Obesity: Lower bowel holds secret to weight loss

A human trial, supported by Bowel Research UK, has found that specific nutrients delivered to the colon can reduce food intake and may therefore be an important tool in tackling the nation’s obesity crisis and associated diseases, such as bowel cancer.

The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, crossover study was conducted amongst 20 volunteers with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-40kg/m, and investigated the untapped power of the lower bowel to regulate appetite.

Led by Dr Madusha Peiris from Queen Mary University, London, the research team found that an active capsule delivering nutrients to the colon could reduce calorific intake. The capsule increased the levels of the appetite-reducing hormone PYY at multiple time points.

Overall calorific intake was found to be significantly less during the active versus placebo treatment, with most of the calorie reduction being at lunch rather than breakfast, and participants did not report any adverse side-effects.

Commenting on the study, Dr Peiris explained, “With 64% of adults in England classified as overweight or obese, this study could have huge implications for the country’s health, including a potential reduction in incidence rates for diseases such as bowel cancer and also the need for obesity surgery.”

Obesity is a key risk factor for bowel cancer, and up to half of bowel cancer diagnoses are related to lifestyle. Obesity can also present considerable treatment challenges in bowel cancer surgery and increases the risk of perioperative complications.

“Our next step is to conduct further trials to assess long-term effect on weight loss and to assess the effectiveness of the treatment on a pre-diabetic population to assess progression to developing type 2 diabetes”, added Dr Peiris.

The study findings coincide with the launch of Bowel Research UK – a newly-formed charity following the merger of Bowel Disease Research Foundation and Bowel & Cancer Research – which supported the study. The new Charity will build on the legacy of both organisations, driving its ethos of patients and clinicians working together to promote specialist research that improves patient experience and ultimately saves lives. The two organisations have a combined 50 years of experience in helping to fund cutting edge research and have made enormous progress in the fight against bowel disease and bowel cancer.

Professor Charles Knowles, Clinical Research Lead at Bowel Research UK, comments: “This is a pioneering study that highlights the important work that Bowel Research UK is doing to improve the lives of people living with bowel conditions. It underlies our commitment to funding life-changing, patient-centred research into bowel cancer and other bowel diseases. Our plan is to commit £1 million to funding similar early stage, ground-breaking research into bowel diseases over the next 12-18 months in order to help the more than one million people in the UK who suffer from bowel conditions and to hopefully reduce the 16,000 people who die from bowel cancer each year.”

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