An Overweight Woman In Times Square, New York
IN PHOTO. An overweight woman sits on a chair in Times Square in New York, in this May 8, 2012 file photo. Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Files

Researchers from the Salk Institute in La Jolla in California have found that a drug known as fexaramine helps aid weight loss and potentially may help battle the rates of obesity. It is said that fexaramine works like an "imaginary meal" and mimics the signals that are produced when the body prepares for intake of food during the start of a meal. The findings were published in a report in the journal Nature Medicine on Jan. 5.

According to The Guardian, the signals that are produced at the start of a meal usually lead to a number of effects, which include burning of body fat and reducing blood sugar. Other effects are reduction of cholesterol levels and increase in metabolism.

The U.S. researchers performed experiments with obese mice for five weeks. The drug, fexaramine, that was given to the mice works locally in their intestines. The drug activates the farnesoid X receptor, or FXR, found in the gut as well as other parts of the body. FXR, a nuclear receptor, affects the way the body produces bile acids as well as how it digests food and stores sugar and fats.

It was found that the mice, after taking the drug, were successful in losing body fat as well as having lower cholesterol levels. It was also found that the mice had stopped gaining weight and a bit of the white fat had turned into a healthier brown form.

Senior author of the paper and director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute Ronald Evans said that the pill was like an "imaginary meal." It sent out the same signals to the body that are sent when one eats a lot of food.

A co-author of the study, Michael Downes, explained that when the drug was administered orally, it worked only in the gut. He said that the researchers were hijacking the natural signal of the body in such a way that it was tricked into burning calories as well as lowering the glucose levels.

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