Epilepsy Drug Improves Health in Animal Model of Obesity

Liver cells of obese mice treated with valproic acid (right) and untreated obese mice (left).
Liver cells (magenta) of obese mice treated with valproic acid (right) had much less fat accumulation (white) than those of untreated obese mice (left). Credit: Lindsay B. Avery and Namandjé N. Bumpus, Johns Hopkins University. View larger image

With more than 90 million Americans affected by obesity, developing medications to help combat weight gain and its associated diseases has become a priority. In a study using obese mice, a team led by Namandjé Bumpus of Johns Hopkins University recently showed that a commonly prescribed epilepsy drug, valproic acid, reduced fat accumulation in the liver and lowered elevated blood sugar levels like those associated with type 2 diabetes. Body weight also stabilized in mice given the drug, whereas untreated mice continued to gain weight. Additional experiments in mouse and human liver cells suggested that the byproducts of valproic acid produced as the body breaks down the drug, rather than valproic acid itself, were responsible for the observed effects. These byproducts achieved the same effects in cells at one-fortieth the concentration of valproic acid, making them promising candidates for further drug development.

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2 comments on “Epilepsy Drug Improves Health in Animal Model of Obesity

  1. This finding is quite interesting to me since one of the big side effects of valproic acid is weight gain. My patients that had been prescribed this medication either for seizures or for Bipolar Disorder had massive weight gain after starting it and rarely lost a substantial amount of weight after being changed to another medication.

  2. I appreciate the finding, but let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

    The amount of research funding to develop another obesity medication is to say the least misspent when the treatment of obesity has a proven (by clinical data) “low tech” solution: adopt a low fat, unprocessed, plant-based diet. It works in all patients, is vastly less expensive, is immediately available, is eminently palatable, and, cures about 95% of the top primary care presentations in addition. Is anyone listening?

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