight regain and impaired metabolic control following a successful period of weight loss through diet and exercise, perhaps via inhibition of glucocorticoid action and inflammation. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Weight regain after dieting and exercise is a common phenomenon plaguing many individuals. The biological mechanisms underlying weight regain are incompletely understood and are likely multifactorial. In this paper, we examined the metabolic implications of curcumin, a compound known for its anti-inflammatory properties and inhibitory action on the enzyme 11β-HSD1, in a rodent model of adiposity rebound after the cessation of diet and exercise.

Keywords: adipose tissue; curcumin; detraining; inflammation; weight regain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / growth & development*
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Diet
  • Glucose Intolerance*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Obesity
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1
  • Curcumin
  • Corticosterone