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Salk Scientists Discover New Diet Pill

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Photo caption:

Photo credit: Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Pictured in the photo are Salk Institute researchers Ruth Yu, Sungsoon Fang, Annette Atkins, Ronald Evans, Michael Downes and Sandra Jacinto in this undated photo.

Imagine just taking a pill to lose weight. That quest is the holy grail of obesity.

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies said they think they've come closer than ever before to cracking the diet pill puzzle. In fact, they said this new pill acts like an "imaginary meal."

The pill, called fexaramine, remains in the intestines unlike most diet pills that work like appetite suppressants, according to the institute. Researchers said they tested the pill on obese mice. After five weeks, the mice lost fat and had lower blood sugar.

Ron Evans, director of Salk Institute for Biological Studies, told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday that the pill is a "chemical trigger."

"The interesting thing about this approach is the drug never actually gets into the body," Evans said. "It's absorbed into the blood stream. You take it and it goes right through. It's a very interesting safety feature for the whole process."

Evans said the mice maintained their diets and still lost weight because of the pill.

"For us, that's the holy grail because you can't depend on people in the long run to change their behavior," Evans said. "It's just not the way most people are. It actually controls a big network of genes and that's how it works. People are overweight or diabetic, like the mice in our study, it also improves their liver function in a very dramatic way."

The effects the pill had on the mice may not have the same effects on humans, said Mark Jabro, medical director at Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management.

"While I'm optimistic I think there's a lot of work to be done with this particular model," Jabro said.

The announcement of the new pill comes at a time when more than one-third of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FDA this week approved two drugs to help with weight loss: VBLOC and Saxenda.

Salk Researchers Develop New Kind of Diet Pill

Salk researchers develop new type of diet pill. They say the drug Fexaramine is like an imaginary meal.


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