Scientists working on a new diet pill claim it tricks the body into thinking it's just had a large meal

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Image: "Imaginary meal' pill fools body into reacting as if it has just eaten

Carsten Schertzer / CC-BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr: jonathanschertzer

It may sound like something concocted in Willy Wonka’s factory but scientists claim to have created a diet pill that can trick the body into thinking it has eaten a lot – and early tests have proved successful.


How does it work? Well, once the pill – which, unlike other dietary pills has an active ingredient which is designed to stay within the intestines and not circulate in the bloodstream – reaches the stomach, it triggers the gut to release signals to the brain of the sort that normally occur after eating.


Dr Ronald Evans, director of the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, and senior author of the paper, says: “The pill is like an imaginary meal. It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it.


“But there are no calories and no change in appetite.” 


That’s right, a diet pill that doesn’t suppress the appetite. Apparently. Early tests on obese mice suggest the drug, fexaramine, effectively halts weight gain, lowers cholesterol, controls blood sugar and reduces fat levels.


The study was published in Nature Medicine and Dr Evans said the drug's ideal use would be to help fight obesity in conjunction with controlled diet and exercise. Human trials have yet to be started.