Hormone Injection Could Help Obese Patients Drop Weight Without Ill Side Effects

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Researchers at Imperial College London have devised an innovative way to aid obese patients in the weight loss process using an injection and a concoction of hormones. The result of a small trial has been published in Diabetes Care

An estimated one in four Brits and two in five Americans are currently considered to be obese. Treatment options include gastric bypass surgery, which has proven to be extremely effective at keeping the weight off and improving blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Unfortunately, the procedure can also come with a host of unpleasant side effects that includes vomiting, abdominal pain, chronic nausea, and debilitatingly low blood sugar levels. 

The hormone injection has been shown to boost weight loss by an average of 4.4 kilograms (9.7 pounds) and reduce blood sugar levels withoutany of these side effects, raising hope that a non-invasive procedure like this could provide a handy alternative to gastric bypass in the not-too-distant future.

Sixty-nine diabetic and prediabetic patients were recruited for the trial, 15 of whom were given the hormone mix (glucagon-like peptide 1, oxyntomodulin, and peptide YY – GOP), 11 of whom were given a saline infusion as a placebo, 21 of whom had undergone bariatric surgery, and 22 of whom had followed a calorie-restricted diet. Those in the first group underwent GOP treatment for four weeks using a pump that slowly injects the fluid under the skin for 12 hours, starting in the morning an hour before breakfast and finishing after the final meal of the day.

All involved in the trial used a glucose monitoring device to measure glucose levels post-treatment, and those given the hormone mix or placebo also received dietary advice from a qualified dietician.

Results show that patients given GOP dropped an average of 4.4 kilograms (9.7 pounds) by the end of the trial and saw significant improvements in blood sugar levels – for some, sugar concentrations returned to near-normal levels. In comparison, those given the placebo lost an average of 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds). 

In both instances, it was significantly less than those who had received bariatric surgery or stuck to a calorie-restricted diet, who lost 10.3 kilograms (22.7 pounds) and 8.3 kilograms (18.3 pounds) respectively. However, those receiving the GOP treatment experienced no side effects, which could make it preferential in some cases. 

“Although the weight loss was smaller, using the GOP infusion would be preferable as it has fewer side effects than bariatric surgery,” lead author Tricia Tan, professor of Practice (Metabolic Medicine & Endocrinology) at Imperial College London, said in a statement. “This result shows that it is possible to obtain some of the benefits of a gastric bypass operation without undergoing the surgery itself. If further trials are successful, in future we could potentially give this type of treatment to many more patients.”

Another benefit is the lowering and stabilization of blood sugar levels. While bariatric surgery did lead to improvements in blood sugar levels, it was more variable. This was a small study and a larger clinical trial is needed to confirm the results and monitor the long-term health impacts on patients, but the results are promising.

“Obesity and type 2 diabetes can lead to very serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. There is a real need to find new medicines so we can improve and save the lives of many patients,” said Tan. “Although this is a small study our new combination hormone treatment is promising and has shown significant improvements in patients’ health in only four weeks. Compared to other methods the treatment is non-invasive and reduced glucose levels to near-normal levels in our patients.”

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