What if you could trick your body into thinking you’d eaten? Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, may have stumbled upon this holy grail of diet pills.
The pill, called fexaramine, led to fat loss and weight loss, improved blood sugar and cholesterol, and lowered inflammation in mice. The rodents’ body temperature rose, indicating a higher metabolism, and some of their white fat deposits turned into healthier, energy-burning brown fat cells.
“The mice lost more than 10% of their body weight in 5 weeks,” says lead researcher Ronald Evans, PhD, director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute.
The secret to the pill’s success lies in its ability to trip sensors in the body that signal fullness after a meal. “The very first thing that happens when you eat is the release of a substance called bile acid in your intestine that helps to digest food,” Evans explains. The bile acid then kicks off a series of events in the body.
“It’s like a relay race with a baton getting passedâ€”bile activates the liver, blood flow increases, and fat tissue burns some calories to make room for new ones, except there are no new calories,” he says. Without the expected payload, fat cells give up their fuel and get smaller.
Fexaramine respects natureâ€”it doesn’t even try to stop you from scarfing cheeseburgers. “Eating is genetically programmed for survival,” Evans says. “You can develop drugs to suppress appetite, but you’re trying to block an evolutionary instinct, which causes all sorts of counter responses in the body to keep you eating.” Instead, fexaramine stimulates a natural functionâ€”the digestion process, which is a job the body is happy to perform.
Fexaramine may also prove to be safer than many diet drugs because it never hits the blood stream; it works only on the intestine, where digestion begins. He’s hopeful that with the pill’s high safety profile and impressive resultsâ€”doubling the FDA’s requirement that a weight loss drug cause 5% body weight over a yearâ€”fexaramine it will jump the hurdles of development and approval quickly, possibly within two years.
“Because people manage their weight a little differently than mice, we can’t yet say that the benefit will translate,” Evans says. “But the sensor is the same and the system is the same, so we have a lot of enthusiasm.”-Prevention.com