Obesity – Promising New Approaches to Weight Loss

The reasons why we gain weight are complex, and involve more than just dieting and exercise. Some people seem to eat till they drop yet stay slim, while others gain weight much more easily. Experts are finding that genetic factors play a big part in weight gain.

This makes developing effective slimming technologies a bit more difficult. To be highly effective and long lasting, any weight loss technique must attack the root cause of obesity. This means a technique which worked wonders for me, might not work for you.

However, there are a few interesting developments in the slimming world, as companies continue to pour millions of pounds into researching slimming approaches.


This drug works by fooling the body’s metabolism into staying active, leading to an average weight loss of 12% a year. For many slimmers, there is usually an initial weight loss followed by a gain. One reason for this is that the body slows its metabolism, which means you are using less calories, and have to worker hard to keep the weight off. Excalia tricks the hypothalamus into keeping the metabolism running fast, and also boosts a hormone that stops us getting hungry. This pill is said to work faster and better than existing drugs.

Gut hormone – Oxyntomodulin.

This is a naturally occurring hormone. This hormone tells us we are full after a meal, but the obese have less of it. The idea is to trick the gut into sending the “I am full” signal to the brain, so you can stop eating sooner.

In studies, participants taking oxyntomodulin had a reduced appetite, but they saw no change in their enjoyment of food. On average they lost 2.3kg (5 pounds) in four weeks, compared to 0.5kg (1 pounds) for those on a dummy treatment. This drug could be available on the market within 4 years.

Free Electron Laser: Fat-zapping laser.

According to Dr Anderson at Harvard Medical School, some people will always have pads of fat (on thighs etc) regardless of how much they exercise or eat. Its all in the genetics. Genetics governs where and how we store fat.

Currently, excess fat can be removed by liposunction. This is invasive and can lead to infections of the wound. A promising approach is to use laser to destroy all or some of the fat without breaking the skin. Scientists using the Free-Electron Laser were able to demonstrate the selective heating-up of fat, without damaging the overlying skin. Once heated the fat can then be broken up, and excreted by the body.

This laser technique has only been tested on animals, but with promising results. More needs to be done to see if it works as well on humans and how long the effects will last, and of course if they are any long term side-effects.

Incidentally, the Free Electron Laser could also be used to treat acne.

Electrical treatment.

Another approach is to use electricity to trick the stomach into thinking you are full. Neural messages carried by the vagus nerve play a significant role in the regulation of ingestion, digestion and satiety.

The idea is to use a neuroregulator which delivers very high frequency, low energy electrical pulses that completely block neural transmission along the vagal nerve. The VBLOC(Vagal blocking for Obesity Control) is inserted into the stomach, and blocks the vagal nerve which connects the brain and the stomach.

The device prevents the stomach from increasing in size when you eat, and stops it emptying too quickly. Result? You fill full faster and for longer. This device is still in development at the Mayo Clinic. Expectations are that you will achieve weight loss of at least 10-15%, similar to what you get from weight-loss drugs.

Incision-less surgery.

Currently, one of the most effective options for major weight reduction is surgery to make the stomach smaller. The drawback of surgery is, because it’s a wound, there are always risks. Incision-less surgery promises a way of reducing the stomach size without any incisions.

With NOTES ( Natural Orifice Trans Endoscopic Surgery), an endoscope could be inserted through the mouth and down to the stomach. There it staples or stitches the stomach to make it smaller. Using this technique, it’s possible for someone to leave hospital the same day. The whole procedure could be done without anaesthetic.

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