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Dr Manny's Notes

Could a pill help fight obesity?

Boston researchers have discovered a hormone produced by muscles during exercise which boosts the amount of calories the body burns.

In experiments with mice, Harvard Medical School researchers found that inducing greater levels of the hormone in obese, pre-diabetic mice led to weight loss, increased energy expenditure, and improvements in insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

The finding could lead to new drugs for obesity, diabetes and other diseases, according to the scientists.  I personally believe the research has a lot of potential for exciting new developments in medicine.

The hormone, which the scientists named irisin, is responsible for altering ordinary ‘white’ fat to resemble healthy brown fat.  White fat tends to store excess energy, while brown fat helps burn it.

The theory was, in the past, that people are born with brown fat and over time, that fat disappears and is replaced by white fat, which is not good for the body.

Too much white fat can lead to a number of health problems including obesity, type 2 diabetes – and possibly even cancer, which is spurred along by excess toxins in the body.

So, by learning how to manipulate this hormone, we could have a breakthrough treatment on our hands.  One company, Ember Therapeutics, is already looking at ways to optimize the hormone to create an experimental drug.

The pill would be safer than current medications that suppress appetite because such compounds would not have to work on the central nervous system or the brain.

However, I also want to add that while a pill may someday be able to mimic the beneficial effects of exercise by producing irisin, it will not replace exercise.  A pill alone cannot make up for a good diet and exercise program.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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