A natural substance found in birch bark may boost your metabolic health, recent research from the journal Cell Metabolism shows. In tests on mice, scientists discovered that a compound called betulin may help cut cholesterol levels, prevent diet-induced obesity, protect against insulin resistance, and reduce risk of atherosclerosis.
For six weeks, researchers fed mice a high-fat diet and treated them with betulin, lovastatin (a drug used to lower cholesterol levels), or a placebo. Compared to placebo, both betulin and lovastatin led to less weight gain. Betulin also appeared to lower fat levels in the animals’ blood, liver, and fat tissue, as well as increase their sensitivity to insulin and lessen their chances of developing plaques associated with atherosclerosis.
Available in supplement form, birch bark is often touted as a natural pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and virus-fighter. To date, few studies have tested its effects on human health.
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