Weight Loss Miracle Cure?
A team of international scientists have discovered a hormone, naturally produced in the gut, which regulates hunger.
PYY3-36 is released by the intestine walls when they are stimulated by food passing through, and is responsible for sending the ‘I’m full’ (satiated) message to the brain.
Professor Steve Bloom and his team of researchers studied 12 obese and 12 lean subjects. Some of these were given PYY3-36 by intravenous drip, others a placebo of saline solution. None of the volunteers or those administering the experiment were aware of who’d had which.
The PYY3-36 had an appetite suppressant effect: presented with an ‘all you can eat’ buffet, both the lean and obese persons who’d received PYY3-36 ate less than the placebo group.
Overall it seemed the hormone reduced calorific intake by up to a third. Follow up to the experiment, by way of food diaries etc. showed the appetite suppressant effect of the hormone infusion lasted up to 12 hours.
Professor Steve Bloom believes a weight loss tablet could be developed – providing a solution to the growing obesity epidemic:
“The discovery that PYY3-36 supresses appetite could be a huge benefit to those struggling with weight problems. With over a billion people across the world now extremely overweight, it is vital this problem is tackled.”
The research also showed that levels of naturally present PYY3-36 are lower in those who are obese, than those who are lean.
The research has not yet shown whether a person is obese because of a deficiency of PYY3-36, or if being obese equates to lower levels of the hormone.
As junk foods such as burgers digest in the stomach quicker than more substantial foodstuffs, less PYY3-36 is produced as not so much of the gut wall is stimulated. This means they do little to satisfy the appetite. So the term ‘empty calories’ may ring more true than we thought!
Professor Bloom commented, “It may be possible to identify foods which cause the release of more PYY3-36, helping to naturally limit appetite.”
Bulky, fibrous foods such as vegetables and whole grain foods have been found to move further down the gut before being fully digested.
This means a higher production of PYY3-36 within the intestine than other foods, resulting in a greater level of satiety.
Professor Bloom believes it might be possible to create a weight loss tablet or some such to provide a treatment for obesity, though this could take around 7 years!
So is PYY3-36 a miracle cure? And will we ever have access to a safe weight loss tablet?
Keep in mind that the research is still in its initial stages, long-term effects will have to be studied before the hormone is developed as a weight loss treatment. Also, if and when PYY3-36 gets to that point, the likelihood is it would be a very expensive way to lose weight, and therefore would probably only be available in severe cases of obesity – much as stomach stapling is now.
However, aside from the technicalities of a new ‘wonder weight loss tablet’; people still need to analyse their lifestyle. Eating healthily in the right amounts is the best way to maintain a correct weight for height.
The discovery of PYY3-36 and what it can do does not mean we can all gorge on fried chicken and consume large quantities of chocolate – then expect to rely on a tablet to lose weight.
Even Dr. Rachel Batterham of The Wellcome Trust, who took part in the research, said the hormone would “only be useful if used in addition to lifestyle changes.”
Probably the most useful and practical information that has come from this research is that of looking at the foods we need to eat to ensure we produce enough of the appetite suppressant hormone naturally.
This knowledge could then be used in conjunction with healthy eating to aid weight loss.