OBESITY could be cured by turning off “hungry hormone” without dieting or exercise as the NHS launched a radical trial.
The process would cut the desire to over-eat and reduce weight in just 40 minutes and would cost the NHS £1,500 – a quarter of the price of normal fat-loss surgery.
People with obesity could turn off their “hungry hormone” through a procedure called bariatric embolisationCredit: Getty Images
A trial, led by Ahmed R. Ahmed, a bariatric surgeon at London’s St Mary’s Hospital, will see nearly 80 volunteers go through the procedure called bariatric embolisation and have their ghrelin turned off, which is nicknamed the ‘hungry hormone’.
Due to expense and logistics, the NHS performs 6,000 bariatric procedures such as gastric bands, bypasses and sleeves a year, leading to long waiting lists.
Speaking to the MailOnline, 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.
The doctor said the method’s fast speed and low cost would open up obesity treatment to many more people, but said the effectiveness of it would need to be proved first.
He added: “We really need to know it’s the intervention itself having the effect, and it’s not just a placebo effect.”
The operation, performed under local anaesthetic, 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, which will blocking and therefore reduce ghrelin production.
Small-scale studies have found that obese patients shed on average almost ten percent of their weight after the procedure, although some lose much more.
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Mr Ahmed’s team are recruiting 76 obese volunteers, each with a body mass index of between 35 and 50. 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 £1.2 million from the NHS’s National Institute of Health Research and is backed by Imperial College London.
Although no patients have yet been given the treatment in Britain, around 25 have had it in the US. Among them was local nurse Kirsten Kerfoot, 32, who has since lost six and a half stone.
The mother of one, who is 5ft 11in and now weighs 15 stone, said: “I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been overweight or obese.
“I used to see an advert for Chinese food on the TV and think, ‘I want it!’ The thought would stay on my mind for days. That was my experience my entire life – with food having this grip on me.
“Thanks to the procedure, I don’t fixate on food like that any more. It’s like being unchained from food.”
Dr Clifford Weiss of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who is leading a parallel trial of 64 US patients, said: “The goal here is to make patients healthier in the least invasive way possible.”
The treatment was welcomed by Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, who said the NHS had to look at cheaper, quicker alternatives to bariatric surgery, adding: “Obesity is now such a big problem, we’ve got to think outside the box.”
The NHS performs 6,000 bariatric procedures a year, leading to long waiting listsCredit: Getty Images
The trial operation could be performed in just 40 minutes and would cost the NHS £1,500 – a quarter of the price of normal fat-loss surgeryCredit: Getty Images