Monthly jab to beat obesity
Injection that mimics gastric band hailed as ‘most exciting’ weight-loss treatment yet
AN INJECTION that helps people lose more than a stone in just four weeks has been developed by British scientists in a breakthrough hailed as “the most exciting” treatment yet found for tackling obesity.
Scientists at Imperial College London are still completing human trials but confirmed that patients naturally ate 30 per cent less food after being treated with a hormone injection that mimics the effect of a gastric band. It was so successful some patients came off diabetes medication.
Prof Sir Steve Bloom, the lead researcher and head of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial, said he hoped to create a therapy within five years that was as effective as bariatric surgery but administered as a painless monthly injection.
His team is due to publish its research in a medical journal shortly.
“It is going to be the most exciting agent for improving health that has yet been discovered,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “Obesity has become a tremendous burden on our society. It increases your risk of cancer. Your chances of heart disease and stroke increase with obesity. If you are arthritic, it is worse. Almost everything is worse.
“We are living longer and longer but that process has come to a halt because we are killing ourselves with obesity.”
Initially it was thought that gastric band surgery worked by reducing the amount of food held in the stomach. But patients were found to have elevated levels of satiety hormones, the chemical signals released by the gut to control digestion and hunger cravings.
Gastric band recipients also began to prefer less-fatty foods, suggesting the hormones also altered cravings.
The new therapy reproduces those hormones, mirroring the effect, without the need for surgery.
Without surgery, doctors would be able to vary the dose so that it could also be used by those who just want to control their diet, said Prof Bloom.
The Imperial trial involved 20 patients who took a cocktail of three hormones through a patch and a pump for 28 days and saw weight losses of between 4lb (2kg) and 1st 5lbs (8kg), almost as good as results from surgery.
“While wearing the pump, you feel less hungry and you stop eating earlier,” said Prof Tricia Tan, a consultant in diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic medicine at Imperial, who formulated the hormones. “The sensation is like after you have eaten a big meal and you feel really full. What is even more exciting is that we are able to normalise blood sugar levels and they can come off diabetes medications.”
James Hopkins, 38, was recommended for the trial by his GP after an eight-year battle to control his weight in which he gained 12st (76kg) to weigh 27st (170kg) following a bout of meningitis. He lost nearly a stone (6kg) in just 28 days. “It was an almost instant reaction to it without feeling anything,” he said. “The first time you go to eat or drink something, you feel full within a few bites.” He said it also made sweet food less attractive.
Prof Bloom said they believed the balance of hormones could be improved to make it as effective as bariatric surgery. “The hormones are mimicking our physiology,” added Prof Bloom. “It’s not likely therefore to do you any harm. We feel reasonably confident this will be a safe medication.”