Plant Extracts and Reactive Oxygen Species as Two Counteracting Agents with Anti- and Pro-Obesity Properties

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 14;20(18):4556. doi: 10.3390/ijms20184556.


Obesity is a complex disease of great public health significance worldwide: It entails several complications including diabetes mellitus type 2, cardiovascular dysfunction and hypertension, and its prevalence is increasing around the world. The pathogenesis of obesity is closely related to reactive oxygen species. The role of reactive oxygen species as regulatory factors in mitochondrial activity in obese subjects, molecules taking part in inflammation processes linked to excessive size and number of adipocytes, and as agents governing the energy balance in hypothalamus neurons has been examined. Phytotherapy is the traditional form of treating health problems using plant-derived medications. Some plant extracts are known to act as anti-obesity agents and have been screened in in vitro models based on the inhibition of lipid accumulation in 3T3-L1 cells and activity of pancreatic lipase methods and in in vivo high-fat diet-induced obesity rat/mouse models and human models. Plant products may be a good natural alternative for weight management and a source of numerous biologically-active chemicals, including antioxidant polyphenols that can counteract the oxidative stress associated with obesity. This review presents polyphenols as natural complementary therapy, and a good nutritional strategy, for treating obesity without serious side effects.

Keywords: obesity; plant extracts; polyphenols; reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols / therapeutic use
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / pharmacology


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Lipase