Will turning off the ‘hungry hormone’ cure obesity crisis?

NHS medics are to test a radical alternative to fat-loss surgery that is so quick a patient could be treated during their lunch break.

Doctors believe they have found a way to turn off ghrelin — which is nicknamed the ‘hungry hormone’ — by blocking the blood supply to the top of the stomach.

The process, performed under local anaesthetic and taking just 40 minutes, would cut the desire to over-eat and Top Site Info thus reduce weight.

A trial is being led by Ahmed R.Ahmed, Top Site Info a bariatric surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, Central London. He said the procedure, bariatric embolisation, would cost the NHS ВЈ1,500 — a quarter of the price of normal fat-loss surgery.

Expense and logistics means the NHS performs only 6,000 bariatric operations such as gastric bands, bypasses and sleeves a year, leading to long waiting lists.

Mr Ahmed said that if bariatric embolisation became routine, patients could be out of hospital in two hours.’You could go in hungry and come out not hungry,’ he said. It involves making a small cut in the groin or wrist and passing a hollow wire up through blood vessels. Microscopic beads are then deposited in an artery serving the upper stomach, or fundus, blocking it.

Doctors believe they have found a way to turn off ghrelin — which is nicknamed the ‘hungry hormone’ — by blocking the blood supply to the top of the stomach (stock image)

Reducing blood supply to the fundus is known to curtail ghrelin production, and small-scale studies have found that obese patients shed on average almost ten per cent of their weight after the procedure, although some lose much more.

Such weight loss would significantly improve health, reversing type 2 diabetes and cutting the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mr Ahmed said the method’s speed and low cost would open up obesity treatment to many more people, but said ‘gold standard’ proof was first required that it really worked, adding: ‘We really need to know it’s the intervention itself having the effect, and it’s not just a placebo effect.’

Mr Ahmed’s team are recruiting 76 volunteers, each with a body mass index of between 35 and 50, making them extremely or morbidly obese.Half will have blocker beads inserted, the others will get a saline solution placebo, and they will all be followed for a year.

The trial has received ВЈ1.2 million from the NHS’s National Institute of Health Research and is backed by Imperial College London.

The trial has received ВЈ1.2 million from the NHS’s National Institute of Health Research and is backed by Imperial College London (stock image)

No patients have yet been given the treatment in Britain, but around 25 have had it in the US, where it was developed by Dr Clifford Weiss of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

Among them was local nurse Kirsten Kerfoot, 32, who has since lost six and a half stone.

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