Chinese herbs nephropathy-associated slimming regimen induces tumours in the forestomach but no interstitial nephropathy in rats

Arch Toxicol. 1998 Nov;72(11):738-43. doi: 10.1007/s002040050568.


Chinese herbs nephropathy (CHN), a rapidly progressive interstitial fibrosis of the kidney, has been described in approximately 100 young Belgian women who had followed a slimming regimen containing some Chinese herbs. In 4 patients multifocal transitional cell carcinomas (TCC) were observed. Aristolochic acid (AA), suspected as the causal factor of CHN, is a well known carcinogen but its ability to induce fibrosis has never been demonstrated. The objective of this study was to evaluate the latter using doses of AA, durations of intoxication and delays of sacrifice known to yield tumours in rats. We also tested the hypothesis that a possible fibrogenic role of AA was enhanced by the other components of the slimming regimen. Male and female rats were treated orally with 10 mg isolated AA/kg per day for 5 days/week, or with approximately 0.15 mg AA/ kg per day 5 days/week contained in the herbal powder together with the other components prescribed in the slimming pills for 3 months. The animals were killed respectively 3 and 11 months later. At sacrifice, animals in both groups had developed the expected tumours but not fibrosis of the renal interstitium. Whether the fibrotic response observed in man is due to species and/or strain related differences in the response to AA or to other factors, remains to be determined. Interestingly, despite the addition of fenfluramine and diethylpropion, two drugs incriminated in the development of valvular heart disease, no cardiac abnormalities were observed.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / toxicity*
  • Aristolochic Acids*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry
  • Female
  • Fibrin / drug effects*
  • Fibrin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nephritis, Interstitial / chemically induced*
  • Phenanthrenes / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stomach Neoplasms / chemically induced*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Aristolochic Acids
  • Carcinogens
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Phenanthrenes
  • Fibrin
  • aristolochic acid I