Researchers have developed a pill that can help curb fat buildup in the body. However, this obesity pill still cannot replace the use of the treadmill in controlling weight.
Obesity is a growing problem, particularly in the U.S. and UK. More than 33 percent of Americans are obese, while 64 percent of the adult population in the UK are either overweight or obese.
For this reason, a team of researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) created a pill using human stem cells that can potentially convert bad fat into good fat.
Chad Cowan, principal faculty at Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), explains that they have found two compounds that can assist in controlling obesity. One of the compounds is already being used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Cowan says that white or bad fat cells usually store energy as lipids, which result in obesity and related medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes. However, brown or good fat cells reduce insulin resistance and also burn white fat in the body.
Whenever the body consumes excess energy, it gets stored energy from white fat cells. When there are too many calories that are not sufficiently burned through physical activity, the body produces more bad fat cells, resulting in obesity.
Cowan suggests that their research is able to convert white fat into brown fat. The brown fat cells help in burning white fat.
"You're constantly replenishing your fat tissue," said Cowan. "So if you were on a medication to convert the cells, each new fat cell would be more metabolically active and would convert to brown fat over time."
The U.S. government spends billions of dollars each year to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes. The latest study is very significant since it may help public health officials battle the obesity epidemic. However, it may take years before clinical trials start on humans.
The researchers emphasize that while the pill can help control obesity to a certain extent, it still cannot provide the same benefits as physical exercise.
The study is detailed in the journal Nature.