Role of Phytomolecules in the Treatment of Obesity: Targets, Mechanisms and Limitations

Curr Top Med Chem. 2021;21(10):863-877. doi: 10.2174/1568026621666210305101804.


Obesity has become a worldwide health problem. It triggers additional co-morbidities like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, depression, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal problems and many more. Excess accumulation of fat in obesity could be caused by many factors like sedentary lifestyle, consumption of high-fat diet, genetic predisposition, etc. Imbalanced energy metabolism i.e., greater energy consumption than utilisation, invariably underlies obesity. Considering the high prevalence and continuous, uncontrolled increase of this major public health issue, there is an urgent need to find appropriate therapeutic agents with minimal or no side effects. The high prevalence of obesity in recent years has led to a surge in the number of drugs available in the market that claim to control obesity. Although there is a long list of medicines and management strategies that are available, selecting the right therapeutic intervention and feasible management of obesity is a challenge. Several phytochemicals like hydroxycitric acid, flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins, phytohaemagglutinin, thymoquinone and epigallocatechin gallate have been shown to possess promising anti-obesity properties. However, studies providing information on how various phytochemicals exert their anti-obesity effects are inadequate. This calls for more experimentation in this less explored area of research. Additionally, the complication of obesity arises when it is a result of multiple factors and associated with a number of co-morbidities. In order to handle such complexities, combinatorial therapeutic interventions become effective. In this review, we have described the medicinal chemistry of different highly effective phytochemicals which can be used in the effective treatment and management of obesity.

Keywords: Adipocytokine; Flavonoid.; Green tea; Hibiscus; Inflammatory; Lipid; Polyphenol.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / chemistry
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Benzoquinones / chemistry
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives
  • Catechin / chemistry
  • Citrates / chemistry
  • Drug Discovery
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry*
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Phytohemagglutinins / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tannins / chemistry


  • Adipokines
  • Anthocyanins
  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Benzoquinones
  • Citrates
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Flavonoids
  • Lipids
  • Phytochemicals
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Plant Extracts
  • Tannins
  • Catechin
  • hydroxycitric acid
  • epigallocatechin gallate
  • thymoquinone