Experts claim that a nutritional supplement derived from the flower can be a “hero” for weight loss.
The bright red hibiscus, native to Africa, contains powerful compounds that researchers say have “anti-obesity” properties.
Laboratory tests have shown that it prevents the formation of new fat cells in the body.
Australian scientists believe that the antioxidants present in the plant prevent the body from absorbing fat, resulting in it being passed as waste instead of being stored.
Professor Ben Adhikari, one of the RMIT University Melbourne researchers who conducted the study, said that the fat-burning compounds in hibiscus could be turned into a supplement that “inhibits the formation of fat cells.”
This will avoid the side effects of other weight loss treatments, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea caused by Wegovy, which was approved in the UK this week.
But other researchers are not convinced of the above.
Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and researcher at Aston Medical College in Birmingham, said the study is still at a “very early stage”.
“It has not yet been proven to affect body weight or fat in animals, let alone humans,” he told MailOnline. Fat accumulates when a person consumes more energy (in the form of calories) than they expend.
The extra calories are stored as fat inside specialized fat cells called adipocytes and are needed to regulate energy and sugar levels in the body.
However, eating too much food over time will cause adipocytes to increase or create new ones, leading to weight gain and obesity.
The study looked at how components of hibiscus, also known as Hibiscus Sabdariffa, can interrupt this process.
Previous research has shown that compounds in the plant may inhibit fat accumulation and obesity.
For the experiment, the researchers lyophilized flowers to extract antioxidant compounds (phenolic extracts) and an organic acid (hydroxycitric acid).
They then treated the human stem cells with either phenolic extracts, hydroxycitric acid, or any of the compounds before artificially converting the cells into fat.
Cells treated with hydroxycitric acid showed no change in lipid content.
But those exposed to extracts of phenols — a type of polyphenol — had 95 percent less body fat.
The researchers said their findings may be related to the polyphenols found in hibiscus, which inhibit a digestive enzyme called lipase.
This enzyme helps break down fats into small pieces that the body absorbs through the intestines. Excess fat is converted into fat cells.
The researchers said that by inhibiting the lipase enzyme, fat cannot be absorbed, so it passes through the colon as waste.
The team said the process is similar to how some anti-obesity drugs work.
Prof Adhikari said the results could influence the treatment of obesity, which currently includes advice on diet and exercise, medication or surgery.
He said: “Hibiscus phenolic extracts can help produce a healthy food product that effectively inhibits the formation of fat cells and also overcomes the severe side effects of some drugs.”
Dr. Mellor noted that many foods already contain phenolic compounds and organic acids, and these compounds are poorly absorbed by our bodies.
“Therefore, what works in a test tube may not work in a person as a whole,” he said.
He explained: “We also need to be careful when saying that polyphenols can help manage conditions like obesity without the side effects of drugs, since some drugs are very similar to these plant compounds and have side effects. naturally, it is not automatically healthy or has a lower risk of side effects than drugs.”
He added: “It will be interesting to see how these studies develop, but it’s important to remember that they are in the early stages in the lab and more work is needed to see if this is a safe and effective treatment in humans.”
The study was published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology.
Source: Daily Mail