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Hormone treatment

Hormone combination therapy reduces appetite

Professor Stephen Bloom, head of division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial
Appetite reduced by 13% in combined therapy group

Patients who received a combined therapy of the hormones glucagon and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) have reported a reduction in their appetite and food intake. Presenting the data at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Harrogate, UK, the researchers from Imperial College London, UK, said the study may form the basis for a new treatment for obesity and diabetes.

"We found that volunteers treated with a glucagon/GLP-1 combination consumed significantly less food,” said Professor Stephen Bloom, head of division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial. “These data replicate our findings in animals, suggesting that a glucagon/GLP-1 combination may be a promising lead from which to develop a new treatment for obesity and diabetes.”

The research team wanted to identify whether glucagon and GLP-1 given in combination might work together to reduce appetite. In the small study, 16 human volunteers were randomly allocated to a sequence of four treatment infusions for 120 minutes, separated by at least three days, each: 1) glucagon, 2) GLP-1, 3) glucagon and GLP-1 in combination and 4) a saline infusion as a control.

The team provided the subjects with a meal at 90 minutes into each infusion, measured the amount of oxygen consumed, took blood samples to measure blood sugar and metabolic hormone levels, and took readings for pulse, blood pressure and nausea, at baseline and during the infusions. This provided data on energy intake, energy expenditure, blood sugar control, and the safety of and tolerance to the treatment.

The results, which were presented in the paper, ‘Energy intake following infusion of glucagon and GLP-1: a double-blind crossover study’, revealed that the energy intake during the meal was 1086+/-110.1kcal for the control group vs. 879+/-94.2kcal for the hormone combination group: a significant reduction of 13% (p<0.05). The reduction not seen when either hormone was given alone (glucagon: 1086+/-96.9kcal, GLP-1: 1052+/-81.3kcal; p>0.05). All the infusions were tolerated safely.

The researchers said that they now plan to test this glucagon/GLP-1 combination treatment in more people and for longer periods of time to see if the effects can be sustained in the long term.

"Thirteen percent is a big reduction in food intake by anyone's standards, but our experiment is only an appetiser,” said Bloom. “An effective future treatment will need to suppress appetite in the long term, so we next aim to establish whether the effects can be sustained to lead to real weight loss."

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