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Investigational Diabetes Drug Leads to Significant Weight Loss

Semaglutide treatment sparked an average weight loss of 11 pounds over 12 weeks.
Published Online: Nov 14,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
Treatment with an experimental drug that targets appetite control in the brain may result in significant weight loss, according to a study published by Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

Treatment with the drug semaglutide resulted in an average weight loss of 11 pounds over 12 weeks among patients with obesity. A majority of the weight lost was the result of a reduction in body fat, according to the study.

These findings suggest that semaglutide—which is being developed for diabetes—could also be an effective treatment for weight loss. Specifically, the experimental drug was observed to reduce cravings, which caused individuals to eat smaller and lower fat meals.

For the first time, the authors saw that the drug targeted receptors that modify the brain’s appetite control.

“What was striking was the potency of the drug’s action. We saw results in 12 weeks which may take as long as 6 months with other anti-obesity medication,” said researcher John Blundell.  “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.”

The chemical structure of semaglutide is similar to the GLP-1 hormone, which is thought to play a role in appetite control, according to the authors.

Due to the similarity between semaglutide and the natural appetite-control chemical, the authors aimed to determine whether the drug could be used to treat obesity by modifying the brain’s appetite center.

“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,” Blundell said.

In the study, 18 patients with obesity were treated with semaglutide or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, patients were offered lunch and dinner, and instructed to eat until they were full.

The authors recorded what the patients ate, food preferences, and the sensation of liking and wanting food, in addition to body weight and composition, according to the study.   

Then, patients were switched to the other treatment for 12 weeks and the results were compared.

The researchers discovered that the average amount of food consumed was 24% lower among patients taking semaglutide, according to the study.

Interestingly, the patients’ metabolic processes remained stable during the study, which suggests that weight loss was not the result of increased metabolism, according to the authors.

Instead, the authors hypothesize that the fat loss was due to appetite control.

While semaglutide is in the late stages of development, it has yet to receive regulatory approval and is not on the market. These findings suggest that the drug may also be beneficial for patients with obesity, the authors concluded.

“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,” Blundell concluded.