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Beating the scales

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A slimming pill lorcaserin could help millions fight middle-age spread, a major study has found.

Scientists say lorcaserin – labelled the ‘holy grail’ of weight management – is three times more effective than dieting alone. The twice-a-day tablets boost the brain cells that control appetite, which can become less effective with age.

A US trial of 12,000 overweight people found those taking the drug lost an average of 9lbs 3oz in the first year – triple the 3lbs lost by those who relied on weight-loss advice alone – and kept the weight off for at least the three years of the study.

Crucially, lorcaserin was also shown to be safe long-term. The research also showed the drug cut the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 19 per cent and improved blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate.

Lorcarserin could help overweight adults of any age, but experts believe they could be particularly useful for those in middle age.

It works by activating the cells in the brain that control ‘satiety’, telling us when we are full. These cells – called POMC neurons – become less efficient with age, meaning it takes longer for the brain to receive the message that the stomach is full. Researchers believe this is a major cause of overeating and middle-age spread.

The drug reinvigorates these neurons, helping patients to control their appetite when they are trying to lose weight.

Attempts to develop appetite suppressors have been beset with difficulties because they have also caused heart problems. Similar fears stopped lorcaserin gaining a European safety licence when it was developed six years ago.

Lorcaserin is almost twice as effective, with 37 per cent of slimmers using the new drug losing at least 5 per cent of their bodyweight, compared with 21 per cent of those on orlistat.

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