A pill that tricks you into feeling full?

January is the season for diets, and Salk researchers have jumped on this trend by publishing a study on a new "magic" pill that can trick the body into burning fat.

Working on the farensoid X receptor, or FXR, (a protein that plays a role in how the body digests food), the pill - called fexaramine - doesn't dissolve into the bloodstream the way normal dietary supplements do. Instead, it only acts in the gut, which minimizes side effects normally found in drugs that trigger FXR.

"When you eat, you have to quickly activate a series of responses all throughout the body," said Ronald Evans, senior author of the study. "And the reality is that the very first responder for all this is the intestine."

How does it work?

Normally, when food is ingested, the body activates FXR and the result is the release of digestive juices and changes in blood sugar levels that can trigger fat burning.

A daily dose of fexaramine, however, was found to prevent weight gain in mice - and the rodents also lost fat, had lower blood sugar and better cholesterol levels than mice who didn't take fexaramine.

The drug-taking mice also had higher body temperatures, which indicates rising metabolism.

"This pill is like an imaginary meal," Evans said. "It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite."

Evans and his team are currently working on clinical trials to test the efficacy of fexaramine in treating metabolic disease and obesity.

The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Source: Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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