A new use of Botox is now being considered by many doctors – the injectable toxin may help overweight and obese people shed weight, based on early research.
Botox treatment is believed to work by blocking a crucial nerve in the stomach that regulates feeling of satiety and hunger. In a small study in Norway, researchers injected Botox into the stomach of 20 obese individuals, with body mass indexes ranging from 35 to 44. The study utilized an endoscope, a medical instrument to look inside the stomach and administer Botox for weight loss into the lower part of the organ. Participants received Botox at the beginning of the study and then another one every six months.
After a year (patients had received two injections) results revealed that 70 percent of the group had lost weight, with an average weight loss of 17 percent out of their excess weight body. After 18 months (patients got three injections), 75 percent of the patients lost weight, with an average weight loss of 28 percent of their excess body weight.
Researchers emphasized that despite the small size of the study and the need for more research in order to confirm, if future studies validate the findings, then this procedure may become ‘the latest method in treating obesity.
A number of past studies have also tested Botox for weight loss, but majority of the studies found that Botox did not help the subjects lose weight. The difference between this study and those in the past is that earlier studies followed patients for just a few months after a single shot of Botox, whereas this new study followed the patients for over a year with repeated injections of Botox.
Furthermore, researchers in the earlier studies thought that Botox would only help people lose weight since it could slow down the rate of stomach emptying. However, the researchers in the new study had a different theory – Botox can block the vagus nerve – a nerve connecting the stomach and the brain, controlling feeling of satiety and hunger.
The researchers first tested their theory in animals, targeting the vagus nerve with Botox injection in mice and discovered that the rats lost weight by eating less. But in experiments where the vagus nerve had been cut, they did not lost weight even with Botox injections. This experiment suggested that Botox acted through the vagus nerve, inducing weight loss. This made the researchers target vagus nerve with Botox.
Botox for weight loss is relatively safe and patients didn’t experience any serious side effects. Also, the procedure is quick, which only takes about 15 minutes. Still, Botox can cause serious side effects such as trouble breathing, muscle weakness and double vision, in rare cases.
The study was funded by the European Commission and The Liaison Committee between the Central Norway Regional Health Authority and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.