Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany are busy developing a new drug that can accelerate the body’s fat burning abilities to such an extent some experts have even referred to it as a drug that can set ‘fat on fire’.
The drug works by initiating the release of the enzyme soluble guanylate (sGC) that apparently has the power to convert white fat cells into brown fat cells.
Swapping one type of body fat for another may seem like a strange idea, but each one of them acts in a different way and, although the human body only normally contains a small percentage of brown fat, its presence is infinitely more preferable than white fat.
White Body Fat & Brown Body Fat Compared
Research suggests that around 90% of the fat in the average adult body is the white kind, but in this case the white kind may not be the right kind of fat because it sucks up calories and uses them to expand its dominion over the body. Protruding “beer guts”, overly padded hips, and “love handles” are all visible signs of white fat build-up within the body.
The presence of too much white fat increases the risk of heart disease and has been linked to the onset of type 2 diabetes; so too much white fat can be extremely detrimental for the health.
Brown fat is a different matter. With a presence that generally accounts for just 10% of the fat in most people’s bodies, it is in the minority, and is mostly located around the neck and upper back. Its darker colour is provided by the many tiny blood vessels it contains and it is the healthier kind of fat because it helps the body to burn more calories.
Some people are fortunate enough to carry a slightly higher percentage of brown fat around with them and tend to be slimmer. Scientists have been aware of this for quite some time, but finding a way to manipulate the percentages has been hard.
The German researchers appear to have found a way to do this and the results of one of their studies, carried out on mice, were later published in Nature Communications. The data collected by the researchers showed the new weight loss drug had successfully raised sGC levels in the mice and this had resulted in the formation of additional brown fat cells.
News of the new drug has piqued the interest of many experts, but has also raised a few questions.
King’s College (London) nutrition expert, Tom Sanders said: “This is a potentially important study as it suggests a mechanism that can set ‘fat on fire’.”
But he then went on to draw attention to the fact that what may work well for mice does not always produce similar results in humans.
“However, this study was done in mice where brown adipose tissue plays a much more important role in maintaining energy balance than humans,” Sanders said. “It also remains to be seen whether the drug has any adverse effects on blood pressure, as this has been a problem with some other candidate drugs.”
A spokesperson from Bonn University was quick to admit the drug requires further development and is yet to be tested on humans, but pointed out it is chemically similar to the drug riociguat, which has already been approved for the safe treatment of pulmonary hypertension.
Although the researchers who are developing the new drug are the first to admit there is a long road ahead before it can be approved as a safe weight loss option, if it does live up to their expectations it has the potential to benefit thousands of lives all over the world. Obesity is on the rise and the associated health problems restrict and/or shorten the lives of many sufferers. So news of any new drug that may help is always good news and it is certainly possible that someday soon the drug that can set “fat on fire” me be the next big thing that has set the dieting world alight.