An appetite-suppressing chewing gum could one day be used to tackle Britain’s obesity epidemic.
Scientists are developing a drug based on a natural gut hormone that mimics the body’s ‘feeling full’ response.
An injectable treatment similar to the insulin jabs used by diabetics could be available in five to eight years.
But the long term goal of researchers is to produce a form of the drug that can be absorbed in the mouth.
It could then be put in a chewing gum. Alternatively, the hormone might be incorporated into a nasal spray.
Early tests have shown moderate doses of the hormone, pancreatic polypeptide (PP), can reduce the amount of food eaten by healthy volunteers by 15 to 20 per cent.
The body produces PP after every meal to control eating urges. But there is evidence that some people have less of the hormone than others and becoming overweight can further reduce the levels produced. A vicious circle then results, causing appetite to increase, an inability to resist the temptation of food, and further increases in weight.
Currently, the only drugs available to tackle the obesity have serious side effects and must be very carefully administered.
There are three anti-obesity drugs on the market. Orlastat prevents the absorption of fat, causing it to be expelled from the body with sometimes unpleasant consequences. It can cause vitamin deficiencies and must be very carefully administered.
Sibutramine was originally developed as an antidepressant. It can drive up blood pressure and heart rate, and may interact with a host of other medicines.
The latest drug, rimonobant, acts by reversing the ‘munchies’ phenomenon associated with taking cannabis to suppress appetite. But it is also known to trigger nausea and depression.
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