Engineered sand particles might be the next anti-obesity treatment, according to a new study from the University of South Australia, which reveals that porous silica can prevent fats and carbohydrates from being absorbed in the body.
The engineered silica particles are created from purified sand and have a high surface area, allowing them to absorb enormous quantities of digestive enzymes, fats, and sugars in the gastrointestinal tract.
The research, which was supported by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, is the first to confirm how porous silica particles might hinder digestive processes and stop fat and sugar absorption.
The novel silica-based treatment, which was created in collaboration with Glantreo Limited, will be gentler on the stomach and have fewer negative side effects than Orlistat, the mainstream anti-obesity drug.
Dr. Paul Joyce of the University of South Australia, who led the study, believes the discovery might improve the health of billions of people suffering from obesity.
“Obesity is a global issue that affects more than 1.9 billion people worldwide,” Dr. Joyce says.
“Despite this, there is a current lack of effective therapies that are free from adverse effects – such as diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain – which often deters people from starting treatment. Porous silica has received increasing attention for its anti-obesity potential, with human trials showing it is a safe therapy. However, exactly how it works has eluded researchers – until now. Our research shows how porous silica promotes an anti-obesity effect by functioning locally in the gut to restrict fat and carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Importantly, the gentle mechanism is expected to deliver clinically effective outcomes for weight loss, without adverse effects.”
Obesity is a risk factor for a variety of diseases and chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, and it is connected with a greater chance of death. In Australia, two-thirds of adults and one out of every four children are overweight or obese.
The in-vitro study examined multiple silica samples under simulated conditions that mimicked the gastrointestinal environment during the digestion of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. It found that porous silica particles with pore widths between 6–10 nm are ideal for triggering an inhibitory response to both fats and sugars.
“This research has identified defined parameters for porous silica to enact anti-obesity effects,” Dr. Joyce says. “The next steps are to validate these findings with animal models of obesity so that we can determine any variations for optimal anti-obesity conditions. Obesity is a completely preventable disease. This is a massive step to tackle one of the world’s most preventable health conditions.”