Obesity rates are rising globally, and this has resulted in the prevalence of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, coronary heart disease, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, and sleep disorders.
Previous analyses have suggested that herbal medicines could be a cost-effective method of managing obesity and metabolic syndrome, but because of the growing burden imposed by obesity in recent years, there is a need for new systematic reviews on the subject.
As such, researchers across several institutes and universities in Iran will conduct an RCT-focused systematic review that aims to provide a protocol to assess the safety, effectiveness and mechanisms of herbal medicines as treatment for obesity and metabolic syndrome.
The review will be led by the country's Cellular Sciences Institute, and conducted in conjunction with the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Alborz University of Medical Sciences, Endocrinology and Metabolism Population Sciences Institute, and Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinical Sciences Institute.
In a paper published in the journal Medicine, it was stated that they will assess "all relevant clinical trials that examine the effectiveness of herbal medicines for the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome, without restrictions on publication status".
They will source for these reports from four electronic databases: PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials.
The main outcome they will look for consists of improvements in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, body fat mass or percentage, and appetite.
Two authors will independently perform study selection and data extraction, and assess the relevant studies for risk of personal bias.
Potential pros and cons
However, the heterogeneity of the protocols in previous RCTs on the topic have led to inconclusive evidence on the efficacy of herbal medicines in treating obesity, and may be a limitation in the current review.
The paper concluded: "A new, updated, comprehensive, and objective systematic review for the clinical efficacy and safety of herbal medicine for the treatment of obesity would be assumed as necessary to provide the needed evidence base for the future treatment recommendations.
"This systematic review will present an in-depth summary and the latest analyses of the current evidence for the efficacy of herbal medicine in treating obesity, which will be informative in terms of patient care and health policy.
"This systematic review will aid clinicians, and can make evidence available for researchers. Patients may also enjoy potential alternative interventions."
"Efficacy, safety, and mechanisms of herbal medicines used in the treatment of obesity"
Authors: Moloud Payab, et al.