An appetite-suppressing injection or even chewing gum could one day be used to tackle obesity.
British scientists have been given funding to develop a treatment to help clinically obese patients to “feel full” and to eat less.
The injection would contain a naturally occurring hormone that curbs appetite and is often lacking in overweight people. Within a decade the injection could provide the first effective treatment for obesity, which contributes to about 1,300 deaths a week in Britain, the scientists say.
The research, announced Monday, is among the first projects to benefit from a $178.8 million plan by the Wellcome Trust to fund new medicines. It promises to be safer and more effective than present treatments, which culminate in drastic “stomach-stapling” operations.
The hormone, pancreatic polypeptide (PP), is normally released from the small intestine as food is consumed, signaling to the brain that the body has had enough. In preliminary trials, an intravenous infusion that boosted levels of the hormone led to a big reduction in appetite among healthy volunteers.
Thirty-five healthy volunteers who were given the PP treatment consumed fewer calories, with the effect lasting for about 24 hours. Steve Bloom, who led the research at Imperial College and Hammersmith Hospital, London, said: “Even a 1 percent reduction in appetite could lead to significant weight loss over a year.”
Bloom has received a grant of $4.5 million to develop the drug as a longer-lasting weekly injection. Other ways to administer the hormone could include a pump or even chewing gum, he said.
Obesity is thought to double the risk of almost all kinds of cancer and also heart-related illness such as strokes and heart disease, and diabetes.