Melbourne scientists have reported that leptin, a fat-burning hormone can trigger muscles to increase energy use and burn calories.
The study team from Monash University plans to use the hormone leptin to increase the rate people burn calories. The findings should prove useful for people to beat obesity.
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat and acts on the brain to reduce appetite and increase energy use through a process called thermogenesis. In simple terms, leptin circulates in blood informing the brain about the level of energy stores.
Leptin was first discovered in the 1990s. Earlier trials using injections of leptin have resulted in weight loss success in rats but failed to produce favorable result in humans.
Iain Clarke, of the university's Department of Physiology, said a chemical that could mimic leptin in human beings could be used "to trick the body into weight loss."
"The rate at which we burn our energy is genetically determined and people obviously burn it at different rates," Prof Clarke said.
"It is extremely difficult to control people's eating patterns and stop them from eating, so it may be a lot simpler to tweak this process a little bit and turn up the temperature dial just a fraction."
According to researcher Belinda Henry Monash University was now working with a US group "to test a chemical mimicking leptin in animals to determine if weight loss drugs could be developed."
"If you can manipulate that process you will be able to burn more energy and prevent the energy being stored as fat tissue," Dr Henry said.
The study is published in the journal Endocrinology.