One Drug’s Potential Impact On Obesity
February 15, 2013

One Drug’s Potential Impact On Obesity

Okay, so scientists and researchers are constantly on the lookout for drugs to help aid the weight-loss process for overweight and obese adults. Naturally, most agree that a healthy diet and exercise program are the best methods, but some people need a little more, right? Well, the University of Michigan just might have found something…might.

According to CNN Health, a research team found that a canker sore drug called amlexanox made obese mice thin. The most interesting part of this study: the mice did not have to eat less nor exercise more. They kept eating the same number of calories.

So how did it work? The University of Michigan researchers gave mice a high-fat diet, and, naturally, the mice became obese. Then the researchers injected the rodents with the drug amlexanox. This resulted in the mice losing weight while on the drug; however, once they were taken off of it, the mice gained all of the weight back.

Amlexanox has been on the market for more than 15 years as a drug used to treat canker sores. If it works to help fight obesity, then Dr. George Bray, chief of the Division of Clinical Obesity and Metabolism at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, says, “It could well be that what works for one disease will turn out to work for another, even though that wasn’t the original intent.” And in this case, it could really benefit many Americans.

The drug was found to change the action of the metabolism by increasing metabolism without suppressing appetite. This means that people do not have to limit their caloric intake as much but can still lose weight. The lead researcher on the University of Michigan study, Dr. Alan Saltiel, said that one of the main reasons people do not lose weight while dieting is that the body adjusts to the reduced calories and thereby also reduces the metabolism. On the other hand, amlexanox tweaks the metabolic response, at least in the mice.

If you are anything like me, the main problem with the potential in this drug stood right out to you, too. The mice gained all of the weight back once they were taken off of the drug. All of it. This means, of course, that if this drug is found to work in humans as well, those who take it will have to stay on the drug indefinitely or else risk gaining back all of their weight.

As an advocate for healthy eating and exercise in order to maintain or lose weight, this makes me a bit uncomfortable. I mean, the potential to have to stay on a pill for the rest of my life in order to prevent gaining back the weight lost does not sound like a healthy choice.

This is not like taking insulin pills or thyroid pills for the rest of one’s life. Those are necessary for proper organ functioning. As of right now, it seems that amlexanox would simply be taken to control weight. I just do not know how I feel about that.

The other major concern is whether the pill is safe. This drug definitely increases the energy expenditure and body temperature, so what impact will those have on the heart? And what are the potential long-term issues with taking it for the rest of a human life?

Naturally, doctors will now move into testing the drug on humans. Perhaps these tests will show that humans do not have to take the pill indefinitely. Maybe the pill will really become a tour de force for helping treat obesity. Until we know more, though, we should not jump on the amlexanox train just yet.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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