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Hormone may be weight-control breakthrough

GLP-1 January 30, 1998
Web posted at: 10:35 p.m. EDT (2235 GMT)

BOSTON (CNN) -- Researchers have found that extra doses of a naturally occurring hormone can reduce people's appetites, possibly opening up a new way to fight the battle of the bulge.

In a study by Danish researchers, working in conjunction with a team from the Harvard Medical School, a group of 20 people were given the hormone, GLP-1, intravenously, then offered lunch. They ate 12 percent less than they did when they were put through the same process with a placebo.

GLP-1 is secreted normally by a people's intestines when they eat. It goes into the blood stream and eventually to the area of the brain that controls appetite, called the hypothalamus.

Scientists surmise that GLP-1 tells the brain when a person is full and it is time to stop eating. So giving people additional doses of the hormone reduces their appetite.

"I think that this new idea -- that it might actually control appetite and be a form of treatment for obesity -- is pretty provocative," said Dr. Joel Habener of the Harvard Medical School.

And unlike other recent obesity treatments such as Phen-Fen and Redux, which have been found to have severe side effects, Habener says GLP-1 appears to be safe.

"So far, it has not caused any problems," he said. "It's been given to hundreds of individuals over the past five to six years."

However, there were limitations to the study. For one thing, all of the subjects were of normal weight, so researchers will have to perform additional studies to determine if GLP-1 will work in people who are overweight.

Also, they have to figure out another way to administer the hormone because an intravenous drip, as used in the study, isn't practical.

But Habener says he thinks GLP-1, as a pill or tablet, could be on the market within two or three years.

Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.

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