MONASH University researchers have been pondering whether our brains could instruct our bodies to burn more fat.
Lead researcher Professor Tony Tiganis, from the university's department of biochemistry and molecular biology, said two hormones could assist in the shedding of excess fat.
The hormones are leptin, an appetite suppressant generated in fat cells and insulin, produced in the pancreas in response to rising levels of glucose in the blood.
The researchers found the hormones act on a group of neurons in the brain, causing them to send signals through the nervous system promoting the conversion of white fat into brown fat and leading to excess fat being burnt off.
They discovered through laboratory work that the process could be sped up when certain enzymes were reduced.
Professor Tiganis said this process normally serves to maintain body weight, but in diet-induced obesity this mechanism went awry.
"Eventually, we think we may be able to help people lose weight by targeting these two enzymes," Professor Tiganis said.
"Turning white fat into brown fat is a very exciting new approach to developing weight loss agents.
"But it is not an easy task, and any potential therapy is a long way off."
Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the Indiana University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, the University of Pennsylvania, USA and the University of Toronto, Canada collaborated on the research.
The findings were published on Friday in the journal Cell.
- APN NEWSDESK
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