A new small-scale study by the Imperial College London in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen and University College Dublin might have just discovered an alternative to gastric bypass surgery. Gastric bypass is a procedure where the stomach is divided into a small upper pouch and a larger, lower “remnant” pouch and then the small intestine is rearranged to connect to both. It’s a pretty common and effective weight loss procedure for patients with a BMI over 40.
But the surgery is known to have many risks, such as abdominal pain, chronic nausea, vomiting and low blood sugar levels…
Could hormones be the key?
So, the researchers set out to investigate if a hormone treatment could promote weight loss and improve blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes and those at risk of becoming obese.
The treatment was developed based on previous research by Imperial College London, which found that three hormones which originate in the bowels, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), oxyntomodulin and peptide, may be responsible for weight loss during gastric bypass surgery.
The researchers wanted to see if combining these hormones into the injectable mixture – known as GOP – could mimic the high levels of the hormones seen after surgery in order to reduce appetite, increase weight loss and reduce high glucose levels.
The study featured 26 obese patients who were either diabetic or prediabetic (a condition where blood glucose is too high but not high enough to be classified as diabetes). Fifteen of the 26 patients received the hormone treatment, while 11 were given a placebo. They also received healthy eating and weight loss advice from a dietician. The injections were slowly administered under the skin for 12 hours a day, one an hour before breakfast and the other after their last meal.
The team also recruited 21 patients who had undergone bariatric surgery and 22 patients who followed a very low-calorie diet to compare the results of the GOP solution.
The promising results
The study concluded that the patients on the GOP treatment lost on average 4.4kg, compared with 2.5kg for participants receiving the placebo, and they experienced no side effects. The GOP patients also showed substantial improvements to their blood glucose, with some patients’ levels reduced to near-normal levels.
However, patients who had received bariatric surgery or who followed a very low-calorie diet lost significantly more weight, 10.3kg for bariatric patients and 8.3kg for patients on the diet.
“Although the weight loss was smaller, using the GOP infusion would be preferable as it has fewer side effects than bariatric surgery,” said lead author Professor Tricia Tan.
“This result shows that it is possible to obtain some of the benefits of a gastric bypass operation without undergoing the surgery itself. If further trials are successful, in future we could potentially give this type of treatment to many more patients.”