Steroid saponins from fenugreek seeds: extraction, purification, and pharmacological investigation on feeding behavior and plasma cholesterol

Steroids. 1995 Oct;60(10):674-80. doi: 10.1016/0039-128x(95)00090-d.


The seeds of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum L.) are traditionally assumed to have restorative properties. We have recently shown that a fenugreek seed extract containing steroid saponins increased food consumption and induced hypocholesterolemia in rats. This study aims to investigate the specific role of purified steroid saponins in these properties. For this purpose, an original technique for extraction and purification of steroid saponins was carried out. Thereafter, the effects of these steroid saponins were investigated on feeding behavior and metabolic endocrine changes in normal and diabetic rats. All the steroid saponins (furostanol type) were extracted from the seeds and separated from all other constituents of the entire extract by using several purification procedures to give an extract containing at least 90% of steroid saponins. Pharmcological experiments were performed in vivo in normal and streptozotocin diabetic rats: steroid saponins were administered chronically mixed with food (12.5 mg/day per 300 g body weight). Our data show that the treatment with steroid saponins significantly increased food intake and the motivation to eat in normal rats, while modifying the circadian rhythm of feeding behavior; it also stabilized the food consumption in diabetic rats, which resulted in a progressive weight gain in these animals, in contrast to untreated diabetic controls. Both in normal and diabetic rats, steroid saponins decreased total plasma cholesterol without any change in triglycerides. In conclusion, the present work reports a clear methodology to obtain all the steroid saponins and demonstrates that these saponins enhance food consumption and motivation to eat, and reduce plasma cholesterol levels in rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Saponins / isolation & purification*
  • Saponins / pharmacology
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Steroids / isolation & purification*
  • Steroids / pharmacology


  • Saponins
  • Steroids
  • Cholesterol