A pill to burn fat

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Tired of exercising to shed excess pounds? Scientists at Harvard University may have discovered a way to help you lose weight—just by taking a pill. The human body has two kinds of fat cells: white cells, which store excess calories in the form of flab, and brown cells, which burn energy to produce heat. “What we wanted to do is take the white fat no one wants,” says lead researcher Chad Cowan ”and turn it into the [brown] fat everyone wants.” In laboratory tests, Cowan and his team worked with human stem cells that would normally develop into white fat cells. After screening more than 1,000 chemical compounds, they found two—including a medicine that’s currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis—that made the white cells convert into brown cells. The team will now begin testing the compounds in mice to see if the same changes occur. But don’t throw away those running shoes just yet, as the other advantages of exercise, such as regulating cholesterol and boosting mood and energy levels, can never be replicated by taking a pill. “In no way would I tell people to stop exercising,” says Cowan.