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Researchers are racing to investigate a nasal spray and other forms of a hormone medication that may help dieters eat less because they aren't as hungry.
The drug contains a formulation of PYY, a hormone that's produced by the gut and travels to the brain to shut down neurons that regulate appetite.
It's potentially ''very promising as a therapeutic agent,'' says researcher Stephen Bloom of the Imperial College of Medicine in London.
His studies indicate that the drug works in both lean and obese people, who seem to have lower levels of PYY. That may explain why heavy people feel hungry and overeat. Those who take the medication ''enjoy their meal, but they stop eating sooner,'' he says. ''It reduces appetite by 30% for 24 hours.''
So far the drug has had no negative side effects, Bloom says. He discussed his work Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.
He has studied an injected version of PYY and is now looking at the spray form. A patch is another option, but pills won't work because they're digested.
The PYY nasal spray must still go through a couple of years of rigorous testing, says Steven Quay of Nastech Pharmaceutical Company, the drug's maker.
Samuel Klein, president of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, says the research ''looks very impressive.''
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