A gut hormone that suppresses appetite can be clinically beneficial to weight loss as well reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels in overweight or obese patients, researchers said Wednesday.

The Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) hormone is secreted from the intestine when eating, and increases insulin secretion, decreases hormones that raise blood glucose levels, and decreases food consumption by increasing the feeling of fullness in the brain.

Researchers said that the hormone’s ability to suppress food intake and appetite makes the hormone therapy an interesting approach in the treatment of obesity.

The GLP-1 based therapy was also recently introduced as a new treatment for individuals with type 2 diabetes because of its properties in regulating blood sugar levels which had advantageous effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and improved glycemic control. 

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen tested the effect of glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists on weight loss as well as its effect on blood pressure, cholesterol and liver enzyme levels, and blood sugar control. 

Researchers analyzed 25 different trials that involved over 6,000 patients, and found that patients who received clinically relevant doses of GLP-1R agonists for at least 20 weeks lost significantly more weight than control groups.

Weight loss was seen in patients with and without type 2 diabetes, but the therapy could be more beneficial for patients with diabetes, researchers said. 

In the analysis, authors said that their study "provides convincing evidence that GLP-1R agonists, when given to obese patients with or without diabetes, result in clinically relevant beneficial effects on body weight. Additional beneficial effects on blood pressure and total cholesterol might also be achieved."

Researchers noted that the hormone had no significant effect on liver enzymes, but strongly believed that the treatment “should be considered in patients with diabetes who are obese or overweight” and more studies should be conducted to test whether the hormone intervention would also benefit overweight or obese individuals.

The common side effects of the therapy included nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  However these effects did not affect the number of patients dropping out of trials which suggest that patient satisfaction with the treatment was relatively high.

In an accompanying editorial, University of Alberta Professor Raj Padwal argued that "modification of diet and lifestyle remains the cornerstone of the treatment of type 2 diabetes" and pointed out that the safety of GLP-1 agonists is still unclear which warrants "continued and close surveillance of these new agents” by utilizing all available data.

The study is published on bmj.com.