The stomach has to expand to digest food, the basic process by which the body harvests calories from meals, but scientists have found a way of stopping this from happening. The pill could offer an alternative to stomach stapling - gastroplasty - in which a band or surgery is used to reduce the size of the stomach. This can result in weight loss of up to 98lb in a year. However, surgery can be risky with one in every 100 patients dying within 12 months. The potential new drug is described in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics by Dr Brian King and Dr Andrea Townsend-Nicholson.
''It is chemical gastric banding, '' the Telegraph quoted Dr Townsend-Nicholson as saying. The pill could be available for use within five to ten years, he added.
The team found two proteins - P2Y1 and P2Y11 - which are receptors that pick up signals from nerves to control the size of the gut.
These were identified in the guinea pig, but are also present in humans.
''This would be a brand new approach to weight control,'' Dr King said.
Figures released in January showed that more than one million prescriptions for obesity drugs are now given to patients by GPs.