People who struggle to watch their weight could find that all they have to do is take a fat burning pill and the fat will simply burn off.
Scientists in Germany have been researching different types of fat and ways to encourage healthy fat, as opposed to the unhealthy types.
When food is consumed, the body converts it into either brown or white fat. An enzyme called soluble guanylate cyclase, or sGC is responsible for this conversion.
Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have been testing a new drug that accelerates the rate at which fat is burned off by the body.
What type of fat causes people to be overweight?
In people that are typically overweight, it is found that they have more white fat cells. White fat tends to soak up the calories and then stores itself in thighs, bellies and spare tyres.
People with large amounts of white fat are at more risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, brown fat, known as adipose tissue, actually helps to burn off calories and as it does, it generates heat for the body.
Unfortunately, 90 per cent of the fat in an average adult’s body is white fat. Those with more brown fat tend to be babies and children, who need this kind of fat to keep them warm.
What is healthy brown fat?
Brown fat is made up of large numbers of iron-containing mitochondria and fat droplets. It is the large iron content that gives the fat its brown colour. You usually find brown fat in areas such as the front and back of the neck and upper back.
Brown fat is required to generate heat by burning calories. It is therefore known as a ‘healthy fat’ as it burns calories, not stores them. However, white fat takes in extra calories and stores them in the body.
Having too much white fat is also linked to a number of diseases, such as heart failure and type 2 diabetes.
In the picture above, brown fat cells, left, burn excess energy, and help reduce the size and number of white fat cells, which help a person to lose weight. White fat cells, on the right, accumulate in the body when a person eats too many calories, but then cannot burn them off.
How does the fat-burning pill work?
The German scientists have been trying to increase the amount of brown fat in the body. Early studies showed that mice treated with this experimental drug released higher levels of sGC. This enabled them to produce more brown fat as a result.
The mice with extra brown fat consequently lost more weight as their bodies burned off the brown fat increase and stored less white fat.
Experts in the weight loss industry were keen to explore the benefits of using brown fat in order to keep weight off.
Professor Tom Sanders, expert in nutrition and diet at King’s College London, said: “This is a potentially important study as it suggests a mechanism that can set ‘fat on fire’.
“There has been a lot of renewed interest in the browning of adipose tissue and the findings have relevance to type 2 diabetes risk because it is excess white fat that is associated with type 2 diabetes.”
They were hesitant about how well the drug would work on humans:
“However, this study was done in mice where brown adipose tissue plays a much more important role in maintaining energy balance than humans.
“It also remains to be seen whether the fat burning pill has any adverse effects on blood pressure, as this has been a problem with some other candidate fat burners tablets.”
Alexander Pfeifer of Bonn University, who led the research, agreed that the research is still at the early stages.
However, if it is shown to be safe and effective on humans, it could be a new way to help people lose weight easily.