Diet discovery hard to stomach

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The Independent Online

Scientists may have discovered the ultimate recipe for slimmers - a pill that will fool the body into believing it has just enjoyed a big meal.

A team at Hammersmith Hospital in London has discovered that a small protein known as GLP-1 is produced after rats have eaten a heavy meal. The protein stops the animals from eating too much. When it was blocked by the scientists, the rats over-ate.

Stephen Bloom, professor of endocrinology at the hospital, says that the mechanism of satisfaction is likely to be identical in rats and humans, leaving the way open for a new slimming drug.

"It really won't be very difficult for the pharmaceutical companies to produce a GLP-1 lookalike that stops the body from over-eating," said Professor Bloom. The new drug would specifically block over-consumption - it would not prevent people maintaining their normal body weight. "You could make it specific in increasing satiety, so that after eating one steamed pudding you'd be able to say: 'That's enough now'."

The new drug would not be capable of abuse by anorexics or people with similar disorders. "It would be quite dangerous to develop a drug that knocked out appetite entirely," Professor Bloom said.

But over-eating is more complex than a simple desire for calories, according to Professor David Booth, a psychologist from Birmingham University.

"There's not one thing called hunger. It's very much more complex and involves a myriad of different sorts, moods and psychological mechanisms and circuits in the brain. There's not one button a drug could act on," said Professor Booth.

Cynics might also note that there is another, easier method of fooling the body it has just consumed a large meal - it is known as eating a Chinese takeaway.