Italian scientists have invented a new diet pill that swells inside the stomach, giving its users the impression that they have already eaten. "The sensation is like eating a nice plate of spaghetti," said Prof Luigi Ambrosio, who led the research.
The pill contains an extremely absorbent powder that expands to more than 1,000 times its initial size when combined with water.
Prof Ambrosio said a 500mg pill, washed down with two glasses of water, would create a tennis ball-sized lump in the stomach, making dieters feel full.
"We had one extremely important investor come to visit and he wanted to try the pill," he said. "He got very excited because he took one at 11 o’clock in the morning and at six o’clock in the afternoon he still couldn’t finish an ice cream."
The pill was tested on 20 people for a month last year, and is being tested on a further 90 people at the Policlinico Gemelli hospital in Rome. The results are due in October, but Prof Ambrosio has already won the financing to form a company, Academic Life Science. He hopes to be selling the pill by next May.
"The idea came to us while we were working on a project to design a lining for diapers.
"One of my PhD students came across this particular compound, with incredibly high absorption rates. At the time, scientists were trying to battle obesity with balloons inside the stomach, so we thought this might work."
Prof Ambrosio, of the National Research Council in Naples, said the pill was made from cellulose, the same substance found inside plants. Consequently, he claimed, it also has a beneficial effect on the gut.
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