Scientists at a Melbourne university may have discovered a way to trick our brains into telling our bodies to burn more fat.
The researchers at Monash University unravelled the workings of two naturally occurring hormones - leptin, an appetite suppressant created by fat cells, and insulin, created in the pancreas in response to rising blood glucose.
The research, published today in the Journal Cell, shows the hormones act together with the brain to stimulate the burning of body fat, potentially leading to the creation of more effective ways to lose weight and prevent obesity.
"These hormones give the brain a comprehensive picture of the fatness of the body. Because leptin is produced by fat cells, it measures the level of existing fat reserves - the more fat, the more leptin. Whereas insulin provides a measure of future fat reserves because glucose levels rise when we eat," said lead researcher professor Tony Tiganis.
Mr Tiganis says eventually, through understanding how the hormones interact with the brain, he hopes to develop new "weight loss agents".
"But it is not an easy task, and any potential therapy is a long way off," he added.
Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the Indiana University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, the University of Pennsylvania, USA and the University of Toronto, Canada collaborated on the research.