New study gives insight into anti-obesity drugs

London: Scientists have claimed that an anti-obesity drug changes the way the brain responds to appetising, high-calorie foods in obese individuals.

This insight may aid the development of new anti-obesity drugs which reduce the activity in the regions of the brain stimulated by the sight of tasty foods, a University of Cambridge release said.

Researchers at the university discovered that the anti-obesity drug sibutramine reduced brain responses in two regions of the brain, the hypothalamus and the amygdala, both of which are known to be important in appetite control and eating behaviour.

Their findings are reported today in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Professor Paul Fletcher, from the Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioural & Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge and one of the paper`s authors, said: "Currently, there are few drugs that effectively help patients to lose weight.

"Developing new pharmaceuticals is expensive and risky. However, our findings suggest that we may be able to use brain imaging and psychological tests to make better predictions of which drugs are likely to work."

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers measured brain activity while obese volunteers viewed pictures of appetising high-calorie foods – like chocolate cake - or pictures of low-calorie foods – like broccoli, the release added.

The brain scanning was carried out both after two weeks of treatment with the anti-obesity drug, sibutramine, and two weeks of placebo treatment.