Experimental Weight-Loss Drug Touted For Cholesterol Benefits

A new type of weight-loss drug may help improve risk factors for heart disease among people who are overweight, a Canadian-led research team has found. Rimonabant, or Acomplia, is the first drug that works by blocking the cannabinoid-1 receptor, the same one marijuana targets in the brain. When the receptor is blocked in laboratory animals, they eat less and lose weight. Jean-Pierre Després of the Quebec Heart Institute and his colleagues studied the effects of the experimental drug in 1,036 overweight or obese patients with lipid problems. Després stressed the potential drug would not be a magic bullet for bulging waistlines, and should only be considered an option for those at high risk of diabetes and heart disease who don't respond to changes in diet and exercise. It is "irrelevant" to people who want to lose weight for cosmetic reasons, he said. Participants were put on a reduced-calorie diet for a month, and then randomly assigned to take a placebo, five milligrams of the drug or 20 milligrams. Those in the placebo group lost an average of about five pounds and two centimetres off their waistlines after 12 months, compared to 19 pounds and seven to eight centimetres in the high-dose group. Those who took the drug tended to boost their HDL or "good" cholesterol levels and reduce trigylceride levels.

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