Researchers have identified a gene that could improve the balance of chemical energy produced by the body. The gene, when switched on, encourages excess energy to be released as heat, rather than being turned into chemical energy that has the potential to end up as fat.

Researchers at the Washington School of Medicine, USA, generated mice expressing mitochondrial uncoupling protein in normal skeletal muscle (Nat Med 2000 6:1115-1120). Although they ate the same amount of food as normal animals, these mice weighed less and had lower levels of blood triglycerides and better glucose tolerance. They also avoided becoming obese when fed a high fat diet.

The gene controls uncoupling protein one (UCP1), which is found in mitochondria. Its key role is in the conversion of food energy into chemical energy. When the UCP1 gene is switched on, excess food energy is converted into heat energy, which dissipates quickly,...

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