Heavy-set arm getting injection

A hormone treatment has been shown to lower obese individuals’ glucose levels and weight, and may prove a viable alternative to bariatric surgery.

In a trial of obese, prediabetic patients, subjects were injected with a hormone combination normally found in the gut. Within four weeks, participants lost an average of nearly 10 pounds and their blood glucose levels had improved, or even returned to normal levels. 

Although study participants lost less weight overall than their bariatric surgery cohorts, the choice between getting an injection and having invasive surgery is a no-brainer, said researcher Tricia Tan, Ph.D., of Imperial College London.

“This result shows that it is possible to obtain some of the benefits of a gastric bypass operation without undergoing the surgery itself. If further trials are successful, in the future we could potentially give this type of treatment to many more patients,” Tran said in a statement.

Obesity is a rising concern that affects as many as 28% of U.S. nursing home residents, who frequently suffer from multiple, dangerous comorbidities. Bariatric surgery is the current gold-standard treatment to reduce symptoms or resolve problems such as diabetes, hypertension and insulin resistance.

The goal of the study was to mimic the flood of gut hormones that occurs after gastric bypass surgery and is thought to play a role in the well-documented success of these procedures. The hormones were injected by way of a pump placed under the skin and were not found to cause side effects. 

The research team is planning more trials to assess longer-term impact of the injection treatment.