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A new study has revealed that two naturally forming hormones in the body can instruct the brain to burn more fat. The findings might play a vital role in preventing obesity by converting white fat into brown fat, according to researchers at the Monash University.

The study authors said combination of two hormones – leptin and insulin act on a group of neuron in the brain that stimulates the burning of fat in the body. Leptin is an appetite suppressant generated in fat cells while insulin is produced in the pancreas, and its primary objective is to decompose glucose present in the body.

On discovering the combination, lead researcher Professor Tony Tiganis, from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology said, this can be an easy way of shedding extra weight present in the body.

“These hormones give the brain a comprehensive picture of the fatness of the body. Because leptin is produced by fat cells, it measures the level of existing fat reserves – the more fat, the more leptin. Whereas insulin provides a measure of future fat reserves because glucose levels rise when we eat,” Tiganis said.

In adults, fat is primarily stored in the specialised cells known as adipocytes, store house of white fat. However, around shoulders and neck there is another category of cells, called brown adipocytes, are found. Rather than storing fat, these cells can be induced to burn it off, researchers said.

According to authors of the study leptin and insulin react with proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons present in the hypothalamus, a part of our brain. Their interaction causes hypothalamus to send signals through the nervous system to convert white fat into brown fat. Further, it leads to burning of extra fat. Researchers said this is a fundamental process that normally maintains weight in the body. However, this process can be given a boost by targetting these two hormones.

Since, obesity has become a major problem for the global, the study might help in shedding extra weight present in the body. “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. But it is not an easy task, and any potential therapy is a long way off,” Tiganis said.

The study was published in the Journal Cell.

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