Researchers at Flinders University knocked out a gene known as RCAN1 in mice, hypothesizing that this would increase "non-shivering thermogenesis," which "expends calories as heat rather than storing them as fat" -- the mice were fed a high-calorie diet and did not gain weight.
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Mayo Clinic researchers have had some success in convincing muscles to burn energy less efficiently, resulting in more calories consumed through exercise and simple tasks (in lab animals, anyway). They're thinking this may allow them to overclock our metabolisms:
The researchers conclude that "sarcolemmal KATP channels govern muscle energy economy, and their downregulation in a tissue-specific manner could present an anti-obesity strategy by rendering muscle increasingly thermogenic at rest and less fuel efficient during exercise."
The findings also point Zingman to another general principle when it comes to our weight.
"For me, the most surprising thing was how small changes can translate to significant changes with time," he said, noting that mice with and without the channels start out the same in terms of body weight but start to diverge from one another by the time they reach four months in age. "Limiting energy consumption by a small fraction with every movement or beat of the heart can add up to a significant change in total energy consumption. Small actions may really make a huge difference."
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