Introduction: Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) and evidence of its therapeutic benefits on obesity is emerging. This study was conducted to assess the effects and safety of CHM on blood lipids among overweight and obese adults.
Methods: Fourteen bibliographic databases (10 English and 4 Chinese) were searched for randomised placebo-controlled weight-loss trials who administered CHM formulation for ≥ 4 weeks. Key search terms include synonyms of “overweight”, “obesity”, and “Chinese herbal medicine”. Data collection, risk of bias assessment and statistical analyses were guided by the Cochrane Handbook (v6.1).1 Continuous outcomes (total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein-(LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein-(HDL) cholesterol) were expressed as mean difference (MD) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and categorical outcomes (attrition rate and frequency of adverse events) as risk ratio (RR). All analyses were two-tailed with a statistical significance of p < 0.05.
Results: Fifteen eligible studies consisting of 1533 participants were included in this meta-analysis. CHM interventions, compared to placebo, reduced triglycerides (MD −0.21 mmol/L, 95% CI −0.41 to −0.02, I2 = 81%) and increased HDL-cholesterol (MD 0.16 mmol/L, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.27, I2 = 94%) over a median of 12 weeks. A non-significant reduction in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol were observed. Furthermore, the tendency of reduced triglycerides was identified among overweight participants with high baseline triglycerides. Attrition rates and frequency of adverse events were indifferent between the two groups (p > 0.05).
Conclusion: CHM may provide lipid modulating benefits on triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol among overweight/obese participants, with tendencies for significant triglycerides reduction observed among overweight participants with high baseline triglycerides. However, additional rigorously-conducted randomised controlled trials with larger sample sizes are required to confirm these findings.