Birch Bark Ingredient Betulin Can Treat Obesity – Says Research

Among several birch tress found in the North America, birch bark has always remained of special interest owing to its ingredient betulin’s chemical and medical benefits. Researchers from the Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences have found that this active ingredient has several metabolic benefits for treating the complications of Obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The results of their findings appear in the January 2011 issue of the Journal Cell Metabolism of Cell Press publication.

Cells in our body follow the chemical instructions genes to know their functions. The genes are made up of molecules called DNA. Another type of molecules RNA reads the genes and produces chemicals called proteins to carry out the instructed functions of the cells. This process is called gene expression.

What Research Learnt About the Benefits of Birch Bark?

  • Sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs) are involved in the gene expression of fatty acids, cholesterols and triglycerides productions in the body.
  • The research study found that the ingredient betulin works by targeting the SREBP proteins.
  • It was observed in the cells of experimental mice that the ingredient lowered the activity of genes which were switched on by this protein. It resulted in lower levels of fat in these cells.
  • To further test the effectiveness of the ingredients, the researchers fed the mice with high fat diet, followed betulin and cholesterol lowering drug lovastatin.
  • Some mice were left untreated for comparison of the results of the study which lasted for 6 weeks.
  • By the end of the study, both the treatments caused weight loss on consumption of high fat diets but with different working mechanisms.
  • While betulin worked by causing the mice burn excess calories, the drug brought down the amount of fat consumed from the diet.
  • Its other benefits were reduction of lipid levels in fat tissues, liver and blood to a greater extent than lovastatin drug, fall in the risk of plaque formation in the pathways of the heart and rise in insulin sensitivity.


The birch bark ingredient betulin is available easily and has been found to possess very low levels of toxicity. However, further clinical studies are required to increase the potency of this naturally available compound.

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