Food and Behaviour Research

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15 July 2014 - MNT - Obesity - surgery is not the only answer, say research scientists

Research scientists predict that gastric bypass surgery to treat obesity could be a thing of the past. They have discovered that the lower intestine could be targeted by a special food supplements which would trick the brain into thinking the stomach is full.

The research is being carried out by scientists based at the Wingate Institute for Neurogastroenterology, part of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, and has been funded by the charity Bowel & Cancer Research and the Wellcome Trust. Their findings have been published in GUT, the international journal of gastroenterology and hepatology.

Heading the team is Professor Ashley Blackshaw, Professor of Enteric Neuroscience at the Wingate. "The difference between lean people and obese ones is that obese people ignore the signals from the small intestine that tell the brain that the body is full. At the moment, obese patients undergo gastric bypass surgery where they are essentially re-plumbed - undigested food bypasses the small intestine and is shunted straight to the lower bowel where it causes the release of hormones which suppress the appetite and help with the release of insulin. That makes the patient feel full and stops even the hungriest individual from eating," he said. "We believe it's possible to trick the digestive system into behaving as if a bypass has taken place by administering specific food supplements which release strong stimuli in the same area of the lower bowel. What we are doing is targeting the area of the gut where that sense of feeling full begins with a capsule containing naturally occurring food supplements," said Professor Blackshaw. "By refining those high-energy supplements and formulating them to target the lower bowel, we expect to develop a successful weight loss and anti-diabetic strategy before, and possibly in place of, bypass surgery. We are pursuing the opportunity to intervene directly with fatty acid, amino acid and protein sensing pathways of the lower bowel to modify endocrine responses. It's a totally novel idea, and we're very excited at the results so far. We are hopeful that the treatment will be widely available in NHS hospitals in the next five years."