A US study has suggested a new way of fighting obesity by turning bad fat good after scientists found body fat could be transformed by blocking an appetite protein in the brain.
The team conducted research on rats and turned the 'white' fat storing calories into 'brown' fat which burns energy and helps prevent weight gain.
Newborn babies have plenty of brown, or 'good' fat, which has mostly vanished by adulthood, but the study indicates that suppressing an appetite-stimulating protein in the brain can restore the brown fat.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, set out to see if genetically knocking out the protein, neuropeptide Y (NPY), affected food consumption and weight gain in rats.
They found that blocking NPY prevented rats fed a high-fat diet from over-eating and becoming obese over five weeks. But there was an added surprise: in parts of the rats' pelvic area, brown fat appeared to have replaced white fat.
This was confirmed by checking for the biochemical process by which brown fat burns calories to produce heat. The findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.