SORRY Kardashian Klan, but the future of weight-loss pills has arrived, and it ain’t called Quick Trim. Gone are the days of relying on stimulant drugs to hype up the nervous system to burn calories; the newest “fat-burning” pill works by simply tricking the body into thinking that it’s already had a meal.
Fexaramine, a drug that is currently in development to treat obesity (which, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, affects 34.9% or 78.6 million US adults), does not actually suppress the appetite at all, but rather tricks the digestive system into entering its digestive mode by making the body “think” it has consumed a meal. What that does, in turn, is kick-start metabolic activity to make room for more food, which actually just ends up burning fat when the stomach is empty.
The drug is thought to be safer than other alternatives on the market for a variety of reasons, one being that the drug does not enter the bloodstream or affect the body anywhere outside of the digestive system. That means no raised blood pressure or increased heart rate — two of the biggest problems that many of the current diet pills on the market pose to people who ingest them.
So far the drug has only been tested on our mice friends (when will those poor things get a break?!), but the drug passed with such flying colors that the researchers behind it hope to gain clearance for human trials within the next couple years. The mice used in the study were either obese, had diabetes, or had fatty liver disease. All of them showed improvements in weight loss, liver function, a lowering of glucose levels, and a reduction in inflammation. AND the mice were able to consume the same amount of food as normal, but dropped weight while taking the drug anyway. Yeah, sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?
So how does that work, exactly? Essentially, our bodies, wonderfully efficient machines that they are, contain a protein receptor that activates when we start to eat, triggering our stomachs to release bile acids — among other things — to begin digestion. The pill bypasses the need for food to enter the stomach to trigger this receptor. This specific protein isn’t new to researchers; pharmaceutical companies have been trying to come up with a “safe” means of interacting with it for over a decade. Nearly all of their attempts were successful in activating the farensoid X receptor (FXR) in the intestines, but weren’t able to prevent that same receptor from activating in other organs and bodily systems like the kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands. Definitely not what we want. Fexaramine, on the other hand, apparently isolates this reaction just where we need it.
Senior author of the study, Ronald Evans, shared:
“It sounds crazy, but the new idea is it’s possible to develop drugs that just work in the intestine and pass through that have major systemic or body-wide effects, and it’s possible to do this in a very safe way.”
Sorry to get your hopes up, but if all you’re trying to to do is shed your holiday weight or get ready for bikini season, you’re out of luck. Fexaramine will, most likely, be exclusively prescribed as an obesity treatment, used in the hopes that it will prove a comparable alternative, or perhaps even a better alternative, to surgical weight-loss procedures. Which is great, because major operations like gastric bypasses can leave you out of commission for weeks during recovery, with the chance of scarring and complications down the line, to boot. But, come on: a weight-loss drug that ostensibly has no negative side effects, doesn’t get absorbed by the body, and can deliver proven results? We have a feeling that pharmaceutical companies will find a way to get fexaramine into the hands of those of us who, like Regina George, just really want to lose three pounds.
h/t to TIME