Ingesting the capsule before a meal may induce a feeling of fullness, fooling the brain into believing it’s mealtime’s end.
Consuming a substantial meal triggers your stomach to signal your brain, indicating fullness and prompting you to cease eating. Similarly, a liquid-filled stomach can convey these cues, explaining why dieters are encouraged to hydrate before meals.
MIT engineers have developed an innovative approach to exploit this phenomenon, introducing an ingestible capsule designed to generate vibrations within the stomach. These vibrations activate stretch receptors, mimicking the sensation of fullness. In animal trials, administering this pill 20 minutes before meals triggered the release of satiety-inducing hormones and reduced food intake by approximately 40 per cent.
A sense of fullness
The researchers at MIT have developed a capsule the size of a multivitamin with an integrated vibrating element. When ingested and exposed to gastric fluids, it activates mechanoreceptors, stimulating the vagus nerve and mimicking post-meal hormone release patterns. Animal studies demonstrated that the vibrating capsule, when activated for about 20 minutes before feeding, led to a 40 per cent reduction in food intake and slower weight gain. The pill typically vibrates for 30 minutes but can be adapted for extended periods, with potential wireless control. Notably, the pill passed through the digestive tract without adverse effects.
An alternative approach
The researchers suggest that this type of pill could offer an alternative to current obesity treatments. Traditional nonmedical approaches like diet and exercise may not always be practical, and many medical interventions are invasive, including gastric bypass surgery and gastric balloons (no longer widely used in the United States due to safety concerns). While drugs like GLP-1 agonists can aid weight loss, most require injections and are unaffordable for many individuals. According to Srinivasan, the MIT capsules could be manufactured at a lower cost, increasing accessibility to those who lack access to expensive treatment options.
Researchers aim to scale up capsule production for human clinical trials, which is crucial for assessing safety, optimal timing, and frequency of capsule ingestion before meals.