Want to lose the kilos but not the calories? Thanks to new research on the marijuana-like-chemical found in the brains of mice, there may be a pill soon that can boost metabolism without exercise or diet well at least theoretically.
Cannabis has a long history of medicinal use, but without ever a clear understanding on how it acted in the brain. But recent findings by pharmacology professor Daniele Piomelli and colleagues from the University of California have found that by blocking production of an endocannabinoid compound in the brains of mice called 2-AG, they could be fed high-fat diets and restrict their activity and yet would not put on any weight.
"We discovered that these mice were resistant to obesity because they burned fat calories much more efficiently than normal mice do," said Prof Piomelli. "We had known that endocannabinoids play a critical role in cell energy regulation, but this is the first time we found a target where this occurs."
"These mice had what really looked like a much faster metabolism than normal mice. They burned fat calories more efficiently," said Prof Piomelli. Specifically, their brown fat, a type of fat that keeps mammals warm, became hyperactive, converting to heat much more quickly than in normal mice."
Research also found that the modified mice did not develop any signs of metabolic syndrome, which could lead to health problems such as obesity and high-blood pressure, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The body makes its own versions of the chemical found in marijuana tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), namely endocannabinoids, which work by binding to the same specific receptors as THC, and travel in the opposite direction of most brain signals. "Their role in the brain is to control body metabolism outside the brain," said Prof Piomelli.
The mice were bred with their brain cells manipulated to limit 2-AG production, but of course this is not possible in humans. However Piomelli said he hoped to develop drugs that could selectively diminish levels of 2-AG in the brain and, in doing so "boost our capacity to burn fat calories effortlessly."
"To produce the desired effects, we would need to create a drug that blocks 2-AG production in the brain, something we're not yet able to do," explained Prof Piomelli. "So don't cancel that gym membership just yet. But as you hit the treadmill, think about the added health benefits if you could train your brain to make fewer endocannabinoids."
The results were published in the peer review journal Cell Metabolism