Semaglutide Can Dramatically Reduce Weight of People With Obesity

October 23, 2017

LEEDS, United Kingdom -- October 23, 2017 -- A drug that targets the appetite control system in the brain could bring about significant weight loss in people with clinical obesity, according to a study published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

On average, people lost 5 kg (11 lbs) over a 12-week period after receiving weekly doses of semaglutide, a compound currently being developed as a treatment for diabetes.

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

The study also added to the scientific understanding of how drug therapy can be used to tackle obesity. For the first time, researchers saw the benefit of very specific targeting of receptors or sensors that could affect multiple components of the brain's appetite control system.

“What was striking was the potency of the drug's action,” said John Blundell, MD, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom. “We saw results in 12 weeks which may take as long as 6 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,” he added.

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

Given the close similarity between semaglutide and the body’s own appetite-control chemical, the study set out to examine whether the drug could also be used to tackle obesity by acting on the brain's appetite control receptors.

“The potency of the drug is probably due to the action of the GLP-1 protein receptors on broad aspects of the appetite control system including hunger, craving, and rewarding aspects of food,” said Dr. Blundell.

In the study, the drug was given to 28 people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 45 kg/m2. Patients were randomised to receive semaglutide or placebo 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 were also recorded. They then repeated the process, when patients crossed over to the opposite arm of the study.

On average, the daily energy intake among individuals randomised to semaglutide was 24% lower than those randomised to placebo.

The Resting Metabolic Rate of individuals remained roughly the same throughout the experiment, suggesting the weight loss could not be due to metabolism becoming more active. Consequently the fat loss produced by the drug could be attributed to better control over appetite.

“A drug that reduces daily food intake by about a quarter with a substantial reduction in body fat will help some people to feel more in control of their lives and will help to prevent the onset of poor health that often arises from obesity,” said Dr. Blundell.

Reference: DOI: 10.1111/dom.12932

SOURCE: University of Leeds

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