Australian scientists have discovered a molecular switch in the brain of mice that controls the body's capacity to store fat, particularly after weight loss.
The Monash University study, published in journal Cell, could one day spell the end of so-called yo-yo dieting, say researchers.
According to Associate Professor Andrews, repeated dieting can lead to weight gain because the brain interprets these diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages.
Analysis of hunger-processing cells in the brain has now identified a protein to explain why this may be the case.
Called carnitine acetyltransferase (Crat), the Melbourne researchers found that this protein instructs the body to replace the lost weight through increasing fat storage.
Manipulating this protein offers the opportunity to trick the brain into not storing the fat, says Professor Andrews.
"By regulating this protein we can ensure that diet-induced weight loss stays off rather than sneaking back on."
Much more research is still needed, however Professor Andrews says being able to control this protein also offers a potential therapy for obesity and other metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes.