VOA – New Drug Reduces Weight In Lab Animals

These are prosperous times for the diet and fitness industries. People around the world spend more than $360 billion on pills, food and programs to help them lose weight. The global weight management market is estimated to reach $586 billion by 2014, according to recent research.

Despite the efforts of U.S. public health officials, Americans are getting fatter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight, as defined by their body mass index. Dr. Anne Schuchat is with the CDC.

“Obesity is just one of those stealth epidemics. It’s taken us by surprise over the decades to see the number of Americans that are just getting more overweight, including more overweight with obesity and even morbid obesity which is really the extreme circumstance,” Dr. Schuchat explains.

Dr. Schuchat says public health officials are interested finding ways of getting people to exercise enough to control their weight and stick to a healthy diet. Some people have surgery to shrink the stomach and reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold.

Researchers at the universities of Indiana and Cincinnati say they may have something to offer that is less drastic.

It is a drug that combines two natural hormones that suppresses appetite and increases metabolism in mice and rats. Indiana professor Richard DiMarchi explains. “[Research has shown] mice and rats that are overfed so that their body weight is about twice what their normal body weight should be.”

A single injection of the drug decreased a rodent’s body weight by 25 percent.

“Our focus is in finding therapy that effectively lowers body weight and then can treat diabetes,” Dimarchi said.

The active ingredients in this new drug are already available in two medications to treat diabetes: Byetta and Glucagon.

The scientists say their next step is to test these drugs on humans. Dr. DiMarchi cautions that if this drug works, the weight loss will need to be slower. But researchers warn that drugs that look promising when tested on mice frequently fail when tested on humans.

Details of the study are in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

SOURCE: http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-07-21-voa15.cfm