In the search for effective treatments of obesity, there's a surprising finding: some drugs normally used to treat epilepsy are now helping people to lose weight.
Dr. Louis J. Aronne, an obesity specialist and the director of the Comprehensive Weight Loss Center at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, explains on The Early Show that the drugs topamax and zonegran have been shown to reduce weight.
Experts are not sure how the drugs work, but Aronne explains that people who took the prescriptions described having fewer thoughts of food and feeling full sooner.
"What patients describe to us is they'll think about eating, and people who have binge eating problems will eat and eat and eat but keep on thinking about it," Aronne says. "When they're taking a drug like topamax, it seems the thoughts go away rapidly."
The drugs' effect on weight loss may show that so-called psychological eating is actually tied to a physical trait.
"Some studies have shown weight losses of 10 percent or greater," Arrone says. "In one of the epilepsy studies, people who were taking the drug lost 11 percent of their body weight, and they weren't even on a diet. They were just taking the drug because of their epilepsy."
Aronne warns that the drugs are only approved for treating epilepsy. They are not approved for the treatment of obesity.
The side effects include tingling in the hands and feet, and a
mental fatigue (mental clouding or difficulty focusing).
"Research in this area is going crazy," Aronne explains. "We're learning a lot about how the body controls weight and we're finding new ways to
control it. There are more than a hundred treatments that are now in