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Diabetes Drug May Help Curb Binge Eating

Obesity is a worldwide problem. Researchers have still not come up with the perfect diet or pill to help those who need to lose weight keep it off. The latest drug to show some promise is a synthetic hormone that helps curb the urge to eat high fat foods. But as VOA's Melinda Smith learned, it has its own set of problems.

How many people have wished they had enough will power to push themselves away from the table before they eat too much?

Actually, all humans have a natural hormone produced by cells in the pancreas, which helps make insulin. The hormone is called amylin. It is thought to signal the brain that we are full. Now researchers have developed a synthetic version of amylin. It is called pramlintide. The drug has been used to treat diabetes and control blood sugar, but its manufacturer, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, hopes to develop it for obesity.

In a research study, one group of overweight people was given pramlintide. The other group was not. Neither group made lifestyle changes or varied their normal exercise routine. Those who received the drug in an injection 15 minutes before a meal ate 680 calories less than those who were given a placebo shot.

At one point in the study, both groups were given what was called the "fast food challenge" - pizza, ice cream, sugary drinks. Those on pramlintide consumed considerably less of the rich foods than the others. They lost an average of two kilograms, compared to those on the placebo who maintained their weight.

Some health experts are skeptical about the benefits of pramlintide. The study was too short, they say, and the weight loss was not enough.

Meanwhile, for those who lose weight the old fashioned way -- by cutting back on portions and exercising regularly -- another study contains better news. Researchers followed 1300 Americans who lost a substantial amount of weight. Six out of ten managed to keep the weight off at the end of one year, and almost eight percent of the group was still losing.

But the news was discouraging for those in the group who regained. Those people needed to lose the most.

Keeping those unwanted pounds or kilos off takes discipline. It also means maintaining an exercise schedule, choosing a diet that is convenient for you and stepping on the scale regularly to keep yourself honest.