Local News

Diet Pill May Do More Than Help People Lose Weight

Posted February 20, 2006

— Weight loss in a pill is every dieter's dream.

There are a couple of pills currently on the market, but there's a lot of buzz over an experimental drug called Rimonabant that may offer more benefits than just weight loss.

Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, of St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, led a study of more than 3,000 people who were on a diet and exercise program. After a year, those on the highest dose of Rimonabant lost an average of 13 pounds more than those who did not take the drug.

Plus, they did a better job of keeping it off.

"It does suggest that this drug will be helpful in trying to maintain the weight loss once it occurs," Pi-Sunyer said.

Those on the drug also had improved levels of HDL, or good cholesterol.

So, how does it work?

Researchers said the drug curbs the appetite, but in a unique way. It actually seems to affect the way the brain desires food.

The drug blocks a specific receptor in the brain -- a pleasure center -- that deals with cravings and satisfaction.

"It seems to be a dampening of cravings and one of the really important ones is a craving for food," Pi-Sunyer said.

The drug may also block other cravings and addictions. An earlier study found smokers who took the drug were twice as likely to quit smoking.

The company behind Rimonabant is now seeking government approval, but it's not clear when it may be on the market.

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