Natural compound may slow weight gain
Based on experiments with mice, a natural compound called berberine was found to cause the animals to burn calories more quickly, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Scientists in China say that by injecting mice with berberine, found in plants and some Chinese herbal medicines, they were able to stimulate activity of heat-producing tissue known as brown fat. Unlike white fat, whose main role is to store energy, brown fat burns calories to generate heat to keep the body warm.
In the study, researchers found that the mice that were injected daily with the compound, called berberine, for four weeks burned more calories than the mice that were not injected with the compound. In addition, the bodies of the mice injected with berberine generated more heat when they were exposed to cold air than the mice that were not injected with the compound.
The researchers determined that berberine activated brown fat. They also noted that berberine affected the animals' white fat, which began to "brown" — meaning it started to acquire the qualities of calorie-burning brown fat.
However, the scientists noted that further research is needed to see if the compound could deliver the same effects in humans.