Research scientists at University College London have announced that they believe that within five years there could be a cure for obesity. Scientists are currently developing a new range of drugs to control hormone levels, which will help to reduce hunger.
The research team studied gastric band surgery, as they theorised that there was a biochemical process at play in addition to making the stomach cavity smaller. Studies showed the gastric band surgery changed levels of the hormone ghrelin*, which controls hunger, as well as affecting other hormones which control glucose regulation. They are now hoping to develop of drug which can recreate these same hormonal changes that occur in patients that have had gastric band surgery, thus eliminated the need for the surgery itself.
“Body weight is controlled by hormones in our gut, which affect how hungry we feel and are also linked to the brain’s pleasure centre. Weight control surgery affects these hormone levels, so we are now hoping to recreate those hormonal changes in treatments. Understanding how these hormones work is really the holy grail.” Dr Rachel Batterham, MRC / University College London.
Dr. Atkins studied hormone levels in patients on high protein diets, and believed that hormones played an important role in weight regulation. He was also always quick to point out that women taking the contraceptive pill often found it harder to lose weight, due to the hormonal affect of the medicine.
“We are hopeful a treatment could replace surgery within five years but surgery needs to be made more widely available until then. Diet and lifestyle advice just does not work, as people regain the weight they lose. The only treatment for morbid obesity is surgery, and we need to investigate whether more of it should be done. Our society looks down on people who have obesity surgery, however it is the only effective treatment we have.” Dr. Carel Le Roux, Imperial College London
The cost of obesity is rising steadily in the UK. Currently obesity costs the UK economy and the NHS about £4.2 billion each year, and it is predicted to rise to £8.4 billion by 2050. Ultimately better education and improvements in school based exercise programs will help to turn the rising tide of obesity, but at least there one day will be a medical solution that does not involve invasive surgery.