A Pill to Turn Off Hunger

London researchers pinpoint 'satisfaction' molecule

Apr 30, 2014
Outside Magazine

Can taking a pill switch off hunger?    Michael Chen/Flickr/Creative Commons

Imperial College is on a roll. After recently unveiling the edible water bottle, researchers at the London institution announced that they might be able to create a pill with the power to switch off hunger. Their theory is based around the molecule acetate, which essentially tells the body when it's time to stop eating. 

Release of acetate is commonly triggered as fiber-rich fruits and vegetables are digested in the colon. It then travels to the brain's hypothalamus region, which controls and monitors hunger. Researchers at Imperial College believe they may be able to create a pill from acetate that would theoretically stifle hunger at its source. 

The study suggests that much of today's obesity epidemic can be attributed to a lack of acetate-stimulating foods in the average diet. Compared to our ancestors, we're getting only a fraction of the fiber necessary to keep the acetate flowing on a consistent basis. "Unfortunately our digestive system has not yet evolved to deal with this modern diet, and this mismatch contributes to the current obesity epidemic," Professor Gary Frost told the Telegraph. "Our research has shown the release of acetate is central to how fiber suppresses our appetite."

Frost added that a pill regimen of acetate is still largely theoretical and that the exact amounts necessary for safely suppressing hunger are still unknown.

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