Science’s Answer to Burning Fat Without Crash Diets

Researchers have found a potentially effective new method of promoting weight loss. And no, not the sort of weight loss attained through crash diets.

Fat-burning is one of the greatest struggles faced by those suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic disorders. Even mostly healthy people still struggle to get their body fat mass to a “healthy” level. The modern diet (rich in high-calorie, low-nutrient food) and lifestyle (sedentary) makes it incredibly challenging to eliminate excess body fat.

However, if the Department of Biochemistry at McGill University has anything to say about it, fat-burning may soon be a whole lot easier.

In early 2016, researchers at McGill University published the results of a study that examined the role of folliculin on regulating fat cell activity. The researchers stopped a gene from producing folliculin in a group of mice, and the result was a series of biomolecular signals that caused the mice’s cells to stop storing fat, and to start burning it.

Two groups of mice were used for the study. One group were normal, while the other were folliculin-deficient. Both groups were fed a high-fat diet rich in junk food for 14 weeks. The normal mice saw rapid increases in their weight, but the mice without folliculin saw less weight loss and had lower levels of both triglycerides and insulin. Studies of CO2 production and oxygen consumption determined that the folliculin-deficient mice burned more fat. By the end of the study, their white fat tissue had decreased, and the white fat cells had shrunk. They produced more energy, could tolerate cold temperatures better, and burned more fat.

Basically, turning off folliculin helped to turn their white fat into beige or brown fat, a much more “active” form of fat that burns calories rather than storing it. By understanding the connection between folliculin and the fat-browning process, the researchers found a potentially effective new method of promoting weight loss. And no, not the sort of weight loss attained through crash diets—healthy, long-term weight loss that could counteract obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

The proteins involved in turning of folliculin can all be targeted using medications that are easily absorbed and bioavailable. Essentially, there may soon be a drug that can cause your body to turn white fat into brown and beige fat. The more active fat in your body, the more calories you burn, and the less inert “unhealthy” fat there will be to slow down your internal functions. The result, aside from sustainable fat burning, is potentially a much lower risk of health problems stemming from obesity.


1. Ming Yan, Étienne Audet-Walsh, Sanaz Manteghi, Catherine Rosa Dufour, Benjamin Walker, Masaya Baba, Julie St-Pierre, Vincent Giguère, Arnim Pause. “Chronic AMPK activation via loss of FLCN induces functional beige adipose tissue through PGC-1α/ERRα.” Genes & Development, 2016; 30 (9): 1034 DOI: 10.1101/gad.281410.116.