New anti-obesity pill imitates a fitness workout

New medicine has already proved successful on mice. Source: / A frame from the Ratatouille animation film

New medicine has already proved successful on mice. Source: / A frame from the Ratatouille animation film

Russian and Swedish scientists have tested new anti-obesity medicine on overweight mice that were fed high-calorie diets. In just four weeks the rodents dropped 15-25 percent of their total weight.

Scientists from the Belozersky Research Institute at Moscow State University and the Wenner-Gren Institute at the University of Stockholm have developed a new medicine against obesity. It proved successful on mice, and scientists say that clinical tests on humans will start in two years.


Mystery of the magic ion

A penetrating ion, called C12-TPP, is the key element in the new medication given to mice in their drinking water. Unofficially, scientists call it the Skulachev Ion in honor of the Soviet biochemist, Vladimir Skulachev. In the 1970s his research helped explain how our cells receive energy during the breathing process.

Recently, the main ideas of his research were the basis for a project called, "Skulachev's Ions - No Aging!" Over 300 scientists from more than 40 Russian and international laboratories participated. The research proved that Skulachev's ions help fight free radicals and prolong life. As a result, the labs created various anti-age drugs now being tested in Russia and the U.S., and in Russia eye drops for age-related problems are already available in pharmacies.

Also, scientists decided to use Skulachev’s ions to fight obesity. The C12-TPP ion reduces the electrical charge on the mitochondrial membrane, which is a type of tiny powerhouse for each of our cells. The ion forces cells to work harder and restores the released charge, which leads to consuming more nutrients, and thus, imitating physical exercise.


Russians are getting larger

Over the last few years, Russian dietitians have been sounding the alarm on obesity. According to the Scientific Research Institute of Nutrition, Russia may soon face an obesity epidemic. Currently, 16% of men and 24% of women suffer from this illness. Already 8 to 10 percent of Russian children have excess body mass. Russia is the fourth most obese country in the world, according to the Healthy Food Research Center.

The reasons for obesity in Russia are the same as everywhere. First, this is due to poor nutrition or an extreme consumption of carbohydrates, said Alexei Kovalkov, a dietician and weight correction clinic director. “The problem is that the entire world is fighting not the reasons for obesity but obesity itself,” said Kovalkov. “Operations to reduce the size of the stomach are a radical method, but it does not eliminate the approximately 50 reasons for obesity, which are all basically related to hormones.”

It had been thought that obesity could be healed with psychoanalysis or by keeping track of calories. But according to Kovalkov, in the last two to three years scientific research has completely disproven this theory and showed that excess weight indicates serious illness throughout the whole body and leads to various complications.


Side effects?

Today, there are many means to lose weight. In Russia, for example, the most popular are medicines based on fibers that help one to feel sated from small quantities of food.

Anti-obesity medicines usually have various side effects, so how safe will C12-TPP be? "At least it has not done any damage to lab mice, and it only created additional pressure for the mitochondria, the cells' source of energy," explained Maxim Skulachev, one of the drug's developers.

In the next two years a series of pre-clinical tests will be performed on animals. If they are successful, clinical tests on humans will soon start. Scientists, however, say that the medicine itself cannot be considered a panacea. After it is removed from the body, a person again begins to gain weight if he or she does not change eating habits.

Tests carried out by the University of Stockholm showed that mice that continued a fatty diet after ceasing to take the drug soon regained lost fat. The new pill helps one lose excess weight rather quickly, but an overweight person must change his/her lifestyle, although not as radically as before taking the medicine.

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