Monthly jab to beat obe­sity

In­jec­tion that mim­ics gas­tric band hailed as ‘most ex­cit­ing’ weight-loss treat­ment yet

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Charles Hy­mas and Sarah Knap­ton sci­ence ed­i­tor

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.”

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