New diabetes drug ‘twice as effective’ as other anti-obesity treatments

A drug that targets the appetite control system in the brain could bring about significant weight loss in people with clinical obesity, according to new research published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

On average, people lost 11lbs over a 12 week period after receiving weekly doses of semaglutide, a drug currently being developed as a treatment for Diabetes by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

Its chemical structure is very similar to the naturally-occurring hormone GLP-1 which is believed to act on the appetite control centre in the brain to reduce feelings of hunger.

During the study, the drug was given to 28 people with a body mass index (BMI) range of 30 to 45 – meaning they were very overweight with a lot of body fat.

The participants were split in two groups – half got semaglutide and the other half a placebo substance for 12 weeks.

At the end of the 12 weeks, they were invited into a testing centre and offered a lunch and evening meal and told to consume as much as they needed to feel ‘pleasantly full’. What they were eating was recorded, along with food preferences and their sensations of liking and wanting food. Body weight and body composition – the percentage of body fat – were also recorded.

They then repeated the process, with participants who got semaglutide this time getting the placebo and vice versa. The results were then compared. The research team found that on average the daily energy intake, a measure of the amount of food consumed, was 24 per cent lower with semaglutide.

Most of the weight loss came from a reduction in body fat, according to the drug’s developers. Semaglutide reduced food cravings, with people choosing to eat smaller meals and decreasing their preferences for foods with a higher fat content.

John Blundell, the study’s lead researcher, said: ‘What was striking was the potency of the drug’s action. We saw results in 12 weeks which may take as long as six months with other anti-obesity medication.’

‘The drug reduced hunger but also cravings for food and the sensation of wanting to eat – and these had previously been thought to stem from different parts of the brain.’