Now There's an 'Imaginary Meal' —in a Pill
Fexaramine tricks body into burning fat, increasing metabolism—on 'no calories'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2015 8:14 AM CST
A heavyset man rests on a bench in Jackson, Miss., Sept. 4, 2014.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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(Newser) – Overweight? There may be a pill for that, and if successful trials done on obese mice translate to humans, that pill could be more than just a passing fad. So write researchers in the journal Nature Medicine about the compound fexaramine, which has stopped weight gain, controlled blood sugar, lowered cholesterol, and minimized inflammation in mice, reports the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "This pill is like an imaginary meal," says Ronald Evans, senior author and director of Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory. "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."

Unlike most appetite suppressants and caffeine-based diet drugs, the researchers say fexaramine remains in the intestines without dissolving into the blood, thereby causing fewer side effects and setting off a more natural cascade of events that better curtails weight gain. After five weeks taking a daily pill, the mice not only lowered their fat, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels—deposits of white fat converted to healthier, energy-burning beige, and even their gut bacteria changed. The researchers hope to launch clinical trials in two to three years, reports the Guardian, adding that the pill would ideally be prescribed alongside diet and lifestyle changes. (Check out some of Viagra's hidden uses.)