A new treatment that boosts the stomach’s “full” signal could offer a new way of tackling growing obesity epidemic, according to an article published in the journal, Diabetes, by researchers from Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust.

The team of researchers used injections of oxyntomodulin – a naturally occurring digestive hormone released from the small intestine as food is consumed, signalling to the brain that the body is full and has had enough to eat – and assessed reductions in body weight and calorific intake in overweight volunteers. Over four weeks, three-times-daily injections of oxyntomodulin reduced the 14 volunteers’ body weight by an average of 2.3kg. Daily energy intake was also reduced by an average of 170kcal after the first injection, to 250kcal at the end of four weeks – the average recommended intake is 2,500 kcal per day for men, and 1,940 for women. Volunteers also had lesser appetites without a reduction in food palatability.

Professor Steve Bloom, senior researcher at Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospital, says: “The discovery that oxyntomodulin can be effective in reducing weight could be an important step in tackling the rising levels of obesity in society. Not only is it naturally occurring, so has virtually no side effects, it could be ideal for general use as it can be self administered. Despite this, we still need to conduct larger clinical trials to test its effectiveness over longer periods.”

Obesity now affects more than half of all UK adults, costing the UK up to £3.7 billion pounds a year in sickness absence and treatments.