Imagine if you didn’t have to work so hard to burn fat. For those who know the struggle of trying to slim down, there’s big news coming from The Scripps Research Institute that may eventually make your efforts a million times easier. Scientists at the Institute have identified a hormone that triggers fat burning in the gut during digestion. This discovery, although still in its infancy, can lead to a new class of fat-reducing drugs that work better than what’s already on the market.
Previous studies have shown that serotonin plays a significant role in how we metabolize lipids, or the way in which fatty acids are digested and stored. For this new study, published in Nature Communications, biologists experimented using a roundworm called C. elegans to identify exactly how serotonin is able to drive fat loss. These worms have a similar metabolic system as humans, and by testing their genes, they were able to isolate which hormone is responsible for fat burning directly in the gut.
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To do this, the research team attempted to disrupt the pathway between serotonin and fat burning by deleting genes in C. elegans. One by one they deleted each gene, hoping to find the particular one that triggers fat burning. Through this process of elimination, they found the gene that encodes the neuropeptide hormone FLP-7 (pronounced flip 7), which they believe can trigger fat loss in belly, the place most people find is the hardest to lose weight.
During the study, the team triggered a serotonin release in the roundworms using sensory cues, which in turn released the hormone. They tagged the FLP-7 with a florescent red protein in order to track its movements, and then observed as it traveled through the roundworm’s circulatory system and moved from the brain to the gut and initiated fat burning. By isolating this trigger, they were able to increase the fat burning in the roundworms without any unwanted side effects.
While this discovery is huge news, don’t stop doing your crunches just yet. Although researchers believe their findings will be a game changer for humans, we have to be patient, as the scientific community hasn’t attempted to boost levels of FLP-7 in humans just yet.
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