The high incidence of obesity and the lack of safe pharmaceutical agents have fuelled an
increase in researches related to anti-obesity drugs. Although a number of pharmacological
approaches have been investigated in recent years, few safe and therapeutically effective products
have been developed. Phytochemicals are components of plants that convey healthful properties
beyond their use as macronutrients or micronutrients. These compounds have biological properties
such as antioxidant, modulation of detoxification enzymes, stimulation of the immune system,
reduction of platelet aggregation, and modulation of hormone metabolism. Furthermore, the latest
discoveries and studies on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of such phytochemicals suggest
that they are potential agents in the treatment of obesity and associated diseases, and may be
incorporated in food ingredients, dietary supplements, or drug components. The main focus of this
chapter is to review the available information on various aspects of phytochemicals, with special
reference to their effectiveness in reducing obesity and obesity-related diseases. The bioactives that
have been derived from plants, including flavonoids, terpenoids, phenolic acids, and other
categories of phytochemicals based on their structure, have shown interesting effects on adipose
tissue such as the induction of apoptosis, the inhibition of adipocyte differentiation and lipid
accumulation, and the induction of lipolysis. Besides the ample evidence of the anti-obesity effects
of these phytochemicals in literature, the characterization of their properties and the accumulation
of preclinical data could raise the possibility of a new application of these interesting
phytochemicals as novel drug candidates or dietary supplements.
Phytochemical, obesity, metabolic diseases, mechanism, drug candidate.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Yonsei University, 262 Seongsanno, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, Republic of Korea.