Keeping weight off may become as easy as popping a pill.
Keeping weight off may become as easy as popping a pill.

Miracle obesity cure on tip of our tongue

AUSTRALIANS have had success in finding the holy grail of weight loss - a simple pill that targets a single gene and allows you to eat as much as you want.

The anti-fat drug could be available within a few years, and holds much hope for the fight against the country's obesity and diabetes epidemics.

The international research is led by Professor Damien Keating at Adelaide's Flinders University.

His team is the first in the world to discover that weight loss is possible by inhibiting the function of the RCAN1 gene.

His study used a huge genetic screen in rodents to identify novel genetic candidates that may cause obesity, potentially paving the way for new drug therapies.

When RCAN1 was inhibited in mice and they gorged on high fat foods for prolonged periods, they did not gain weight.

"An enormous amount of time and money goes into obesity research, but this is a very novel discovery and we have high hopes," Prof Keating told The Courier-Mail.

"We know a lot of people struggle to lose weight or even control their weight for a number of different reasons.

"The findings in this study could mean developing a pill which would target the function of RCAN1 and may result in weight loss."

Obesity results in increased risk of serious diseases such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease, but avenues for effective therapeutic treatments are lacking.

A quarter of Australian children and adolescents, and nearly two-thirds of adults, are overweight or obese.

There are two types of fat in the human body: brown fat that burns energy, and white fat that stores energy.

Prof Keating says blocking RCAN1 helped transform unhealthy white fat into healthy brown fat, presenting a potential treatment method in the fight against obesity.

"We have already developed a series of drugs that target the protein that this gene makes, and we are now in the process of testing them to see if they inhibit RCAN1 and whether they might represent potential new anti-obesity drugs," he said.

"In light of our results, the drugs we are developing to target RCAN1 would burn more calories while people are resting.

"It means the body would store less fat without the need for a person to reduce food consumption or exercise more."