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A new, vibrating pill could be a drug-free alternative to weight loss

Posted at 3:13 PM, Feb 15, 2024

DENVER — There’s been a lot of talk lately about medications like Ozempic or Wegovy for weight loss; celebrities are taking them, doctors are studying them and demand is sky high.

However, researchers at MIT are working on another weight loss method that’s drug-free and it doesn't require an invasive surgery. It's a pill that vibrates in your stomach and tricks you into thinking you're full.

“The stomach has stretch receptors, and these stretch receptors are what normally tell you that you're full and trigger the release of hormones, things like insulin, and they suppress things like ghrelin, which are the hunger hormone, and tell you to stop eating. These stretch receptors can incidentally be also activated by a vibratory stimulation,” said Shriya Srinivasan, an assistant professor at Harvard University.

Srinivasan designed the pill and has started testing it on larger animals. When it was given to them 20 minutes before a meal, her research shows the animals ate 40% less on average.

A small silver oxide battery activates the pill when it hits your stomach. The goal of the pill is to produce about 30 minutes of stimulation, giving the stomach enough time to think it’s full and to signal to the brain that it doesn’t need any more food.

Dieters would take the pill about 20 minutes prior to eating so that it can get to work right away.

Srinivasan says there are still more long-term studies to do on it before humans can start taking them, but she says if she can succeed, there are financial benefits.

“It would be much cheaper to manufacture and therefore purchase. The other thing that we hope and of course, we only have to do more testing to understand this is that we believe it might have fewer side effects because it's using one of the natural pathways of the body to elicit this feeling of fullness,” she said.

According to the World Health Organization, obesity has tripled since 1975 to 650 million adults. She hopes this pill can one day make a dent in that number.