Victor Zammit and his team of researchers at the Warwick Medical School found that an enzyme known as "Carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A" (CPT1) has a switch, which is thrown depending on the composition and curvature of its cellular membrane.
CPT1 is the key protein that regulates fatty acid oxidation in the liver and is critical for metabolism. Its activity determines whether individuals suffer from fatty liver in one extreme or ketosis in the other.
"Knowing that the CPT1 enzyme can switch and what controls it will ultimately lead to a better understanding of why some people appear to have a speedy metabolism and others struggle to curb their appetite," Zammit said.
"We are making great inroads to understanding the science behind our metabolism and how at cellular level it changes according to the influence of different factors - be they nutritional or hormonal," he added.
The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.