Science Takes First Steps Toward a Safe, Effective Weight Loss Pill

Science Takes First Steps Toward a Safe, Effective Weight Loss PillIf you’re suffering from obesity, you already know that your treatment options right now are pretty limited. Exercise alone isn’t an efficient way to lose weight, and while changing your diet can help you shed the pounds, research suggests that the weight you lose dieting will come back later, and then some. Eating healthy foods in moderation and exercising regularly can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, but it takes a lot of willpower and self-discipline. That’s why so many people struggle with their weight.

For those who’ve tried everything and still can’t lose weight, there’s bariatric surgery. There are multiple kinds of weight loss surgery, but almost all of them involve removing part of the stomach and rerouting parts of the intestines. These are major procedures with lots of risks and complications, and they can seriously hinder the body’s ability to absorb adequate nutrition from food. Patients who receive these surgeries need lifetime follow-up care, and they still need to follow a strict diet and exercise program. As if that weren’t bad enough, results can vary; patients may not lose all or any of their extra weight.

But there may soon come a day when Americans struggling with obesity can fill a prescription for a safe, effective weight loss drug on Researchers at two different universities, including Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Indiana University, are developing two different weight loss drugs that they say could turn the tide of the obesity epidemic. These drugs could someday replace bariatric surgery, even for people who aren’t large enough to qualify for the procedure.

Harvard Researchers Turn White Fat into Brown

You may have heard of brown fat — it’s a type of fat that stimulates your metabolism, encouraging your body to burn excess white fat cells for energy instead of saving them for later. Babies, children, and young people have the most brown fat — it’s what keeps newborns warm after they leave the womb, and it’s part of why teenagers can eat so much without gaining weight. Your body’s brown fat deposits decrease as you age — that’s why you can’t eat the same way at 30 as you did at 15.

Researchers at Harvard University’s Harvard Stem Cell Institute have found a way to turn white fat cells — the “bad” fat cells that accumulate on your hips and belly — into energy-burning, metabolism-boosting brown fat cells. The secret lies in targeting two molecules that play a role in converting the stem cells that would normally produce white fat into cells that produce brown fat instead. These new brown fat cells would boost metabolism, burn off excess white fat cells, lower triglyceride levels, and reduce insulin resistance, even reversing Type 2 diabetes in some patients. The researchers are currently looking for a pharmaceutical company to help them continue with the research.

New Weight Loss Drug Causes Rapid Weight Loss in Mice

New Weight Loss Drug Causes Rapid Weight Loss in MiceIn the Midwest, researchers at Indiana University are taking a different tack — they’ve created a compound that combines three digestive hormones into one. These synthetic hormones target the receptors that govern digestion and metabolism, in an attempt to target multiple causes of weight gain at once. The researchers believe that this new drug solves the problem that has crippled previous weight loss drugs, namely, that addressing just one of the causes of weight gain disrupts metabolic processes or causes other dangerous side effects.

When administered to mice, the prototype drug caused them to lose 15 percent of their total body weight within 20 days — at higher doses, it caused a weight loss of 27 percent within the same time period. The drug caused the mice to eat less, lowered their blood sugar, and improved their insulin resistance. Fatty liver symptoms improved and the mice demonstrated muscle tissue growth. Though this drug has been successful enough that initial human trials are planned, the researchers need to find proof not only that the drug can bring about safe weight loss in humans, but also that it is safe for long-term use, since human patients would need to be able to take this drug for an extended period.

For the millions of Americans who struggle with their weight, a solution may soon be on the way. Scientists at Harvard and Indiana Universities are working on new drugs that may be able to bring about significant weight loss, without the dangerous side effects of earlier weight loss drugs. These drugs are expected to replicate the results of bariatric surgery, researchers believe, without requiring patients to endure a risky major surgery that can have serious complications. Though lots of work still needs to be done to bring these drugs to the market, the day when you can take a pill to treat obesity may arrive sooner than you think.