Scientists may have just discovered the miracle pill to quash all miracle pills — one that could allow a person to eat whatever they want but never gain weight in the process.
Scientists from Yale University have found a way to reshape the portals in the gut that process fat absorption into the body, flattening them and restricting the ability of fat particles to pass through.
The researchers identified two genes in the gut cells, which, when removed, result in these cells being closed instead of staying in an open, button shape. They fed mice who were missing these genes a high-fat diet over a period of eight weeks and they didn't gain weight, while two normal mice with the genes became obese.
A Drug That Prevents Weight Gain
The study, published in the Science journal, involved giving mice a certain drug to block the production of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor A, or VEFG-A, which is responsible for stimulating production of blood vessels. Blocking it prevents the fat from reaching small lymphatic vessels, the place where fat is transferred to the gut via pores, as Wired explains.
"Instead of being taken up into tissues, much of the fat is excreted in the faeces, and mice do not gain much weight on a high fat diet," said Anne Eichmann, co-author of the study.
The study provides startling implications for the way people might consume food, and more importantly, how they'll approach weight gain in the future.
"Although the authors don't state this, the implication is that if this did work in humans then you take a pill just before a meal and it closes the gut to lipid uptake," according to Leeds University professor Alan Mackie, though he was not involved in the study.
Drugs like the aforementioned VEFG-A are already being used to treat patients with glaucoma, and is being tested for other conditions as well, said Eichmann. What's more, low levels of VEGF have been associated in the past with weight loss among breast cancer patients, explained Mackie.
"Based on our results, we believe that such drugs should be tested for effects on lipid absorption and weight loss and may be useful for treatment of obesity," according to Feng Zhang, lead author of the study.
Potential Disadvantages Of Anti-Fat Absorption Pills
It's too early to get excited, though. Shutting down fat absorption pathways could have unintended consequences that might be dangerous to humans. For instance, it could impair uptake of essential nutrients in fat packages or have adverse effects by compromising fluid drainage and immune cell trafficking, said University of California professor Donald McDonald.
Even still, the study opens up a new avenue of research about regulation of body weight and will likely coax researchers toward a new and enlightened direction about how best to deal with obesity.