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Hormone May Play Role in Obesity

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Obesity accounts for 280 thousand deaths each year in the United States. Experts say it may soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death.

Researchers are busy trying to figure out what makes us eat and how do we turn the switch off.

Now a new study may be taking us closer to a magic bullet for weight loss.

Eating seems simple enough-- take a bite, chew and swallow. But there's more to it, a complex group of hormones are busy sending signals from your gut to your brain, and back again.

Messages like "Stop eating, I'm full." One such hormone, called Peptide YY or PYY, is secreted by your gut after a meal. How much is released depends on how many calories you ate.

When PYY is given to people with normal weight, they have less appetite and eat less. But does it work for people who are overweight or obese? Researchers in London studied 24 adults. Half were obese, the others normal weight.

They gave them PYY or a placebo saline i.v., waited two hours, then took them to an all-you-can eat buffet.

As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, they found obese and lean volunteers had similar results, compared to the placebo. When they were treated with PYY they ate 30 percent less.

But what was most surprising-- they found people who are obese have less PYY to begin with, and don't secrete as much after a meal as people who are normal weight.

Their findings are intriguing and suggest a deficiency of PYY may plan a role in obesity.

If so, giving patients a supplement of PYY, or something to help turn their own production on, just might be a future treatment for obesity.

It will be years before this is ready for clinical use, if ever. For now, doctors say the best way to control your weight is with diet and exercise.

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