A Breakthrough in Obesity Treatment?
We need only look around us to recognize that America (and much of Western civilization) is in the midst of an obesity crisis. Higher calorie intake and lack of activity have led us to the point where nearly two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese.
The prevalent treatments for obesity are diet, exercise, drugs and invasive surgery. All of these methods demonstrate some success, but each has its own issues.
However, hope may lie in a new procedure, known as bariatric arterial embolization, which was recently tested in a pilot study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. It shows real promise.
Known as left gastric artery embolization, the procedure has been used for many years as a method to stop bleeding in emergency situations. It involves blocking the main artery that supplies blood to the fundus -- a section of the stomach.
The answer to why this may help fight obesity lies in the role of a hormone called ghrelin.
Ghrelin has been called the "hunger hormone." When the stomach is empty, ghrelin is produced. When the stomach is full and stretched, ghrelin production stops. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone that works on the hypothalamus, inducing feelings of hunger and preparing the body for food.
More than 40 hormones have been discovered that limit the amount of food taken in -- yet ghrelin is the only hormone that has been found to stimulate food intake. Bariatric arterial embolization, by reducing blood flow to the fundus, reduces the release of ghrelin substantially and, therefore, reduces feelings of hunger.
It may be that a minimally invasive intervention like this can play a vital role in the slimming down of the industrialized world.