Date
24 November 2017
Roger Wong shows that a mouse with a higher level of the gene (right) put on less weight than an ordinary mouse when fed a high-fat diet. Photo: HKU
Roger Wong shows that a mouse with a higher level of the gene (right) put on less weight than an ordinary mouse when fed a high-fat diet. Photo: HKU

HKU discovers protein that burns fat without exercise

A fat-burning protein in a pill that could help people lose weight without having to exercise?

Now, that’s what one might call useful science, and the University of Hong Kong researchers who discovered it arguably deserve fame and fortune for their work.

Research Assistant Professor Roger Wong Hoi-fung of HKU’s department of chemistry and his team have identified the protein, which is critical for the conversion of white fat (which stores calories) to brown fat (which burns calories), Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.

The Zfp516 protein they discovered is a fat-burning gene that can trigger the process of “browning” the majority of fat.

It can raise the body’s metabolic rate and may be helpful in treating obesity, metabolic diseases and cases of fatty liver, the report said.

Mice into which the Zfp516 gene were transferred gained 30 percent less weight than other mice when fed a high-fat diet, the study found.

Wong was quoted as saying that about one-third of the human body’s white fat could be transformed into brown fat, which normally makes up 10 percent of the fat in an adult’s body.

By increasing the amount of Zfp516 protein in their bodies, people could accelerate the process of “browning” the fat, without having to take part in sports or go on a diet, he said.

The study found that the level of the protein increased when the body is exposed to cold temperatures.

So if you’re trying to lose weight, the current cold spell may be good for you.

Luckily, you won’t have to shiver too much, since a side effect of the protein is that it raises the body’s temperature slightly.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

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