I just attended a conference on the latest wonder drug to be launched in the battle against diabetes type 2 (the kind of diabetes you take pills for, not insulin injections). The drug, Byetta, was derived from an unlikely place, the saliva of the Gila Monster. These ugly and venomous lizards eat 3 times per year. How about that for metabolism? Helping them accomplish that is a chemical in their digestive tract that turns insulin on when needed (if you are a lizard that would be every 4 months, or so). Since diabetics don’t make enough insulin this wonder drug is ideal for helping them get more of what they need.

As if that isn’t enough, Byetta (the synthetic version of Gila Monster spit) turns off feelings of hunger. What is the result in humans? You guessed it, weight loss. Not just any old weight loss but a weight loss that keeps on going and going and going. In one unofficial study the weight loss continued for up to 82 weeks.

Is there a downside to all this? Certainly. First of all, the medicine must be self administered as an injection twice a day. Second, some people feel nausea using Byetta. But I think the nausea is part of feeling full, which is how the drug causes reduced food intake.

Byetta is marketed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly Company and is available by prescription only. If you suffer from Type 2 diabetes you may want to ask your doctor if lizard spit is right for you.

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