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'Breakthrough' drug fools stomach into feeling full
A potential new drug that suppresses the appetite has been hailed by researchers as a breakthrough in treating obesity.

Scientists announced yesterday that they have successfully tested a hormone-based treatment that tricks the stomach into feeling full and prevents over-eating.

The study, carried out by Imperial College, London and published today in the journal Diabetes, involved patients being given injections of a naturally occurring digestive hormone found in the small intestine.

The injections boost the body's existing levels of oxyntomodulin, which is normally released from the stomach as food is consumed, signalling to the brain that the body's need for food has been satisfied.

After identifying it as the hormone that regulates appetite, the researchers, led by Prof Steve Bloom, discovered that injections of the drug could enable dieters to reduce their body weight by more than 5 lb every month.

Existing anti-obesity drugs take off a maximum of between 6 lb and 11 lb with the majority of patients regaining the weight over time. Until now the only long-term solution to reduce the size of the stomach has been major surgery, which can reduce weight by 50 per cent.

Prof Bloom, a senior lecturer at Imperial College and Hammersmith Hospital, said: "Not only is oxyntomodulin naturally occurring, so has virtually no side effects, it could be ideal for general use as it can be self-administered. We still need to conduct larger clinical trials to test its effectiveness over longer periods."

During the four-week trial, which involved 26 volunteers, patients were injected three times daily. Half of the group were given injections containing oxyntomodulin and the other half saline.

At the end of the trial the patients who received the oxyntomodulin lost just over 5 lb compared with the 1 lb lost by those given the placebo.

"Obesity is fast becoming one of society's biggest problems and we desperately need solutions," said Prof Bloom.

In Britain, more than half of adults are considered overweight or obese, which costs the nation up to £3.7 billion a year in treatment and days lost through sickness.

"Obesity is well-known as a major risk factor in all sorts of conditions, including coronary heart disease, cancer, and the development of late onset diabetes," he added.

Prof Bloom has established a company, called Thiakis, to commercialise the discoveries and conduct more trials.

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