Study: Emory scientists may be able to trigger weight loss by freezing ‘hunger nerve'

A pilot study shows scientists may be bled to freeze the nerve that send hunger signals to the brain. 

From eating healthy foods to exercising regularly, dropping extra pounds can be tough. However, health experts may have discovered a way to target the nerve responsible for our hunger pangs, according to a new report.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Emory University recently conducted a pilot study to determine if focusing on the posterior vagal trunk, the nerve that triggers hunger signals to the brain, can influence weight loss.

"Medical literature shows the vast majority of weight-loss programs fail, especially when people attempt to reduce their food intake," co-author David Prologo said in a statement in a news release. "When our stomachs are empty, the body senses this and switches to food-seeking survival mode. We're not trying to eliminate this biological response, only reduce the strength of this signal to the brain to provide a new, sustainable solution to the difficult problem of treating mild obesity."

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To do so, they developed a procedure that freezes the nerve, reducing the “attrition that is common with weight-loss efforts,” Prologo wrote.

Related: Here’s why weight gain could cause loss of taste buds, study says

During the treatment, which is intended for mildly to moderately obese people, an interventional radiologist inserts a needle through a patient's back. With live images from a CT scan, they are able to guide the instrument to the nerve, located at the base of the esophagus, to emit argon gas to numb it.

They tested their methods on 10 subjects with a body mass index between 30 and 37, and examined them for 90 days. During the follow-up period, they found that all the subjects had a decreased appetite. Furthermore, they had an overall average body weight loss of 3.6 percent and an average body mass index decline of 14 percent.

Now they are recruiting more individuals to undergo the process for a larger clinical trial.

“We are trying to help people succeed with their own attempts to lose weight,” Prologo said.

Read more about the findings, published in the Society of Interventional Radiology, at

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