INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Americans may soon have a new weapon in their war on weight.Scientists have discovered something called a hunger hormone that'spartially responsible for making people feel hungry. Researchers inIndianapolis say knowing what causes those hunger pangs is thefirst step toward a pill that will turn off the urges.
Shelly Vail has fought her weight most of her life. Old picturesof her tell the story. She was a pretty girl who was stuck in a fatbody.
"I didn't know myself. I was just living my life every daywithout really knowing who I was or what my purpose was," saidVail.
Shelly's story is one many people know all too well. Nearly 59million people in the U.S. are considered obese. And the weightputs all of them, including Shelly, at risk for health issues.Shelly's kept her weight off for eight years the old fashioned way:consistent diet and exercise. But help may be on the way from thelabs of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company.
Dr. Mark Heiman of Eli Lilly, found that a newly-discoveredhormone, called ghrelin, made lab mice hungry.
"When we treated an animal with the growth hormone secretigog,they ran to the food and ate. And that was such a surprise, we'venever seen anything do that," said Dr. Heiman.
Furthermore, an associate of Dr. Heiman's discovered the on/offswitch for ghrelin. It's an enzyme called GOAT.
"Our hypothesis is for some subset of patients that we need toidentify...can we now find a therapeutic compound that is safe andeffective so we can go in there and turn the switch off," saidJesus Gutierrez.
Ghrelin is made from cells inside the stomach. That enzyme,called GOAT, activates it. Once it's made and activated, it travelsto the hypothalamus region of the brain and triggers a feeling ofhunger. Lilly researchers are focusing their efforts on controllingthe enzyme. In fact, they are developing a pill that will blockGOAT, thereby reducing hunger and spurring weight loss.
"What Lilly discovered recently is the specific enzyme instomach cells that activates ghrelin, and this becomes a veryexciting target for treating obesity," said David Bredt, MD, Ph.D.of Eli Lilly.
But before you throw out the calorie counter, there's somethingyou need to know. There may be serious side effects to controllingthe hunger hormone.
This past summer, in the journal "Nature Neuroscience", Dr.Michael Lutter of the University of Texas-Southwestern wrote, "Ourfindings support the idea that these hunger hormones don't do justone thing. Rather, they coordinate an entire behavioral response tostress and probably affect mood, stress and energy levels."
In the same article, Dr. Jeffrey Zigman issues a warning: "Thisnew research suggests that if you block ghrelin signaling, youmight actually increase anxiety and depression, which would bebad."
In other words, if you cut the hunger hormone to lose weight,you might also be at risk for a mood disorder. 24-Hour News 8 askedseveral people if that kind of risk would stop people from takingthe weight loss pill.
"For me, I've had a lot of problems with anxiety and depression.So I wouldn't," said Natalie Zellers of Fort Wayne.
"I think a lot of people would go for it if there's a quickremedy, a solution, for a lot of people to try to lose thebeginning weight," said Natalie's husband, Brett Zellers.
"Depending on how bad it got, I guess it wouldn't be so bad. Butif it got to drastic suicidal levels, it's probably not a goodidea," said Christen Feguson.
Shelly Vail admits she once took a weight loss pill and itworked temporarily. She lost 60 pounds and then regained it. Now,after having lost her weight the old fashioned way, she doesn'tthink pills are the answer.
"I guess I really still think that the only true way to besuccessful at losing weight is diet and exercise," said Vail.
Lilly researchers said they are very hopeful that the obesitypill will make it through clinical trials. That's a first stepbefore it's available to the public. And, they say, people withtype II diabetes might be helped the most, since many arestruggling with weight.
Interstate 70 east near Interstate 465 was reopened Tuesday evening after a crash blocked all lanes around 6:30 p.m.
If you're looking for something to do over the next seven days you may want to check out Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On Tuesday, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite will promote 23 officers. Three sergeants will be elevated to the rank of lieutenant. Twenty patrol officers will be promoted to the rank of sergeant.