In a new study, researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, detail the creation of a novel diet pill that tricks the body into losing weight, potentially making it more effective than existing diet pills and likely to cause fewer side effects, reports Medical News Today. Ronald Evans, director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at Salk, says the new diet pill – called fexaramine – acts like an "imaginary meal."
"It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite," he explains. When tested in obese mice, fexaramine was found to trigger fat loss, prevent weight gain, control blood sugar and reduce cholesterol and inflammation.
Fexaramine targets the body's farensoid X receptor (FXR) – a protein that is involved in food digestion, fat and sugar storage and the release of bile acids from the liver.
The researchers explain that when we start eating a meal, FXR is activated in preparation for food intake. Past studies from Evans and team have indicated that as well as triggering the release of bile acids to aid digestion, FXR alters blood sugar levels and switches on a fat-burning process.
Some existing diet pills activate an array of pathways controlled by FXR – including the intestines, liver, kidneys and adrenal glands.
Fexaramine, however, only activates the FXR pathway linked to the intestines. When taken orally, the diet pill is only absorbed in the gut and does not enter the bloodstream, meaning it is unlikely to cause the side effects typically associated with existing diet pills – such as high blood pressure, dizziness, insomnia and even heart disease.
What is more, the fact that fexaramine only acts in the intestines means it is a more effective weight loss aid, according to the researchers, as the drug is not transported throughout the entire body.
To test the effectiveness of fexaramine, Evans and colleagues gave obese mice a daily dose of the drug for 5 weeks and compared the outcomes with mice that remained untreated.
The mice given fexaramine stopped gaining weight and saw a reduction in body fat, blood sugar and cholesterol. What is more, the body temperature of the treated mice increased, indicating a heightened metabolism, and some of the rodent's white fat deposits were converted into healthier, energy-burning fats.
The team says they also saw a change in the assortment of bacteria in the gut, but they note that they are unclear on what this indicates at present.
Evans says fexaramine is more effective than diet pills that trigger numerous FXR pathways because it activates the mechanisms by which the body naturally responds to a meal.
[link url="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287614.php"]Full Medical News Today report[/link]
[link url="http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.3760.html"]Nature Medicine abstract[/link]