The Anti-Obesity Berry with Five Flavors: Omija

A woody vine that is indigenous to China and the far eastern areas of Russia bears clusters of berries that look a lot like red currents. The scientific name for this plant is Schisandra chinensis, with a common name being Magnolia vine. The berries from the plant possess all five basic flavors that human taste buds can detect: sweet, salty, sour, pungent (spicy) and bitter. This fruit has been used as a staple of Chinese herbal medicine and is referred to as Wu Wei Zi (five flavored berry). Another common name for the berry of the Magnolia vine is omija.

Consumption of omija fruit has been reported to exert anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects which contribute to the healthy benefits of eating this berry. A new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry demonstrates that ethanol extracts from the omija berry (which contain the phenolic compounds of the fruit) improve metabolic functions in obese laboratory animals suggestive of important uses for the fruit in the control of the negative consequences of obesity in humans:

Omija fruit ethanol extract improves adiposity and related mtetabolic disturbances in mice fed a high-fat diet.

One of the potentially most beneficial effects of omija fruit extracts is its ability to increase the density of brown adipose tissue (brown fat) while decreasing white adipose tissue (white fat). Brown fat is so-called because it is loaded with mitochondria, the energy (ATP) producing organelles of cells. In the most simple description, the more mitochondria the more fat cells can burn up fat. White fat is where we store all that fat our body makes from eating too much carbohydrate (sugar), protein, and fat, more simply too many calories.

Other beneficial effects of omija extracts that were found in this study were improvements in liver function by reduction in fat infiltration in the organ (called steatosis). The extracts decreased the level of expression of pro-inflammatory genes in the liver which contributed to improved liver function and enhanced liver fat oxidation and the excretion of lipid in the feces.

With respect to the primary negative consequences of excess fat accumulation in the overweight and obese individuals, that being type 2 diabetes, the consumption of omija fruit can result in improvement in the symptoms of diabetes. These improvements include enhanced glucose tolerance, enhanced insulin function, and the resultant reduction in blood glucose levels. These enhancements are attributed to the effects of omija fruit on decreasing the expression of liver genes involved in gluconeogenesis (synthesis of glucose). The primary molecular mechanism by which the omija fruit extracts improved liver function, and as a result reduced the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes, was through the activation of the master lipid and carbohydrate metabolic gene called PGC-1alpha:

The TAKE HOME from this study is that the five-flavored fruit, omija, may just be the nutritional addition one should consider in the quest for a healthy life extending diet.


Popular Posts