A breakthrough drug that directly targets middle-aged spread could help millions of overweight people lose weight.

Slimmers taking the pills lost three times as much weight as those simply trying to diet and exercise, a landmark trial found. The drug also cut the risk of diabetes by a fifth.

Experts hailed the drug, called lorcaserin, as the most effective weight-loss pill yet, suggesting they could help the two in three adults battling weight problems. The approach could be the “holy grail” in the battle to combat obesity.

The US research, which tracked 12,000 obese or overweight adults, found four in 10 of those taking the drug lost a significant amount of weight over the course of a year. On average, slimmers taking the twice-daily pills lost 4kg – around a dress size for the average woman – while those who stuck to traditional diet tips shed just 1.4kg.

And more than three years after the trial began, they had kept the weight off.

Scientists said the drug was an “important milestone” after decades of failed attempts to develop effective diet medication, in a bid to combat the growing global obesity epidemic.

Harvard researchers said their results, presented at the world‘s largest cardiac conference in Munich, show for the first time a drug can cause consistent and sustained weight loss with no such increased risk.

The drug works by activating the neurons in the brain that control “satiety” – and signal fullness. These become less efficient with age, which is believed to be a key cause of middle-age spread.

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Irish Independent