Drugs to encourage exercise

New medication to help obese to get active

New research on overweight mice has led scientists to believe that they may be able to create a medication that could encourage couch potatoes to go to the gym.

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In tests, very overweight mice doubled their amount of physical activity when the hormone leptin – which regulates appetite – was switched on in their brain.

Dr Christian Bjorbaek, an endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School in the US, said: ‘This gives us the opportunity to search for drugs that might induce the desire or will to voluntarily exercise.’

Around a quarter of British adults are obese, and experts believe that more than half will be by 2050 – unless people change what they eat and exercise more.

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As part of the research, the mice became morbidly obese, severely diabetic and sluggish after being bred to lack the ability to respond to leptin.

But after leptin sensitivity was restored to their brain cells, their blood sugar levels rose and they increased their exercise levels. The mice also began eating 30% fewer calories and lost a modest amount of weight.

Leptin was first identified 15 years ago and made famous for its ability to curb appetite and lead to weight loss.

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