A drug to help shed pounds and build muscle?
Patients who shed pounds usually lose muscle mass along with fat. It’s a constant challenge for doctors who treat patients with obesity, says Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., an obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
That’s why she and other experts have their eye on a new weight loss drug, bimagrumad, that appears to retain or even increase lean muscle mass.
A monoclonal antibody, bimagrumad works on a different target than other anti-obesity drugs. In early Phase 2 trial results published in JAMA Network Open, patients lost almost 21 percent of their fat mass and gained nearly 4 percent in lean body mass. “It is the one agent I’m aware of in the pipeline that helps retain muscle mass,” Stanford says. “Retaining muscle mass is especially important for older adults, because losing muscle mass is already a part of the aging process. It affects frailty and mobility.”
For those who are reluctant to have bariatric surgery or don’t qualify for it, more doctors offer newer, minimally invasive endoscopic procedures for weight loss.
Instead of making incisions in your abdomen, a gastroenterologist accesses your digestive tract by inserting a thin, flexible tube through your mouth and down your esophagus.
“In a lot of people’s brains, there is some fear about bariatric surgery, so they may be more comfortable with a procedure where the doctor goes directly through the esophagus into the stomach,” Stanford says.
There are two main types of endoscopic weight loss procedures: In one, a doctor inserts a balloon made of silicone into your stomach to occupy space, so you feel full more quickly. In the other, which is more common, a doctor places stitches in your stomach to shrink it by about 70 percent.
A 2022 analysis of seven studies published in Obesity Surgery compared patients who had their stomachs stapled endoscopically to those who had their stomachs stapled during laparoscopic bariatric surgery. Both groups experienced weight loss, but the surgical patients lost more weight. The endoscopic patients experienced fewer side effects.