Engineered particles of purified sand could be the next anti-obesity therapy as new research from the University of South Australia shows that porous silica can prevent fats and carbohydrates from being adsorbed in the body.
The artificial silica particles are made from purified sand and are optimally designed with a large surface area that allows them to absorb large amounts of digestive enzymes, fats and sugars in the gastrointestinal tract.
Funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, the study is the first to validate how porous silica particles can impede digestive processes and stop fat and sugar adsorption.
Developed in collaboration with Glantreo Limited, the new silica-based therapy will be gentler on the stomach with fewer of the unpleasant side effects associated with the mainstream anti-obesity drug, Orlistat.
Lead researcher, Dr Paul Joyce of UniSA, says this groundbreaking finding could change health outcomes for billions of people struggling with obesity.
“Obesity is a global problem that affects more than 1.9 billion people worldwide,” said Dr. Joyce.
“Despite this, there is a current lack of effective therapies that are free of adverse effects – such as diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain – which often prevents people from starting treatment.
“Porous silica has received increasing attention for its anti-obesity potential, with human trials showing it to be a safe therapy. However, exactly how it works has eluded researchers until now.
“Our study shows how porous silica promotes an anti-obesity effect by acting locally in the gut to limit the digestion and absorption of fat and carbohydrates.
“Importantly, the gentle mechanism is expected to provide clinically effective weight loss results, with no adverse effects.”
Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and cancer, and is associated with higher death rates. In Australia, two thirds of adults and one in four children are considered 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 to trigger an inhibitory response to both fats and sugars.
“This research has identified defined parameters for porous silica to exert anti-obesity effects,” said Dr. Joyce.
“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 disease that is completely preventable. This is a huge step to tackle one of the world’s most common health problems.”