Well, That’s One Way to Lose Weight – Experimental Drug May Have Worked Too Well

A drug meant to make people feel full was little too effective at first…

Researchers were on to something when they discovered your gut releases a particular hormone after you eat that makes you feel full. They figured the hormone, peptide YY, could be used to develop a weight-loss medication. There was a big problem, though: the delivery.

At first, they tried injecting the hormone directly into the bloodstream. This systemic use of the chemical was too much for human volunteers to bear. It created a feeling that went beyond way beyond feeling full or satisfied. Instead, volunteers felt overly full, nauseous and many fell to serious vomiting. While any drug that can safely help us feel less hungry sounds like a good thing, this one seemed to be working too well.

Back to the Drawing Board

The researchers went back to the drawing board. They decided that as an injection, the drug was simply too potent. Now, University of Florida scientists say they’ve found a way to administer the hormone without that dreaded heaving side effect. Their studies found success with delivering peptide YY as an oral spray. This way, the chemical makes you feel some degree of fullness without the extreme nausea.

About Peptide YY

Peptide YY is a key hormone naturally made in and released by the gastrointestinal tract. It helps make you feel like you’ve had enough to eat. Researchers have found that overweight patients have lower levels of peptide YY. Scientists first looked at increasing peptide YY levels in animals through gene therapy. This did result in some weight loss. However, gene therapy is not a simple process.

peptide YY weight loss treatment

Development of the Hunger-Stopping Drug

Scientists decided they wanted an easier way to deliver the chemical in humans. They found that injecting it directly into the bloodstream, a much easier method, successfully produced the feeling of fullness and prompted volunteers to stop eating. But soon, they did more than stop eating. They began heaving. The hormone convinced their bodies that they had overeaten and needed to vomit.

Researchers now have developed a spray form of peptide YY and have had good results in laboratory animals. The spray acts on the saliva and prompts the same sensation of fullness without making the animals feel sick to their stomachs. One worries, though. Wouldn’t this have been the process with the injections as well – the same ones that were later tried on humans?

What’s Next?

In any event, the peptide YY spray will need to be tested in humans to see if they show the same favorable results the animals demonstrated. Thankfully, this potent substance is not quite ready for that yet. With funding from the federal government, scientists may be able to develop the drug into a useful form.

Researchers theorize that if you spray the chemical on your tongue about half an hour before a meal, you will feel less hungry and therefore reduce your consumption accordingly. Even cutting your calories by just 10 percent would help you lose weight. Scientists are also considering developing a gum that could deliver the chemical.

Medical experts will be watching for the results of the human testing. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that more than 30 percent of Americans are obese, being able to curb the appetite with something as simple as a spray or gum would be good news.