The long-term hazards of being severely overweight are many, but the simplest remedy, reducing calorie intake, is the most arduous; so researchers go on hunting for more exotic but kinder solutions.
The holy grail of obesity research is to find something which encourages the body to burn up surplus food rather than store it. Various agents have been identified, but all have drawbacks. The latest development, described in the first February edition of US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a protein made by fat cells. A fragment of Acrp30, as the protein is winsomely titled, causes sustained weight loss in. . . well, mice anyway. But do not be too sceptical. Our bodies, too, manufacture that protein; indeed, it was a fragment of human Acrp30 which did the trick in the mice.
Meanwhile, The Lancet (3 February) brings news, again from the US, of a suggested link between obesity and dopamine. This is one of the chemicals by which nerve cells pass messages to each other.
It is suggested that a shortage of dopamine could perpetuate pathological eating. It would follow that improving dopamine function might form the basis of a treatment for winding down the urge to gorge.
Obesity costs the NHS at least£480m a year in England alone. Anyone who turns one of these ideas into a reliable therapy will save it a heap of money - and deserve every penny of the millions they'll undoubtedly earn themselves.