Obesity is a serious problem. According to the 2011 National Health and Examination Survey, 33.8% of adults and 17% of children and adolescents are dangerously overweight. This leaves them vulnerable to heart disease, muscle and bone disorders and other weight-related problems. Just why are more and more Americans falling into dangerous habits that lead to obesity?
Part of the reason is weight loss is difficult. An overabundance of information coupled the empty promises with “get-thin-quick” scams, as well as dangerous dieting fads, are one part of the problem. But another factor plays an important role in our dietary habits. This is the role of hormones that tell us when we’re hungry and when we’re full.
Why People Overeat
Most people don’t make a conscious decision to gain weight and eat unhealthily. Usually circumstances lead to making poor choices for meals. No one can deny that fast food is cheap and convenient. In fact, it often tastes better than healthier choices! However, the bigger problem is eating too much. Restaurants serve large portions designed to accommodate their hungriest customer, and we often feel obligated to clear our plate. The result? We ate far more calories than needed.
Another problem is the fact that there is some lag between eating and our brain getting the message that says, “The stomach is now full.” A new study has zeroed in on the hormone that is responsible for delivering this message. They have also made some startling discoveries related to what the lack of this hormone can make us do.
The Full Feeling Hormone
Just what makes us feel full after a meal? A team of scientists at Syracuse University led by chemist Robert Doyle set out to find an answer to this question. Doyle, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, collaborated with researchers at Murdoch University in Australia to identify a hormone that can actually suppress our appetite.
The human PYY hormone is the chemical that regulates our energy and appetite. When you eat or exercise, some PYY is released into your bloodstream. The amount of PYY tells your body how many calories it needs to consume to feel full. Similar studies had already proven that those who are overweight have less PYY in their bloodstream. The study also showed that intravenous injections of PYY could increase the hormone levels in both obese and non-obese study participants.
However, most of us probably aren’t ready to get a shot in the arm after each meal in order to lose some weight! Oral intake of PYY does not do the trick. The hormone is absorbed and destroyed in the stomach before it ever is taken back into the bloodstream. This is where Doyle’s research takes things to the next level.
The Stick of Gum
Years ago, Doyle invented a way to use vitamin B12 to sneak insulin past the stomach and into the bloodstream. The applications of this are obvious for those with diabetes and other issues. The same research can work the same way to deliver PYY into the bloodstream. The first phase of research shows that it’s definitely possible to accomplish this with a stick of gum or a tablet that can deliver PYY.
Similar things have already been done with nicotine-laced gum that helps users quit smoking. The PYY-infused gum represents a potential way to lose weight that does not involve short-circuiting the body’s natural systems, but instead working with it. The supplement could even be balanced to kick in several hours later making the user less hungry when their next meal arrives.
Just when will this amazing gum hit the shelves? That remains to be seen. It’s very easy to see how such a product could go a long way to helping overweight individuals improve their health without taking drastic or dangerous measures.