Want? New Anti-Obesity Drug Makes You Feel Full

It’s no secret that obesity is a growing problem in America (hah!), just walk around your local Walmart/Target/Great America. The billion dollar product for every big pharmaceutical company would be a way to “cure” obesity.

Surgery is currently available in many forms (gastric bypass, lap band, stomach stapling) but is cost intensive, expensive, and carries all the dangers of going under the knife. Enter a company called Gelesis. Gelasis has developed a new drug called Attiva.

I’ll let the popular science article explain how it works:

Gelesis engineered a super-absorbent polymer – is it ironic that it’s derived from an unspecified food source? – that can be reduced to small beads about the size of a grain of sugar. These tiny polymer beads swell up more than 100 times over when introduced to water, kind of like those little sponges you used to play with in the bath. So when you down a pill with a glass of water, the capsule dissolves in your stomach and the hydrogel beads begin to grow. In a few minutes you’re feeling pretty full, and that second Double Down from KFC is decidedly less attractive.

Of course, now you have a belly full of hydrogel, and this is where the engineers at Gelesis had to be clever. The food is now mixed in with the gel, but you still need to digest that food (the object here is weight loss, not starvation). The hydrogel keeps food in the stomach longer, giving stomach acid more time to break down both the food and the hydrogel, which begins to release its water. Everything then moves to the small intestine where the gel can re-expand to some extent, slowing the absorption of fatty materials and sugars. Finally everything ends up in the lower bowels, and the rest is history.

The clever part of the engineering, of course, was creating a polymer that can stand up to changing pH levels so that it never fully breaks down; the company claims its product never touches the bloodstream, making it more of a medical device than a medication. How will the FDA treat it? Who knows, but it did just pass its first human trial without any problems beyond the occasional stomach ache.”

So we’ll see how this drug does after official FDA review. There is an alluring (if not dangerous) appeal to being able to “turn off” hunger. Personally, this blogger is still waiting for the perfectly balanced, nutrient rich, “meal-in-a-pill” so we can stop worrying about silly things like “food” and “eating” entirely from an operational point of view. That way you could get all your basic nutrition needs met, and just indulge occasionally in the form of delicious solid food, instead of eating that crap from Taco Bell just because you’re hungry and it’s convenient.

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~ by K. Ritcheson on April 22, 2010.

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