While Professor Steve Bloom’s statement on BBC Radio 1’s ‘news’ this morning did at least see me giggling into the office this morning (it’s Monday, so well done, Prof. Bloom!), it did strike me that his statement was a little like suggesting nicotine should be available in inhalable form…because smokers like inhaling (aren’t they called cigarettes?).
Having said that, obesity being the concern that it is these days, it is nice to see someone else working on a quick-fix alternative to all that healthy diet and exercise stuff the rest of us are trying to follow in the annual post-Christmas struggle.
Bloom’s team at Imperial College London in the UKare exploiting the appetite-reducing effects of pancreatic polypeptide, a hormone produced in response to eating to tell us we’re full. It seems that obese people tend to produce less of this hormone, so if their brains aren’t getting the signal to stop eating, appetite can easily get out of control.
Early tests with healthy volunteers (not rats) suggest that voluntary food intake from the all-you-can-eat buffet can be reduced by as much as 20%. While it should be noted that the treatment has yet to be tested in obese subjects, the work has attracted attention of the Wellcome Trust, who were trusting enough to finance future research to the tune of £2.2 million. Initially, the team believes that an injectible treatment could be available to doctors in five to eight years’ time, but the hope is to offer a chewing gum format, similar to the nicotine gum that is already widely available to non-smoking hopefuls.
With one in three UK adults expected to be obese well before the chewing gum is available, however, it is helpful to know that the current advice of ‘eat less, exercise’ more still works. However, the vast array of information available on obesity, its biological basis and potential methods to treat it, makes it just as well that there is plenty of this filtered and screened and ready for use by all those hopefuls looking to hit upon the next ‘wonder drug’. A quick search of CAB Direct’s Nutrition and Food Sciences database throws up a whopping 1413 records on the subject of ‘obesity and appetite’, narrowing this down to potential obesity drugs (try searching for ‘obesity and gut peptides’) yields just 14. Much easier to swallow, even without chewing.
A good place to pick up some ideas might be Huda et al.’s 2006 review ‘Gut peptides and the regulation of appetite’. Obesity Reviews Vol. 7 No. 2 pp. 163-182. Or even Steve Bloom’s own ‘Gastrointestinal hormones regulating appetite’: Chaudhri et al., (2006), Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 361, No. 1471, pp. 1187-1209. So by 2010, ‘All you can eat’ might be the next nouvelle cuisine!