Diet pill fools gut into feeling full

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Scientists have developed a new kind of diet pill that might combat weight gain by fooling the body into thinking it has consumed calories, according to a new study discussed in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The drug, called fexaramine, targets a receptor present in different organs that switches on when we eat. Researchers from the Salk Institute in San Diego hypothesized that by turning the receptor on only in the intestines, they could "trick" the gut into thinking it has consumed food. They published their results January 5 in Nature Medicine.

"This pill is like an imaginary meal," Ronald Evans, director of Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and senior author of the paper said in a report released with the study. "It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite."

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This pill is different from most other diet drugs in that it does not rely on appetite suppressants or stimulants such as caffeine. It also does not enter the bloodstream, as many other drugs to. This pill has a hard time moving out of the intestine to other organs, making it safer, the researchers said.

When tested in mice, the pill stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar and minimized inflammation. The researchers hope to being trials in humans soon.

Read the full story in the San Diego Union-Tribune here.