Melbourne: Having trouble shedding those extra kilos? You may soon get an injection that could help you burn calories and melt the excess flab away.
A team by an Indian-origin researcher showed that they were able to turn white fat into brown fat in mice by blocking a natural chemical in their bodies.
The change led to weight loss, improved blood sugar levels and insulin tolerance in the rodents, the team reported in the journal Cell Metabolism.
"Considering that efforts to combat obesity with anti-obesity drugs have been frustrating, and that reducing obesity by dieting are often challenging in the long term, there is certainly a need for a new out-of-the-box approach," Sushil Rane, lead author of the National Institutes of Health study, was quoted as saying by the ABC News.
"Our findings have the potential to offer a new avenue, and our data suggests that the strategy is a rational approach to combat obesity."
White fat is what scientists call the squishy stuff that most of us are trying to get rid of. It stores calories, but too much of it causes obesity and increases risk of type 2 diabetes, along with several other obesity-related diseases.
But brown fat, which acts like muscle, contains iron and even burns calories within the cells. It is naturally lost as people age, and it cannot be gained by eating certain foods
or performing certain exercises.
Dr Ken Fujioka, director of nutrition and metabolic research at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, said the findings could be "huge if you could apply it to humans", though that
remains a big "if" at this point.
According to Dr Fujioka, scientists are now "very very very far away" from curing obesity through simple injections and drugs.
Dr Rane, however, said: "The data we have provide good proof of concept that the strategy is promising, but real data needs to be generated to support the utility in humans."
Not surprisingly, some doctors are also asking why we need a quick fix for weight loss, when we already know that diet and exercise can cause us to slim down, if we stick to our guns. Some might even ask if the lure of an easy injection could end up leading to even more unhealthy behaviour.
Dr David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, said: "Do we apply a costly, cutting edge treatment to two-thirds of the population to treat what eating better and being active could have fixed for free?
"I often wince when hearing about large sums of money spent on finding new ways to do at high cost and with high danger what we already know how to do at low cost and with no danger.
"If only we could muster the societal resolve to turn what we already know into what we routinely do."