Most of us associate weight loss with exercise since moving burns more calories than being sedentary. But a new study has found that in order to lose weight, we may not have to move at all and instead simply alter a genetic ‘switch’ inside our fat cells.
Fat cells in overweight people are programmed to hoard fat rather than burn it, creating what we refer to as a ‘slow metabolism.’ By inhibiting two particular fat-storing genes called IRX3 and IRX5, scientists were able to increase the rate of thermogenesis—the process that burns fat as heat—in laboratory mice with a genetic tendency toward obesity. The mice whose genes were tweaked made no changes to diet or exercise, yet still lost half their body fat. "Our study provides evidence that manipulation of a specific genetic circuit has significant pro- and anti-obesity effects," said lead investigator Melina Claussnitzer, an instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "This is an important finding that shows in addition to diet and exercise, obesity may result from changes at the cellular level.”
The researchers also say a human application, accomplished with targeted pharmaceuticals, may not be far away. Would you take this exercise pill, or do you prefer to achieve your weight loss goals the old-fashioned way? Would such a treatment be good for society or contribute to a culture of instant gratification in a negative way?