Scientists develop obesity pill to ‘replace treadmill’
With Christmas Day now just a fortnight away, it would not be a surprise if much of the population found their pants becoming ever so tighter in the coming weeks, as the high calorie content of festive treats like mince pies, Christmas pudding and novelty chocolate foods start to creep onto the waistline. To further show this point, a 2011 survey conducted by MSN found that the average Brit will consume two or three Christmas dinner servings on the day itself, taking in 2,300 calories in the process. This equates to a staggering 115% of the recommended daily intake for women and 92% for men. It seems a lot of people are worried about the extra calories and are preparing for the possibility of weight gain this year as Medical Specialists® Pharmacy have seen a massive surge in the number of people coming to them seeking help with losing weight and enquiring about the obesity treatments available such as Xenical and Orlistat. Medical Specialists® have also witnessed a huge increase in requests for treatment for conditions usually worsened by the cold weather such as influenza and asthma. However, it is still weight gain that remains as the primary worry for much of the nation over the festive period, but there has been good news this week for those trying to lose weight. It has emerged that scientists in America are developing a pill that could help the body to burn off excess fat and its creators even claim that “it could one day replace the treadmill”. Researchers based at Harvard University have found a way to trigger a molecule that can convert ‘bad’ white fat cells into ‘good’ brown cells that help to burn energy. When a person consumes too many calories and doesn’t burn off a sufficient amount, adult stem cells in the body start to generate a higher amount of white fat cells, leading to a flabbier physique, especially evident around the stomach and hips. Brown fat cells on the other hand, are used by the body to burn energy and produce heat. The colder the body becomes, the higher amount of brown fat cells begin to get used up, and hence they are generally easier to get rid of compared to the white cells. Not only this, but the brown cells also work to reduce both the size and numbers of their white counterparts. Researchers say they have managed to pinpoint which molecule is responsible for turning stem cells white or brown, and state that by increasing the molecule, this will help the body to generate more brown cells, instead of white. Associate professor Chad Cowan, at Harvard, said: “What we were really impressed by is that there are some compounds that have this same kind of effect when they are administered to animals, but when you remove them, the effect goes away. “But what we saw here was a stable conversion of the white fat cells to brown cells. You're constantly replenishing your fat tissue 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 scientists involved with the research go on to claim that this decreases the risk of a person developing health conditions associated with a fat build-up, such as type 2 diabetes. A drug called tofacitinib, which helps to trigger the molecule for cell conversion is actually already approved, but for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, it remains to be seen exactly when a pill for obesity that contains the molecule will be approved, with fears it could damage the immune system. Professor Cowan warned the compounds “target the same molecule, and that molecule plays a role in the inflammatory response”. He stressed: “So if you administered them for a long time, the person taking them could become immune compromised”, and his team added that despite the fact any future obesity pill may help people to remain trim, it would still not be a sufficient substitute for the other health benefits to be gained from engaging in regular exercise.