Weight loss without diet?6th May 2008
Researchers in Australia say they have found a way to speed up metabolism in mice, a result they hope may lead to new ways of achieving weight loss without cutting back on food.
The team of scientists in Melbourne found that the removal of a certain enzyme from fat cells in mice led to a faster metabolism in the mice.
The group which had had this enzyme removed was able to eat the same amount as a control group which still had the enzyme, but overall gain less weight and burn more calories.
The findings could prove a breakthough in the search for fat-burning drugs and help diabetics, the team said.
The enzyme in question is the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). The mice that had had it removed were on average, 20% lighter than normal mice and had up to 60% less body fat.
The mice in this group also seemed better protected against diabetes, as they were able to metabolise sugar much more quickly.
With obesity at record levels in many developed countries, the search is on for a drug that will stop people getting fat without the inconvenience of major lifestyle changes, thus reversing the drain on healthcare systems caused by the burden of obesity-related disease.
Drugs which reduce the uptake of ACE are already used in humans to treat hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Obesity experts gave a cautious welcome to the new findings, but emphasised that all the current scientific evidence still pointed to a healthy diet and increased physical activity, with or without weight loss drugs, as the best way to shed extra pounds.
And questions still remain over whether the results observed in mice would be repeated in humans.
Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said that the promise that people can eat more and not gain weight was still unlikely to be fulfilled.
He also said that although ACE inhibitor drugs were widely used to treat high blood pressure, there was nothing to indicate that, even at high doses, they encouraged weight loss in humans.
He said that while the drugs were generally safe, they did carry a risk of side effects like kidney damage.
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