Experts caution against relying on miracle diet drugs, but a new study offers a novel approach that bears watching.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., reported that they have developed a compound that tricks the metabolism into responding as if a meal has been eaten, causing it to burn fat to make room for new calories. Better yet, the drug, fexaramine, works only in the intestine, never entering the bloodstream. That makes it much safer than, say, systemic stimulants that also rev up the heart and other parts of the body and cause strong side effects, the research said.

For now, the new approach has been demonstrated only in mice, according to the research published in the journal Nature Medicine. But Ronald Evans, director of the institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory and lead author of the study, said that if it shows the same promise in primate studies, clinical trials on humans could begin in a couple of years. “We described a new type of therapy that targets the known genetic switch in our bodies that is linked to eating and metabolic control,” Evans said.


Benefits of early diabetes control

People with type 1 diabetes who intensively control their blood glucose soon after diagnosis are likely to live longer than those who do not, said a study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Over about three decades, the group whose diabetes was tightly controlled for the first seven years after diagnosis had a 33 percent reduction in deaths, as compared with those whose diabetes was not as well-controlled.

The study initially involved 1,441 people.

“We can now confidently tell doctors and patients that good, early control of blood glucose greatly reduces any risk for early mortality in people with type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and young adults,” said lead author Trevor Orchard, professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.


Gastric bypass helps longevity

Extremely obese people who have weight-loss surgery are likely to live longer than those who don’t, even if the patients are older men with multiple health problems, a new study by Seattle’s Group Health researchers and others finds.

Overall, the risk of dying was cut by more than half — 53 percent — over 14 years in patients who had gastric bypass, gastric banding or other forms of bariatric surgery, according to an analysis of data from U.S. Veterans Affairs centers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It’s the latest proof that weight-loss surgery may not only reverse disease and improve quality of life, but also reduce mortality, even in a mostly male population with a mean age of 52 and a mean body mass index of 47 — in some cases 140 pounds or more overweight.

News services