A New Expanding Pill Could Shrink Your Waistline

The theory: You can't overeat if your stomach is full of swollen particles.

Image courtesy of Getty.

The quest for a magic diet pill isn't new, of course. Scientists have been searching for a miracle drug that can carve out six-pack abs for decades. Some modern concoctions claim to speed up your metabolism. Others suppress appetite. One less-than-ideal option works as a diuretic. The new Gelesis100—which sounds more like a video game console than a drug—takes a different approach: The capsule is consumed before meals with a glass of water, and then temporarily swells up in the stomach, causing you to feel full and eat less.

So far, the results are impressive: During a recent study, people who took the pill lost 6.1 percent of their weight after 12 weeks, while those taking a placebo lost only 4.1 percent. Executives at Gelesis say weight loss would have been greater if the trial had lasted longer.

For the study, 128 overweight or obese Europeans took a capsule before lunch and dinner along with a half-liter of water. They were also put on a reduced-calorie diet. The science is simple: The pill consists of tiny particles made of two substances, which expand to 100 times their original size once they're hydrated in the stomach and small intestine. (The company is tight-lipped when it comes to openly identifying those two substances, but we know they're already used in food—so that's something.) After the particles travel through the small intestine, enzymes in the large intestine degrade them, they release water and are excreted.

The study's lead researcher, Dr. Arne V. Astrup, head of the department of nutrition, exercise and sports at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, says he's impressed and that the pill could be safer than other diet drugs because this one doesn't chemically affect the brain. Gelesis plans to run a larger study next year, with the ultimate goal to win final approval for the product.

The takeaway: Let's not burn Dr. Oz at the stake just yet—there just may be a magic diet pill.

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