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Blocking Marijuana-Like Brain Chemical Burns Fat

Scientists find a key to unlocking the obesity epidemic.

Scientists have made another breakthrough in the battle of the bulge. They have found that blocking a marijuana-like chemical in the human brain drastically increases fat burn. Research carried out in mice has already proven successful, providing a distant pathway to effortless dieting. Mice that were genetically engineered to produce low levels of a brain chemical—called endocannabinoid 2-AG—ate more, moved less, but still avoided developing mouse love handles. This chemical occurs naturally in mammals, and is similar to the active ingredient in marijuana, THC. In the brain, 2-AG plays a role in regulating the body’s energy metabolism. Other studies have shown that it also influences appetite, which explains why people get hungry when they smoke pot. The researchers found that the modified mice showed increased activity in their brown fat. Mammals use this fat to keep warm, burning extra calories in the process. "We discovered that these mice were resistant to obesity because they burned fat calories much more efficiently than normal mice do," one of the study’s researchers, Daniele Piomelli, said in a statement. The mice also didn’t show any negative symptoms commonly associated with poor diet and inactivity, such as high blood pressure or insulin resistance. These are both linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. But before you go gorging yourself on cheese fries, put that on hold. A drug to block the effects of 2-AG would take years to develop. This includes testing its safety in mice before trying it out in people. In the meantime, stick with what you’ve been doing all along—eating healthy and exercising.

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