Antibody drug could help overweight people stop eating sugary foods

Within one week of receiving a single dose, people who were obese and overweight started eating fewer calories

An antibody drug has shown promise in helping obese people lose weight. AP 
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An experimental antibody drug may help obese and overweight people shed the kilograms.

The findings come from early research in the US that tested a drug which mimics the effects of a natural hormone that governs food intake.

Within one week of receiving a single dose through an injection, people who were overweight started eating fewer calories.

Their food preferences shifted away from sweets, while levels of their "good" HDL cholesterol increased, and the measure of "bad" LDL cholesterol, insulin and triglycerides all fell. The effects lasted up to two months.

There are all these intriguing prospects

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer reviewed American journal and was led by Dr Puneet Arora, the vice president of clinical development at biopharmaceutical company, Principia Biopharma.

"We always want to be careful about reading too much into early research," said Dr Arora. "[But these] are all intriguing prospects."

The researchers said the results suggest stimulating what are known as FGF21 receptors may dampen people's appetites for sweets, and possibly alcohol.

Variants in the FGF21 gene have been associated with a sweet tooth and preference for carbohydrates.

Previous research has also shown people who are obese, have type 2 diabetes or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have higher levels of FGF21 circulating in their blood.

Past studies have administered modified versions of FGF21 to induce metabolic improvements, but it was cleared too quickly to take effect.

So researchers made a lab-engineered version, which they tested in a group of 60 overweight and obese adults for the study.

They were selected to receive a single injection of the antibody, or a placebo.

The participants followed a controlled diet over the following week, and at the end of the period people who received the antibody drug were shown to have lost more weight, at around 0.9kg on average.

However, the weight returned quickly once the study was over, in three days, but improvements in cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar were longer lasting.

Obesity is a problem across the globe, including the Gulf. A recent study found obesity rates in the Gulf have reached record highs, with at least a third of women and a quarter of men in the UAE classed as excessively overweight.

Efforts have been made to address the issue with the introduction of a 50 per cent tax applied in 2017 to all carbonated drinks and a 100 per cent tax on energy drinks.

The demand for obesity treatments has grown worldwide in recent months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

People with obesity are at substantially higher risk of developing complications from coronavirus, being around 74 per cent more likely to require intensive care, and 48 per cent more likely to die as a result.