‘Feces’ Pill May Help Combat Obesity, Research Shows

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Newman_pills_130116There have been many different types of weight loss treatments over the years, but now doctors believe that taking pills containing fecal matter could be a cure for obesity.

Taking pills containing freeze-dried fecal matter would gross many people out, but the treatment has been used for certain health conditions in recent years. Fecal transplants are now used for treating reoccurring C. difficile gut infections, which can be life-threatening. The treatment is believed to have a success rate of over 90%.

Now, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital believe that a similar treatment could also cure obesity. They are preparing a clinical trial that will test the effect that the fecal pills have on 20 people suffering from obesity.

Fecal transplants work by transferring the gut microbes of healthy patients into people who may have excess bad bacteria in their guts, such as those with gut infections. The healthy bacteria from the fecal transplant bring the gut microbiome back into balance. Researchers believe that gut microbes may also play a role in obesity.

In a previous study, mice were given fecal transplants from humans. The mice that received transplants from obese people also became obese, which suggest that obesity may be caused by changes in the gut microbiome. Mice that received fecal transplants from donors at a regular weight did not gain weight.

In the clinical study being prepared, people with obesity will be given the fecal matter pills. In each pill, there will be a couple grams of fecal matter taken from healthy donors. Participants in the study will take one pill every day for six to eight weeks. After doing the treatment, the patient’s weight and health will be monitored at three, six, and 12 month intervals.

Some of the study participants will receive the fecal matter pill, while others will receive a placebo pill containing cocoa powder. According to Dr. Elaine Yu, the lead researcher on the study, patients will not be able to tell the difference between the two pills and will not know which one they are getting.

“The pills are odorless, tasteless and double-encapsulated to ensure they will not release until they reach the right location in the large intestine,” said Dr. Yu.

While the researchers remain optimistic about the results, they also caution that the treatment may turn out not to be a cure for obesity. “We don’t know what the results of this trial will be,” said Dr. Yu.

As well, Dr. Yu cautions that since the treatment is unproven as of now, people looking to lose weight shouldn’t seek out this treatment or get their hopes up just yet. “I don’t want to feed any frenzy of people jumping on this bandwagon,” she said. “DIY experiments make me very nervous, as a physician and as a researcher.”

The clinical trial is expected to begin in the second half of this year.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Dicker, R., “Will Pills Containing Fecal Matter Help Treat Obesity?” USA News, January 11, 2016; http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-01-11/will-pills-containing-fecal-matter-help-treat-obesity.