New appetite drug could pave the way to tackling obesity

Records show that obesity is now a bigger killer in England than smoking. However, a promising new drug could be the key to tackling the condition.

New appetite drug could pave the way to tackling obesity
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International trials show that a new obesity drug could help recipients lose up to a fifth of their body weight by changing their approach to food.

Obesity now accounts for more deaths than smoking

Smoking campaigns have been UK residents to quit smoking for years. However, it seems that a new killer is taking over, obesity. Researchers estimate that since 2014, obesity and excess body fat have caused more deaths in England and Scotland than cigarettes.

Smoking rates in England, which stood at 20.2% of the population in 2011, have now fallen to around 14.1% as of 2019. However, obesity rates in the country which in 1993 stood at just 15%, have now increased to 28% as of 2019. Dr Frederick Ho, of the University of Glasgow and lead author of the study revealed that ‘this was not a surprising result at all.’

New drug could help conquer obesity

Luckily, a new drug which has undergone highly successful international trials may provide a solution to the UK’s obesity problem.

Trials involved a weekly injection of a drug named semaglutide alongside a routine of diet and exercise. The study conducted on over 2,000 people over 15 months showed that participants lost an average of 15kgs.

The drug helps participants to lose weight by suppressing their appetite. Jan, a participant from Kent revealed to the BBC that she managed to lose a total of 28kgs, stating that ‘The drug changed my life and completely altered my approach to food.’ Jan discussed that previously, dieting was very challenging for her, but the weekly injections made the ordeal much easier. However, after finishing the trial, Jan claims she has already been putting the weight back on.

It felt effortless losing weight while on the trial, but now it has gone back to feeling like a constant battle with food.

What is semaglutide?

Semaglutide is no new drug and is used very commonly among those with diabetes. However, the trial looked at administering the drug in much higher doses. Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone called GLP1 which helps us to feel full. UCL’s Prof Rachel Batterham, one of the UK researchers, told the BBC:

This is a game-changer in the amount of weight loss it causes. I have spent the last 20 years doing obesity research, up until now we've not had an effective treatment for obesity apart from bariatric surgery.

She also revealed that the drug could help to reduce cases of heart disease, diabetes as well as severe, life-threatening cases of coronavirus. A five-year study is also taking place in order to see if patients can keep the weight off in the long term. Prof Sir Stephen O'Rahilly, from the University of Cambridge, added:

The amount of weight loss achieved is greater than that seen with any licensed anti-obesity drug. This is the start of a new era for obesity drug development with the future direction being to achieve levels of weight loss comparable to semaglutide, while having fewer side-effects.