Fighting fat with Botox

Helene Johannessen. Credit: M. Wagelund, NTNU

You may know Botox from its use by the rich and famous to eliminate facial wrinkles. But now Helene Johannessen, a PhD candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), is studying whether or not Botox could be used as an alternative to treating morbid obesity, replacing costly and dangerous operations.

Tests on rats have shown that treatments with Botox injected into the vagus nerve in the stomach can lead to weight loss. When Johannessen and her colleagues injected rats with Botox, the animals ate less and lost 20-30 per cent of their body weight over five weeks. The treatment effectively paralyzes the vagus nerve, which triggers the sense of hunger and controls the passing of food through the intestines.

Paralyzing the nerve paralyzes muscles in the stomach, which appears to slow the passage of food through the stomach. This effect might one day lead to treatments that cause people to feel fuller for longer.

EU project fights obesity

The hope is that the use of can be developed into an alternative to . Johannessen and her research are part of the Experimental Surgery and Pharmacology research group, which is exploring alternatives to gastric surgery. The Botox treatment study is part of an EU project called Full4Health.

Botox is actually botulinum toxin, which when ingested in spoiled foods can lead to both paralysis and death. Nowadays Botox is used in the medical treatment of dystonias and spasms, as well for its more famous cosmetic use. If Johannessen and her colleagues succeed in their efforts, it might also become useful in giving people a healthier and less weighty life.

Clinical studies coming

Johannessen told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) that her research team will start human clinical studies as soon as Norwegian medical ethics authorities give their approval.

"As a start, we will be inviting patients who are candidates for operations but who, for one reason or another, cannot undergo one," Johannessen told NRK.

Obesity is a growing problem across the globe. Being overweight can lead to severe diseases and conditions including diabetes and heart problems. The World Health Organization estimates that obesity is responsible for 2–8 percent of health care costs and 10–13 percent of deaths in different parts of Europe.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Injecting botox into stomach does not promote weight loss

Jan 28, 2013

Despite conflicting data in support of the practice, some overweight Americans looking for an easy fix have turned to gastric botox injections to help them lose weight. This month in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the of ...

Don't let botox go to your head…or should you?

Jan 08, 2013

Injecting botox into the arm muscles of stroke survivors, with severe spasticity, changes electrical activity in the brain and may assist with longer-term recovery, according to new research.

Australians trial Botox to treat hay fever

Oct 09, 2012

The best-selling wrinkle erasing drug Botox will be used in an Australian study to treat hay fever, researchers said Tuesday after it showed promise in providing relief in early trials.

Recommended for you

Nearly 30% of world population is overweight: study

Nov 20, 2014

More than 2.1 billion people globally—or nearly 30 percent of the world's population—are now overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise further by 2030, according to a study published Thursday.

Report: Global obesity costs hits $2 trillion

Nov 20, 2014

The global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually—nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism, according to a new report released Thursday.

Small cash rewards pay off in weight loss plans

Nov 20, 2014

People who received small cash bonuses for their degree of participation in an Internet weight loss program shed more pounds than those who were not offered bonuses and they kept much of the weight off, according to a new ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.