Researchers from Salk Institute are hopeful that a pill that works by tricking the body into thinking it is full could provide a safe alternative to undergoing bariatric surgery.

The name of the treatment is fexaramine and it can be taken in pill form. The effect of the pill is to send out the same signals that occur when a meal has been eaten, even triggering the response to release bile for digestion.

The pill has so far been tested in mice and the treatment was found to have benefits in terms of loss of body fat, improved blood glucose and cholesterol levels and lower levels of inflammation.

The exact way in which fexaramine works is by targeting the farnesoid X receptor (FXR) which controls bile acid production and regulates triglyceride levels.

Targets the gut and not other organs

The researchers note that fexaramine has a benefit over other slimming pills in that it targets only the gut itself and does not lead to undesirable effects on other organs such as the heart, liver and brain. The researchers have predicted no side effects but human trials would be needed to confirm this.

From a nutrition point of view, the breaking down of body fat would provide the body with energy. People on the treatment would need to ensure they are getting other nutrition, such as fibre, vitamins and minerals, but this can be provided with a good intake of vegetables.

After observing success in mice, the research team are set to move the treatment into human trials.