Scientists believe a supplement derived from a flower might be a miracle weight loss ingredient that can break down fat cells – without the side-effects of other dietary drugs, according to new research.
The highly edible red roselle plant, native to Africa, is packed full of potent compounds that researchers in Australia think have “anti-obesity” properties and could lead to weight loss, according to the study published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology.
Lab tests conducted by a team from RMIT University suggested that it hinders the body from forming new fat cells. The scientists treated human stem cells with phenolic extracts and hydroxycitric acid before they turned into fat cells. Cells exposed to hydroxycitric acid did not display any change in the fat content of adipocytes. On the other hand, cells treated with phenolic extracts had 95 percent less fat than other cells.
Australian scientists believe antioxidants in the plant stop the body from absorbing fat, leading it to being passed as waste instead of stored.
Professor Ben Adhikari, one of the RMIT University in Melbourne researchers behind the study, said in a media release that the fat-fighting compounds in roselle could be made into a supplement that “interferes with the formation of fat cells.”
Avoids side effects of other weight-loss treatments
Current obesity treatments focus on lifestyle changes and medication. While common medications are effective, they increase the risk of developing high blood pressure as well as kidney and liver damage.
The side effects of other weight-loss treatments, such as wonder jab Wegovy, which was approved in the UK this week, and Ozempic – injections that typically treat diabetes but are being used for weight loss – can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
“Because these polyphenolic compounds are plant-derived and can be consumed, there should be fewer or no side effects,” says lead study author Manisa Singh, a PhD candidate at RMIT University. The team plans to use the phenolic extracts from roselle in health food products. Food scientists could also turn the extracts into little beads which become part of refreshing beverages.
“Phenolic extracts oxidize easily, so not only does encapsulation extend its shelf life, but it lets us control how they are released and absorbed by the body,” Adhikari says. “If we don’t encapsulate the extract, it could break down in the stomach before we can reap its benefits.”
But other researchers are not as convinced.
Dr. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and researcher from Aston Medical School in Birmingham, said the research is at a “very early stage.”
He told the MailOnline: “[It] has not been shown to affect body weight or fat in animals, let alone humans.”
Fat accumulates in the body when a person consumes more energy – in the form of calories –than they expend.
Excess calories are stored as fat within specialized fat cells, called adipocytes.
Adipocytes are vital for regulating the body’s energy and sugar levels.
However, eating too much over time will cause adipocytes to expand or new ones to form, leading to weight gain and obesity.
The study examined how components in roselle, also known as Hibiscus Sabdariffa, could interrupt this process.