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Size zero in a pill

The global obsession with losing weight was never more apparent as it is this week. A clutch of new studies showed how some of the world’s best research centres are spending millions in the hunt for the elusive no-pain, no-sweat weight-reduction pill.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 18, 2009 22:32 IST
Sanchita Sharma

The global obsession with losing weight was never more apparent as it is this week. A clutch of new studies showed how some of the world’s best research centres are spending millions in the hunt for the elusive no-pain, no-sweat weight-reduction pill.

A pill for the will
The most different slimming solution came from scientists from the Harvard Medical School, which reported that they were a close to developing a pill to help people exercise. Their study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that physical activity in very overweight mice doubled when a hormone called leptin was switched on in their brain.

Leptin was identified 15 years ago as a hormone that curbed appetite and led to weight loss. Harvard scientists now hope to build on the research to create pills that help people get more active.

Next came the July 13 study in Nature Chemical Biology, which reported how a new fat-busting pill led fat mice losing one-fourth of their body weight. Developed at Indiana University in the US, the drug is an artificial hormone made from natural hormones: glucagon and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that regulate glucose metabolism. Though, it needs more work before it’s consumed by humans.

The fat-burners
There’s more. On July 17, the journal Diabetes reported that a pill derived from naringenin, that gives grapefuit its bitter flavour, caused weight loss by prodding the liver to burn fat after a meal. Simply put, the pill causes weight loss without a change in diet.

The bad news is that these wonder drugs are still in the pipeline and will take some years to hit the chemists. Till then, you have to fall back on the tried-and-tested weight-loss mantra of diet and exercise.

Exercise works best
Wonder diets alone do not work. If your diet plan helps you lose more than two kilograms in a month without exercising, most of the weight you’ve lost will come back as soon as you go back to your regular diet. To lose one kilogram of fat, you need to burn 7,700 calories. For a one kilogram loss in a week, you have to survive on a near-starvation diet of 400 calories (one masala dosa or one large McDonald’s Fries) a day if you are a sedentary woman (recommended intake is 1,500 calories a day) and 700 calories if you are a man (recommended intake is 1,800). Only aerobic exercise and weight training, not yoga — can help you lose weight and keep it off.