Boston Researchers Working On ‘Treadmill In A Pill’

By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Losing weight is a very popular New Year’s resolution. And we soon may be able to shed the pounds without the sweat. Boston researchers say they have captured the weight loss benefits of a treadmill in a pill.

Professor Chad Cowan and his team at Harvard University and Mass General Hospital have found a drug that can transform some of your “bad” fat into super-charged “good” fat that simply burns itself — like a day at the gym.

“When you exercise you very naturally do this to some of the fat cells in your body. So we’re going to sort of make it like you’ve done some rigorous exercise a little bit every day so that you burn off those excess calories,” says Cowan.

All of us have so called white fat and a limited amount of brown fat. This breakthrough tricks those white fat cells into acting like those self-burning brown ones. “So now rather than just sitting on the couch it gets up and burns off some of that energy in the form of heat,” explains Cowan.

The drug has proven successful in mice but we are still years away from human clinical trials. The hope is that this discovery could be the fuel needed to battle the obesity epidemic.

Cowan likes to use a super hero analogy when describing how it works: “It’s not that they forgot they were white fat cells. It’s just like Peter Parker, who is Spiderman, still remembers he is Peter Parker. It’s just now he’s also Spiderman.”

But the super-power has its limits: “I do want to emphasize that in no way would a pill like this ever replace physical activity or exercise,” says Cowan.

Which is good news for many fitness buffs we spoke with at the Watertown Boston Sports Club who have no plans to ditch the gym for a drug. “It’s not going to replace the mental and the emotional aspect of working out that you get,” says Ben Perry of Waltham. “I’d rather do the work!” says Yolie Silva of Waltham.

This fat-burning drug is already FDA approved but it’s being used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. As you might imagine the side effects are severe and not recommended for weight loss.

Professor Cowan is convinced it’s likely even more drugs are out there that have the same effect. And he’s already on the hunt for more.

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