Effects and mechanisms of edible and medicinal plants on obesity: an updated review

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(12):2061-2077. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1769548. Epub 2020 May 28.


In recent years, obesity has become a global public health issue. It is closely associated with the occurrence of several chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Some edible and medicinal plants show anti-obesity activity, such as fruits, vegetables, spices, legumes, edible flowers, mushrooms, and medicinal plants. Numerous studies have indicated that these plants are potential candidates for the prevention and management of obesity. The major anti-obesity mechanisms of plants include suppressing appetite, reducing the absorption of lipids and carbohydrates, inhibiting adipogenesis and lipogenesis, regulating lipid metabolism, increasing energy expenditure, regulating gut microbiota, and improving obesity-related inflammation. In this review, the anti-obesity activity of edible and medicinal plants was summarized based on epidemiological, experimental, and clinical studies, with related mechanisms discussed, which provided the basis for the research and development of slimming products. Further studies should focus on the exploration of safer plants with anti-obesity activity and the identification of specific anti-obesity mechanisms.

Keywords: Anti-obesity; appetite; energy expenditure; mechanisms; plants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Obesity Agents*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Plants, Edible
  • Plants, Medicinal*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents