New obesity treatment targeting hunger hormone showing promise

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For the morbidly obese, stopping the hunger cravings can be the biggest challenge. But now, there's a new treatment with no major surgery that targets the hunger hormone.

And it's getting promising results.

"I have always been overweight," patient Tinesha Fraiser said. "As fast as I lose weight, I gain it back as well."

Fraiser gets quite a workout every day as a child care provider at her home in Harlem, but still, she's struggled with her weight over the last few years.

"I have been yo-yoing up and down for as long as I remember," she said.

But now, doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital, in partnership with Johns Hopkins, are studying ways to interrupt the so-called "hunger hormone."

"One of the things we have learned is that there is a hormone named ghrelin," Dr. Aaron Fischman said. "Ghrelin is produced in the stomach, and so we think if we can reduce this level, we can reduce a patient's hunger."

Unlike traditional weight loss surgeries, this trial involves surgery that is minimally invasive.

"We use a very small catheter, and we insert it into the patient's wrist, almost like an IV," Dr. Fischman said. "Once the catheter is placed in the arm, we direct a very small catheder into the artery that feeds the stomach."

Fraiser is one of 15 patients to undergo the surgery, and all of them have seen significant weight loss with no major complications.

Fraiser already lost close to 30 pounds, and she's aiming to get her weight down to 150 pounds.
Without the hormone talking to her brain, she no longer feels the urge to eat and can more easily limit her portions.

"I can go and eat a salad and be content with it," she said. "Now I am at a point where I recognize portion. I don't have to eat a lot to be full anymore."

For the first time, she sees healthy days ahead.

"It's only been two months, and I have come this far," she said. "So I can't wait to see what the future holds for me with his."

While the results are promising, the "beat obesity" surgery isn't yet approved by the FDA, so it isn't covered by insurance. Those participating in the trial have the cost of the procedure paid for.
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.