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Chewing gum tackles obesity

15th January 2007

Scientists at Imperial College London are developing an appetite-suppressing chewing gum.

The team hopes to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the UK by developing a drug based on a natural gut hormone that mimics the body's "feeling full" response.  The treatment would first be available as an injection but the scientists hope to eventually produce the drug in tablet or gum form so it can be absorbed in the mouth or as a nasal spray. 

The hormone the scientists are trying to replicate is pancreatic polypeptide (PP), which the body produces after every meal to prevent overeating.  However, research suggests that some people produce more of this hormone than others who are then susceptible to overeating.  The problem is further exacerbated as the production of pancreatic polypeptide is reduced in those who are overweight.  A vicious circle then results, whereby appetite increases and further weight is gained.

Early tests have shown that moderate doses of the hormone can reduce the amount of food eaten by healthy volunteers by up to 20%.  The Imperial College team have now been given funding of £2.2m from the Wellcome Trust to take their research to the next level.

Recent figures suggest that half of all adults in the UK are overweight and one in five are obese.

 

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