Electric Neuron

Suppressing the Brain’s Response to Food Cues

A heightened response to the food cues that surround us is one of the ways that our brains protect us from starving, losing weight, or staying at a reduced weight. When you’re hungry, images of food capture your brain’s attention, look more appealing, and get in the way of focusing on anything else. So a new study that shows liraglutide (also known as Saxenda) works at suppressing the brain’s response to food cues is especially interesting.

Jennifer S. ten Kulve and colleagues from the Netherlands conducted a randomized crossover study of liraglutide versus insulin in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Using functional MRI, they measured the brain’s response to images of food when people were fasting and after a meal. After 10 days of treatment with liraglutide, they found significantly less response to food images than they observed in subjects treated with insulin. They did not observe this difference after 12 weeks of treatment.

Liraglutide daily injection, sold as Saxenda, is the most recently approved drug treatment for obesity. According to industry analyst Spencer Osborne, Saxenda is gaining impressive traction in the marketplace, despite a premium price and injection dosing form. He suggests that familiarity of doctors with liraglutide for treating diabetes may be an advantage for this higher dosage indicated for obesity.

As clinical data for the new obesity treatments continues to grow, their utilization should grow accordingly. As we predicted two years ago, the reality for new obesity drugs is shaping up to be neither boom nor bust, but a market that develops slowly to fill a tremendous unmet need.

Innovators who plan accordingly will prosper. Others will fall to the wayside.

Click here to read more about the study of liraglutide and food images, here to read the study itself, here to read about Saxenda’s market uptake, and here to read more about the effect of drugs like liraglutide on the brain’s regulation of appetite and weight.

Electric Neuron, photograph © Ronny R / flickr

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September 11, 2015