Sydney: Formoterol, a new generation asthma drug, has shown great promise in improving fat and protein metabolism.
Endocrinologist Paul Lee from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research focused his doctoral research on how various hormones affect metabolism. Of key importance is a class of hormones called catecholamines, which regulate heart rate, metabolism and breathing.
Formoterol is a synthetic catecholamine, the metabolic effects of which have not previously been studied in people. Therapy doses given to animals, however, have shown that it stimulates metabolism without affecting the heart.
"We have known for a long time that catecholamine influences the way the body handles nutrients, in particular fat and protein," said Lee, according to a Garvan statement.
"The generation of drugs before formoterol was exploited in the livestock industry around 20 years ago - to reduce the fat and increase the protein content of meat. Unfortunately, these older drugs also caused a faster heart rate."
Lee sourced the drug in its oral form, found the dose needed to give a metabolic effect, and gave it to a group of healthy men over a week.
"Energy metabolism increased by more than 10 percent, fat burning increased by more than 25 percent, while protein burning fell by 15 percent," he said.
"So although whole body metabolism increased, these men burned fat while reducing the burning of protein. That`s a good thing because in the long run, these effects may lead to a loss in fat mass and an increase in muscle.
"In this study, all the subjects tolerated the medication well - without any significant increase in heart rate," concluded Lee.
These findings will be presented at The Endocrine Society`s 93rd Annual Meeting in Boston.