Background: Obesity has become a worldwide health concern. Pharmacotherapies are now
being introduced because lifestyle modifications alone are insufficient for weight management. The
treatment outcomes of current approved anti-obesity agents are not satisfying due to drug-related intolerances.
And so natural therapies including herbal medicines are popular alternatives for weight reduction;
however, there are limited studies about their mechanism of actions.
Methods: Five databases (PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar, Science Direct, Proquest) were searched
to investigate the targets and safety profiles of the current and past anti-obesity drugs that have been
approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as
well as the commonly used off-label agents. The targets for weight-loss natural products and their
principle bioactive components have also been searched. Only articles in English were included.
Results: The targets for current anti-obesity single agents include pancreatic lipase, Glucagon Like
Peptide-1(GLP-1) receptor, and serotonin 2C (5-HT2C) receptor. Potential targets such as amylin, pancreatic
alpha amylase, leptin receptor, melanocortin receptor 4 receptor (MC4R), Peroxisome Proliferator-
Activated Receptors gamma (PPAR γ), endocannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor and Adenosine
Monophosphate (AMP)-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) were discussed in various studies. Natural
compounds have been found to interact with targets like pancreatic lipase, pancreatic alpha amylase,
AMPK and PPAR γ to achieve weight reduction.
Conclusion: Current pharmacotherapies and natural chemical compounds do act on same targets. Further
investigations on the interactions between herbal compounds and the above targets are essential
for the development of novel weight-loss therapies.