An expanding pill that tricks the brain into thinking the stomach is full could help in the battle against obesity.
The pill is taken at least half an hour before meals and works by reducing appetite so that smaller portions are eaten. As it swells, the pill, called Appesat, stretches the stomach wall, stimulating receptors that send a signal to the brain to say that the stomach is full.
The effects are similar to those of a gastric balloon, an inflatable implant surgically inserted into the stomach and then filled with saline solution. The new pill simply needs to be swallowed with water. After a few hours, it gets broken down by acid in the stomach and is flushed out of the body as waste.
It has been approved as a medical device by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, the government body that vets new treatments.
Recent research predicted one in three adults in the UK will be obese by the time London stages the Olympic Games in 2012. A range of anti-obesity pharmaceutical drugs have been licensed in recent years. These include Xenical, which works by reducing the amount of fat absorbed by the gut, and Rimonabant, which acts on the brain to suppress appetite.