Is a jab that makes you feel full re­ally a safe way to lose weight?

Scottish Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - by Jo­hanna Bell

WITh her trim fig­ure show­cased in an ele­gant lace dress, Caro­line Balazs is a great ad­vert for what she preaches.

The mother of two strug­gled with her weight for years — fam­ily photos show her bur­geon­ing bo­som and ex­panded waist­line. But since March this year, she has slimmed to a trim size 10.

her trans­for­ma­tion was due not to a diet but to a con­tro­ver­sial Bo­tox-type in­jec­tion called Skin­nyJab, which claims to melt away fat, con­trol blood su­gar and curb crav­ings.

The jab is still a new treat­ment and Caro­line, an aes­thetic spe­cial­ist, is one of a hand­ful of prac­ti­tion­ers pi­o­neer­ing it in the UK. She says she has treated 350 peo­ple since April, with an av­er­age weight loss of 13lb af­ter one three-week course of the drug.

Skin­nyJab comes in an au­to­matic pen — like an in­sulin pen — that pa­tients use to in­ject them­selves in the stom­ach daily. each pen costs £200 and lasts three weeks. Los­ing two stone, says Caro­line, takes six to nine weeks.

As­ton­ish­ingly, she pre­dicts the jab will elim­i­nate obe­sity within a decade.

‘What Bo­tox did to wrin­kles, Skin­nyJab will do for weight loss,’ she de­clares — quite a claim, con­sid­er­ing more than a mil­lion women a year have Bo­tox, and its market value is £3.6 bil­lion.

But could Caro­line be right? And can it re­ally be good for you to lose so much weight with an in­jec­tion?

The core in­gre­di­ent of Skin­nyJab, li­raglu­tide, was de­vel­oped in Amer­ica three years ago to help mor­bidly obese di­a­bet­ics, but was only li­censed in the UK for use in weight loss in Jan­uary this year. It is not avail­able on the NhS but a few pri­vate prac­ti­tion­ers of­fer it as a weight­loss aid, with Caro­line the first to market it as ‘Skin­nyJab’.

Li­raglu­tide mim­ics hor­mones called in­cretins that our bod­ies pro­duce af­ter we eat a meal, which make us feel full. But while lev­els of these nat­u­ral hor­mones quickly sub­side, li­raglu­tide re­mains in your sys­tem, mak­ing you feel full for longer.

The drug also re­duces the speed at which the stom­ach emp­ties af­ter eat­ing — again keep­ing you sat­is­fied longer, Caro­line says. Fi­nally, li­raglu­tide plays a role in reg­u­lat­ing blood su­gar lev­els and can help pre­vent highs and lows over the day.

It cer­tainly sounds like the weight­loss so­lu­tion so many women have dreamt of. Women like Rachael Mor­ris, a 41-year-old com­pany director from Liver­pool, who has been us­ing Skin­nyJab since April and has so far had three in­jec­tor pens, cost­ing £600. She has lost 25lb, shed­ding 9lb in the first week, and gone from a size 16-18 to a 10-12.

She says: ‘What stopped me slim­ming was time. If I didn’t fin­ish work un­til late, I just couldn’t be both­ered to cook, so con­ve­nience food was an easy op­tion.’

She says she ex­er­cised reg­u­larly but eat­ing mi­crowave meals made her 5ft 5in frame bal­loon.

Rachael, who is en­gaged, says she tried ‘ev­ery diet go­ing’ with­out suc­cess: ‘It’s harder to lose weight as you get older. I felt hor­ri­ble, con­stantly bloated and was strug­gling ev­ery day with low en­ergy.’

Skin­nyJab, she says, changed ev­ery­thing. ‘Af­ter my first in­jec­tion, my hunger sub­sided and my en­ergy in­creased. I couldn’t be­lieve I was hardly eat­ing any­thing.’

Rachael is thrilled — but some ex­perts have se­ri­ous doubts, say­ing the in­jec­tion does noth­ing to com­bat un­der­ly­ing weight-gain is­sues.

Dr Michael Bar­nish, a spe­cial­ist in mi­cronu­tri­tion, says: ‘Many are wor­ried it will pre­vent peo­ple opt­ing for good, healthy life­style choices, as it’s an eas­ier op­tion.

‘Obe­sity is linked with a num­ber of life-threat­en­ing ill­nesses, such as heart dis­ease. But if some­one re­duces their weight by a few kilo­grams fol­low­ing the Skin­nyJab, this does not nec­es­sar­ily mean their chance of con­tract­ing a dis­ease is lower.

‘If we re­duce weight with a medicine and mask un­der­ly­ing bad habits such as poor diet and no ex­er­cise, in my opin­ion it is quite likely these dis­eases will not be halted.’

Nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist Jean­nie Di Bon agrees. ‘You need to be in con­trol of your body and your own weight loss,’ she says. ‘Us­ing some­thing like Skin­nyJab in­volves hop­ing for a quick fix, which a mul­ti­tude of past prod­ucts and fads have shown us doesn’t work.’

But Caro­line dis­agrees and says she can per­son­ally tes­tify to the power of Skin­nyJab.

‘I was dumped by my long-term part­ner in Fe­bru­ary, who told me it was down to the ex­tra two stone I’d been car­ry­ing around since hit­ting my 40s,’ she says. ‘I was cry­ing for weeks.’

The 48-year-old, who lives in Manch­ester, vis­ited her GP for help with weight loss in March and learnt about li­raglu­tide, which had just been li­censed but was lit­tle known in the UK. Af­ter ob­tain­ing a pri­vate pre­scrip­tion from an­other doc­tor, she lost 24lb in six weeks, go­ing from a size 16 to a 10.

Caro­line, a for­mer in­ten­sive care nurse who moved into aes­thetic medicine af­ter the birth of her two chil­dren, is also a qual­i­fied ad­vanced clin­i­cal prac­ti­tioner, mean­ing she is able to pre­scribe many medicines. She de­cided to make the drug more widely avail­able as Skin­nyJab.

To­day, it is avail­able at her clinic in War­ring­ton, Cheshire, and is soon to be of­fered at other UK clin­ics.

Caro­line in­sists the side-ef­fects are min­i­mal, although headaches, con­sti­pa­tion and heart­burn have been re­ported. The long-term ef­fects are un­known.

‘The drug works by main­tain­ing your blood su­gar and nor­mal­is­ing its lev­els, so you can sur­vive on a low-calo­rie diet with­out feel­ing hun­gry or get­ting su­gar dips and rushes,’ Caro­line says. ‘The body doesn’t un­der­stand that it’s di­et­ing.’

Dr Bar­nish is less sure, how­ever: ‘There is a lack of re­search so far on the ef­fects of this drug on pa­tients who want to lose weight rather than treat type 2 di­a­betes. If you’re not a type 2 di­a­betic, you could run the risk of low blood su­gar.

‘hy­po­gly­caemia can cause fa­tigue, drowsi­ness, dizzi­ness and make you feel gen­er­ally un­well. If it’s se­vere enough, it could cause col­lapse or even seizure. There­fore high lev­els of blood su­gar mon­i­tor­ing should be done, which can be timein­ten­sive and re­quires reg­u­lar fin­ger pricks.’

Caro­line says she care­fully as­sesses pa­tients’ men­tal and phys­i­cal state and wouldn’t pre­scribe the drug to any­one who was un­der­weight.

She warns against us­ing any weight-loss med­i­ca­tion with­out a face-to-face con­sul­ta­tion with a rep­utable prac­ti­tioner. her pa­tients can also con­tact a sup­port ser­vice seven days a week, and their blood glu­cose lev­els are recorded be­fore they start treat­ment and af­ter each jab.

And what hap­pens when you stop tak­ing Skin­nyJab? Will the pounds pile back on?

Caro­line, who stopped tak­ing it five weeks ago and says she has not re­gained weight, claims this isn’t a con­cern. ‘Other weight-loss so­lu­tions cause the body to go into “star­va­tion” mode, so you put weight back on quickly. But with Skin­nyJab, the body is put un­der no stress.’

There is no re­search yet to back her claim. In­deed, Caro­line ad­vises a ‘re­view and main­te­nance sy­ringe ev­ery once in a while’, sug­gest­ing one or two in­jec­tors a year, cost­ing £400.

BUT this is a price Brid­get Clarke, 30, from Sal­ford, is happy to pay. She lost 27lb in six weeks af­ter two Skin­nyJab in­jec­tors tak­ing the 5ft 2in re­tail worker from 16st 12lb to 14st 13lb — size 22 to 16-18.

In the past, when she wasn’t liv­ing on high-calo­rie ready meals and take­aways, Brid­get, who is sin­gle, was a yo-yo di­eter. ‘Fi­nally, I feel hope­ful,’ she says.

And no won­der – the results of Skin­nyJab were in­stant. ‘Within hours of my first in­jec­tion I’d no de­sire to snack or overeat. It was gone,’ she says. ‘I could only man­age small por­tions and all I felt like eat­ing were healthy foods.’

Ac­cord­ing to a study by the Amer­i­can en­docrine So­ci­ety last year, li­raglu­tide ‘may make high-fat foods less de­sir­able to the brain’s re­ward cen­tres’.

In­deed, Brid­get in­sists: ‘I felt full and sat­is­fied all the time’.

But nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist Jean­nie Di Bon is still not per­suaded. ‘Food crav­ings and hunger are nat­u­rally sup­pressed when you eat the right foods,’ she says. ‘No drugs are needed to achieve this, just the pow­er­ful ma­chine that is your own body.’

Pic­ture: ©WAR­REN SMITH

Caro­line Balazs, left, and Rachael Mor­ris

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