May 4/Baltimore/News Locale -- Scientists have long searched for a method to turn bad fat into good fat and help burn excess calories. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore may have found a way to do just that.

In a rat study, the researchers led by Dr. Sheng Bi, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university found that modifying a protein linked to appetite helped the body convert bad fat into good fat.

Modifying this protein called hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) not only helped reduce the calorie intake and weight of the animals, but also helped turn the accumulated bad fat into the good variety.

"If we could get the human body to turn bad fat into good fat that burns calories instead of storing them, we could add a serious new tool to tackle the obesity epidemic," Bi said in a released statement.

In infancy, there is a predominance of brown fat cells, which are essentially good fat cells since they help the body burn energy. With aging, these cells turn into white fat cells -- or bad fat cells -- that trigger accumulation of fat around the hips, belly and the waistline. This fat is bad, as it actually stores calories instead of burning them.

In this new study, modifying the expression of a protein helped turn this bad fat into the good fat that helped the laboratory animals shed weight. If these findings are replicated in humans, they offer a potential way to fight obesity.

The details of the study appear in the journal Cell Metabolism.


From the May 4, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.