Lac-Phe, a weighty new discovery

Exercise is a bona fide wonder drug that reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and even some cancers. As the supreme way to burn calories, you’d also think the link between exercise and weight loss would be clear, but it’s not.

Do the minimum recommended weekly exercise of 150 minutes and you might lose a meagre two to three kilograms. Increase that to more than 225 minutes and you could be tipping the scales five to 7.5 kilograms lighter. But, even if you’re in this latter category, your joy may be short-lived.

Around 80% of people fail to maintain weight loss, thanks to a host of body responses that stubbornly defend your original weight. You eat more, thanks to increases in the appetite hormone ghrelin; you want to move less; and, infuriatingly, your basal metabolic rate drops. The weight just creeps back.

Into that exasperating fray comes a startling new finding, published in Nature. A recently discovered and little-studied molecule, called Lac-Phe, undergoes a major production boost during certain types of exercise and, in an animal model, profoundly suppresses appetite, potentially informing exercise programs or, tantalisingly, efforts to find an anti-obesity drug.

Read the full article in Cosmos magazine here