Scientists from Monash University in Australia have found that encouraging the actions of two naturally occurring hormones could instruct our bodies to burn more fat.

Their research has uncovered for the first time the molecular mechanism that encourages our bodies to convert white fat stores into brown fat, which can be more easily burnt off.

The team found that insulin, a hormone that's produced in the pancreas in response to how much we eat, and leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone produced in fat cells, work together on a specialised group of neurons in the brain to trigger fat burning.

"These hormones give the brain a comprehensive picture of the fatness of the body," said lead author Tony Tiganis in a press release. 

"The brain then in turn sends out signals via neurons to promote the conversion of white fat, fat that stores energy if you like, into brown fat," he told Rachael Brown from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). "That burns off energy, and this way the body weight is regulated."

But in cases of diet-related obesity, something goes awry, and this process slows down.

The team has now found out for the first time that the obstacle that stops us from burning excess fat is a group of enzymes called phosphatases, which inhibit the action of both leptin and insulin.

They also found that, if we block the action of these enzymes, we can effectively trick our brain into burning more fat, as Tiganis explains in the release.

In their study, the team reduced the levels of two of these inhibiting enzymes in laboratory mice. They then placed them on a high-fat diet to see whether the action of leptin and insulin would be able to keep their weight in check.

What they found was that, incredibly, the mice proved to be "remarkably resistant to diet-induced obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes," Tiganis told Brown - regardless of how much they ate.

Their results have been published in the journal Cell. The next step will be finding a drug that can safely lower the activity of these two enzymes.

"Eventually, we think we may be able to help people lose weight by targeting these two enzymes. Turning white fat into brown fat is a very exciting new approach to developing weight loss agents," said Tiganis in the release. "But it is not an easy task, and any potential therapy is a long way off."

So how does that excess fat leave our body if we do manage to burn it off? Australian researchers from UNSW Science recently found that out too, and, surprisingly, we actually breathe our fat out.

Source: ABC