A team of American scientists may just have hit upon a mystery-enzyme that could turn out to be the 'fat controller' in the gut that fights obesity.
According to researchers, by disabling the enzyme that helps the body to absorb fat, it is possible to prevent weight gain.
The discovery could pave the way for new drug treatments to protect against obesity, and could also help stop the development of high cholesterol and even a fatty liver.
Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found that the intestinal enzyme MGAT2 plays a crucial role in this energy storage process and the consequent build-up of fat.
They found that by making the enzyme inactive in mice, the animals were able to consume a high-fat diet without putting on weight.
After 16 weeks the MGAT2-deficient mice weighed an incredible 60 per cent less than normal mice, while their fat mass was 50 per cent lower.
The researchers concluded that by disabling MGAT2, the fat the mice consumed was converted into energy rather than stored in the body.
"Since we eat a lot of fat in our diet, if you transfer the fat absorption in a way that the body can tolerate without many side effects, that would be useful," the Daily Express quoted lead author Professor Bob Farese Jr, professor of medicine and biochemistry at the University of California in San Francisco, said.
"The enzyme is a gatekeeper in the intestine for absorbing fat. We inactivated that in mice to see how effective it was.
"The mice that didn't have the enzyme were given more fat and the rate of uptake of fat was slowed," he added.
The study has been published online in Nature Medicine.