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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Brain chemical could be obesity key

A pill for obesity is many years away
Doctors at a London hospital believe they may have found a way of regulating the way that we burn off calories.

They are hopeful that it could one day produce a route to tackling obesity.

Our work could have widespread implications for the NHS

Professor Steve Bloom
Professor Steve Bloom at the Endocrine Research Unit at the Hammersmith Hospital have found a neurotransmitter in the brain which is key to controlling the rate that the body uses energy from food.

Scientists have already worked out that this is the neurotransmitter which controls our appetite.

But Professor Bloom's team have now discovered that it works in another way, allowing the hormone leptin not just to affect how much energy we put into our body but also the rate at which we use this energy up.

The eventual hope is to separate the two functions of the brain messeneger - so that we can still be hungry and have a normal appetite, but trick the brain into burning up more energy.

Losing excess weight is difficult
There could even be a pill which would help regulate weight without affecting our desire to eat.

Professor Bloom said: "This discovery is very exciting news and means we can now start work on developing drugs specifically targeted at the brain to speed up our metabolism.

"For a lot of people with modern lifestyles, obesity creeps up on them and often, you don't have to overeat to become fat.

"A treatment to tackle obesity could also have a major impact on reducing the number of people suffering from obesity-related diabetes.

"Our work could have widespread implications for the NHS. If we can prevent obesity, we could save lives and millions of pounds a year in the treatment of heart disease, strokes and diabetes."

Obesity is a growing problem in the UK and in other developed countries.

Obese people have a far higher chance of suffering heart problems, as well as developing potentially disabling conditions such as diabetes.

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07 Jan 00 | Health
Chubby Britain heads for gym
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