Study: Gila monster spit reduces food and possibly booze cravings

posted at 6:01 pm on May 19, 2012 by Howard Portnoy

What are you willing to do to shed a few pounds or cut down on your alcohol intake? If your answer to either question is “anything,” then I’m here to tell you there’s a pill for that. It contains Gila monster saliva, but that’s a small sacrifice for those who are serious about fighting the battle of the bulge or climbing up on the wagon.

Sounding like something straight out of Fear Factor, the active ingredient in the drug, exendin-4, is not just lizard drool but venomous lizard drool. Yet, as the Daily Mail reports, researchers at the University of Gothenburg have discovered that the drug controls the brain regions that cause us to crave food and, to a lesser extent, booze.

The discovery of the benefits of extendin-4, which is already marketed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, was a “happy accident.” During tests of the drug on lab rats, researchers noticed that the rodents didn’t have much of an appetite at the end of a day’s work.

Karolina Skibicka, lead author of the study (which is scheduled to appear in the Journal of Neuroscience), is quoted as saying, “This is both an unknown and quite unexpected effect.” She adds:

Our decision to eat is linked to the same mechanisms in the brain which control addictive behaviours.

We have shown that exendin-4 affects the reward and motivation regions of the brain.

Co-researcher Suzanne Dickson told the Mail, “The implications of the findings are significant. Most dieting fails because we are obsessed with the desire to eat, especially tempting foods like sweets. As exendin-4 suppresses the cravings for food, it can help obese people to take control of their weight.”

The team noted that further research on the impact of the compound on alcohol cravings would be needed before they could offer similarly optimistic pronouncements. In the meantime, those looking to kick the habit can attempt to score a supply of WA|HH Quantum Sensations spray, which simulates the effects of drinking (albeit with none of the pleasure).

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