Just as kids get vaccines that have made things like polio and smallpox obsolete, there may come a day when adults who are struggling with their weight can be vaccinated to suppress their appetite.
A new study involving mice successfully got the obese subjects to eat 50 percent less after they were given the vaccine, which was ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) attached to harmless virus-like particles.
The theory behind injecting ghrelin is that the body develops antibodies against the hormone, which would suppress the hunger-inducing substance.
The effects of the vaccine lasted for 18 months, which is equal to four years for humans.
While these studies were successful, the idea has its doubters. The objections aren’t that the study was conducted in a shady or unscientific manner, it’s mainly to caution the public due to the complexities involved in regulating our weight.
“I think that an obesity vaccine is pretty far-fetched,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance. “It’s extremely unlikely we’ll be able to develop a vaccine that will prevent weight gain.”
One of the complexities to weight gain is that there are other factors for why we overeat other than our appetite. For instance, many people get caught up in emotional eating that has nothing to do with feeling hungry.
The study’s authors, including Dr. Mariana Monteiro of the University of Porto in Portugal, would like to see a successful vaccine, if for no other reason than to provide a safer alternative to current weight loss drugs, which sometimes have deadly side effects.
June 15th, 2011