Obesity is a word we seem to hear more and more, since it’s an ever-growing problem, especially in America. So it makes sense that doctors and scientists are constantly looking for new ways to approach the issue. And because the usual weight-loss techniques like regular exercise and consciously deciding to eat healthier seem to be, y’know, difficult, we’re hearing more and more about magic pills to fuel your workouts, magic pills for weight loss, and even more creative methods like testing the bacteria in your poop.
One of the latest drugs that claims to aid weight loss is a compound called semaglutide, an appetite-control drug currently in development by Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company. The drug is being developed to treat diabetes, but it’s also been found to help obese people lose weight, according to a study done by the University of Leeds that was funded by Novo Nordisk.
Over a 12-week trial, obese people who received once-weekly doses of semaglutide felt fewer food cravings, tended to “prefer” healthy foods over junk, and chose to eat smaller meals, according to the study—basically all the components of healthy weight loss. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the participants also lost an average of 11lbs. Most of that weight was body fat, and scientists figured out that targeting specific parts of the brain may affect the way your brain controls your appetite.
“The drug reduced hunger but also cravings for food and the sensation of wanting to eat—and these had previously been thought to stem from different parts of the brain,” said lead researcher John Blundell, according to the university press release.
The chemical structure of the drug is similar to that of a naturally occurring hormone that’s thought to reduce the feeling of hunger, which is why the study analyzed whether it could aid weight loss.
A group of 28 very overweight people took part in the study. Half of them received a placebo, while the other half were given semaglutide for 12 weeks; after those 12 weeks were up, researchers then repeated the process, giving semaglutide to the initial placebo group, and vice versa. After 12 weeks, they were invited to the testing center and given a lunch and dinner. They were told to eat as much as they needed to feel “pleasantly full,” while researchers recorded their food preferences and desire for food. On average, people who had taken semaglutide ate 24% less. Since the participants’ metabolisms were unchanged, the findings suggest that appetite control is what led to fat loss.
“A drug that reduces daily food intake by about a quarter with a substantial reduction in body fat will help some people to feel more in control of their lives,” Blundell said, “and will help to prevent the onset of poor health that often arises from obesity.”
Semaglutide isn’t on the market yet, but it’s in the late stages of development. And while the study was done exclusively on clinically obese people, maybe one day everyone’s appetite will be in the hands of a medication that tells our brains to tell us that we’re full.
In the meantime, of course, there are plenty of ways to burn body fat the old-fashioned way. If you want to burn fat, you’ll need a full complement of fat-burning workouts and diet-friendly recipes—and maybe a little inspiration to boot.