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Prescription Heart Medication is Effective in Treating Obesity

— April 29, 2021

Researchers discover digoxin is effective for treating weight-related health issues.

A research team led by Nabil Djouder, Head of the Growth Factors, Nutrients and Cancer Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) in Madrid, examined the fact that heart disease tends to be a symptom of being overweight in order to battle obesity by preventing inflammation.  It has long been understood that obesity is an inflammatory disease, in general, and testing results involving a prescription heart medication proved to be promising.  The team published their findings in Nature Metabolism.

What they discovered was that digoxin, a heart disease drug, helps with inflammation and leads to a 40% decrease in weight in obese mice without any side effects.  “Digoxin reverses obesity completely,” according to CNIO. “Treated mice became the same weight as healthy, non-obese animals.  The mice were also cured of metabolic disorders associated to obesity.”

Prescription Heart Medication is Effective in Treating Obesity
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Unsplash

Digoxin diminishes the production of a molecule called interleukin 17A, (IL-17A) which generally triggers inflammation. “When you inhibit the production of IL-17A or the signaling pathway that this molecule activates, you don’t have obesity,” Djouder explained.  In fact, IL-17A acts directly on adipose tissue to cause metabolic alterations linked with weight gain – guarding against obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

“Since no effective treatments for obesity and metabolic syndrome are available, digoxin may represent an effective therapeutic option,” the researchers noted.  This is a breakthrough in the world of weight loss.  They added, “Current options are limited and have not improved in the last 20 years, mainly due to insufficient knowledge about the pathophysiology of obesity and the mechanisms governing fat accumulation.”

The mice, who were made obese by being given a high-calorie diet, continued to eat the same amount when they were taking the heart medication.  However, their basal metabolism kicked into gear, which results in the burning of excess fat.  Weight reduction was observed within a few weeks and the testing was met with no adverse side effects.  Moreover, there was no weight gain for at least eight weeks.

“It is tempting to propose that obese patients could take digoxin for a short period until weight loss stabilizes, and then follow a healthy diet,” said Ana Teijeiro, first author of the paper. “The drug could also be indicated for obesity-related pathologies, such as hypercholesterolemia, hepatic steatosis and type 2 diabetes…Thanks to this study, we know that weight loss and systemic metabolic changes are controlled by a unique molecular mechanism, IL-17A, which acts directly on adipocytes and changes their genetic profile and responsiveness to excess nutrients.”  He added, “We still don’t know how nutrients trigger the inflammatory reaction or which cells produce interleukin 17A, and that is what we are going to study next.  Understanding the connection between nutrient excess, inflammation and obesity is essential to find novel approaches to treat weight gain.”

Overall, targeting the IL-17A axis could be an efficient anti-obesity strategy.  This focuses on diet-related weight gain and metabolic issues.  In the U.S., digoxin is only available as a prescription and can be taken under a physician’s care.


Common Heart Disease Drug Reverses Obesity By Targeting Inflammation in Mice

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Inhibition of the IL-17A axis in adipocytes suppresses diet-induced obesity and metabolic disorders in mice

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