Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Can fat production be "switched" off?

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Inside your body, you have two kinds of fat -- brown fat and white fat. The brown fat has been with you since birth and served the purpose of keeping you warm by converting the food you ate into heat when you were young. As adults, we have very little brown fat and what we do have is stored around our internal organs. Instead, when we eat more calories that we need, it's stored as white fat, the kind that's implicated in a long laundry list of diseases.

A gene recently discovered in brown fat (but not in white fat) has obesity experts thinking they may be able to trigger adult bodies to burn off excess energy, rather than store it as fat. When the gene was injected into mice, the mice produced more brown fat cells instead of white fat cells.

Recent research has found that a hormone known as leptin is produced by white fat cells and plays a role in hunger and feeling full. I know I'd love to turn off my appetite sometimes, but whether this research will ever lead to a real tool in the battle against obesity remains to be seen.

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