Plant Digestion

Fine-Tuning for the Stomach to Treat Obesity

Could it be that a little fine-tuning for the stomach can have a real effect on obesity? That’s the gist of the latest research on how liraglutide (Saxenda) works. The senior author on this study, Michael Camilleri, explains:

Liraglutide appears to be very effective in inducing weight loss over three months of treatment. We also found that Liraglutide dramatically slowed stomach emptying and the degree of stomach emptying delay in study participants was significantly associated with the degree of weight loss.

An Important Signal It’s Working?

For some time now, scientists have known the stomach empties faster in people with obesity. And we’ve known for a while now that liraglutide slows that down.

But what this research does is complete the picture a bit more. In this randomized, controlled study, the researchers have shown that slower gastric emptying can be a signal that liraglutide is having an effect on obesity. If gastric emptying slowed down in the first five weeks of treatment, people were significantly more likely to lose weight after 16 weeks.

The Stomach: An Important Endocrine Organ

All this is consistent with what we know about the stomach as an endocrine organ. It’s not just a bag that you pour food into for digestion. Hormones and nerve signals from the stomach to the brain regulate hunger and metabolism.

Gastric bypass surgery works by fixing some of those signals that aren’t working right in many people with obesity. Likewise, it seems that liraglutide has a helpful effect.

In a companion editorial, Vincent Stanghellini describes how important this insight is for treating obesity. It helps us better understand why gastric bypass is so effective. But more important, it can point to even better therapies for obesity down the road.

This is how real science takes us to cures for a complex chronic disease like obesity.

Click here for the study, here for the commentary, and here for more on the stomach as an important endocrine organ. For more from Mayo Clinic on this study, click here.

Plant Digestion, photograph © Mark Freeth / flickr

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September 27, 2017