China Exclusive: Man loses weight by starving “hunger hormones”

CHENGDU — An obese man in southwest China’s Sichuan Province has lost more than 10 kg. in two months after a new procedure that starves the “hunger hormone” by blocking a stomach artery.

Li Cun, 46, who weighed more than 80 kg. and was only 1.54 meters tall, was suffering from serious kidney problems when he sought medical attention at the Second People’s Hospital in Chengdu in late August.

“His kidney problems could be fatal if he does not lose weight,” said Ren Yi, deputy chief of the hospital’s intervention therapy department. “The patient’s previous attempts to lose weight had all failed.”

The new procedure used on Li saw doctors blocking a stomach artery with tiny grains of gelatine, which is a much less invasive operation than gastric surgery, therefore, reducing the risk of blood loss and infection.

By blocking the left gastric artery, the procedure cuts blood supply to the part of the stomach that is home to many of the cells that release ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, known as the “hunger hormone”. The procedure kills the cells, reduces the amount of hormones released and makes people feel full sooner.

For decades, gastric artery embolization has been used to stop stomach bleeding, but a study on how it could be used as a treatment in its own right began only in the past two years, said Ren.

The procedure was tested at Johns Hopkins University in the United States last year. Researchers estimate the technique could help patients lose 10 percent of their weight.

Compared with a gastric bypass, this new procedure results in a much smaller wound and patients recover faster, said Ren.

Li, who received the treatment on Sept. 6, was discharged from hospital four days later.

In his latest checkup, he weighed 71 kg., a loss of at least 10 kg. “I move around much more easily and feel more at ease in everything I do,” Li said Saturday.

Despite Li’s success, Ren warned, the treatment might not be suitable for everyone.

“We recommend the treatment only to those who suffer obesity as a result of over-eating only, and whose obesity has led to serious complications, like in Li’s case,” said Ren.

The new treatment is being tested by hospitals across the country, including those in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing, and research continues abroad, too, said Ren.

An article run by the Chicago Tribune in April said that a study found the procedure could aid weight loss, but it is still under clinical trial. PNA/