According to a raft of studies and statistics, the global obesity problem shows no signs of diminishing. In fact, medical experts tell us that it is the number one threat to our health and is only on the increase. So it stands to reason that doctors and drug companies are committing huge resources to finding the magic bullet that will help us shed those unwanted -- and dangerous -- pounds.
A recent study by researchers at Stanford University claims to have found a hormone that, when injected into laboratory mice, has managed to suppress the rodents' appetites. They have named the hormone obestatin and have located it in the stomach and small intestine of the test subjects. This substance has one extremely coveted ability -- it made the mice eat less.
The study, published in the current issue of the journal Science, states that obestatin appears to work by slowing the passage of food through the digestive passage, thereby making the subject 'feel' less hungry.
With mice as test subjects, it becomes extremely difficult to know exactly why the weight loss occurred. But the study did show that mice given the hormone for eight days consumed half as much food as usual, and in turn, lost weight.
The challenge is in trying to determine why the mice consumed less food and if it was entirely due to the physiological effect of obestatin. The researchers have no way of knowing whether the mice felt sick because rodents cannot vomit. Also, the hormone was only administered to mice of normal weight -- so it is difficult to know whether it would have the same effect on obese mice.
Still, the discovery represents a breakthrough in the understanding of weight loss and hormones. But how can it help?
As the major funder, drug company Johnson & Johnson owns the rights to the study and any drug that could result from it. But it appears that obestatin would not be effective in a pill format and would need to be taken as an injection or a nose spray.
Another concern with the substance is that the weight lost in subjects did not appear to be from fat and may have been muscle. That wouldn't do much good for obese patients.
The search goes on, but there are established ways to control weight gain -- sadly, none of them come in pill form. Simple thermodymics plays an important role -- if you consume more calories than you burn, weight will be gained.
Exercise, and the types of food consumed (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean white meat) are also incredibly important factors in your overall health. More and more research proves that obesity is a killer. That same research has yet to turn up a magic cure. Prevention is, in this case, the best bet.