With the winter season just beginning, many will try to make the switch from beach bod to bulking mode. According to new research published in the journal Nature Communication, you may want to reconsider taking that strategy to the extreme.

A team of researchers from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Institute of Metabolic Studies at the University of Cambridge, UK, and Toho University, Japan, have found a relationship between the protein sLR11 and reduced fat burning ability.

The researchers found that, as weight is gained, the body produces more of the sLR11 protein. This protein suppresses thermogenic processes, causing slowed weight loss.

These results were found as researchers studied mice both with and without the gene responsible for the production of this protein. As all of the mice consumed more calories, their metabolic rates increased slightly. However, mice lacking the gene were able to burn calories much faster. These mice also burned more fat from white adipose tissue, which is the primary makeup of fat storage.

When looking at human populations, researchers noted a correlation between levels of the sLR11 protein in the blood and total fat mass. As body fat levels increased, so too did levels of the sLR11 protein. When several of these patients underwent major fat loss surgery, the postoperative levels of the sLR11 protein were proportional to the total amount of fat lost.

“Our discovery may help explain why overweight individuals find it incredibly hard to lose weight,” joint first author of the study, Dr. Andrew Whittle, said. “Their stored fat is actively fighting against their efforts to burn it off at the molecular level.”

The results of the research offer insight into the body’s molecular processes involved in fat loss. This can lead to advancements in pharmaceutical methods to treat obesity and associated conditions.

“We have found an important mechanism that could be targeted not just to help increase people’s ability to burn fat, but also help people with conditions where saving energy is important such as anorexia nervosa,” lead researcher, Toni Vidal-Puig, said.

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