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Biotech Medicine Science

Researchers Enable Mice To Exhale Fat 328

Posted by Soulskill
from the americans-still-too-lazy-for-this-diet dept.
destinyland writes "UCLA researchers made a startling discovery: genetic alterations enable mice to convert fat into carbon dioxide. Mammals digest fats differently than bacteria — so researchers introduced bacteria genes into mouse livers, and 'the excess fat was literally released into thin air.' (One researcher calls it 'an unconventional idea which we borrowed from plants and bacteria.') The research potentially could help treat serious medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease — and of course, obesity."
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Researchers Enable Mice To Exhale Fat

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  • by basementman (1475159) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:03PM (#28656355) Homepage
    The earth is screwed if we ever get this to work on humans. Good news is that we will be able to build Burger Kings in Antarctica. Bad news is that the burgers will be made out of penguins.
    • No, even worse. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:06PM (#28656389) Homepage Journal

      The problem is that global warming legislation will raise energy costs, alter land use, and, ultimately, in a few hundred years, shorten the growing season. So we're pretty much setting ourselves up to go through getting a bit thinner. Cutting down on our ability to save fat is almost like evolutionary suicide. 100 years from now, it will be like the old days, people that are fat will be rare and obesity will be a sign of power and wealth.

      • Re:No, even worse. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:21PM (#28656481) Journal
        Were one to possess an evil streak several miles wide, engineering a virus to carry this little metabolism-enhancing genetic tweak would have... unpleasant effects on the bottom billion or two and, unlike most bioweapons, get the lardasses at home fit and trim.

        Sounds like a vote-winner to me.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        alter land use

        Land use is already being altered by weeks of scorching record highs down here where we actually grow the food you eat. Whine all you want about how New York having a cool day means the world isn't getting warmer; when the corn crops start dying from the longer (and hotter) growing season, you'll be more than "a bit thinner".

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tjstork (137384)

          Whine all you want about how New York having a cool day means the world isn't getting warmer; when the corn crops start dying from the longer (and hotter) growing season, you'll be more than "a bit thinner".

          Markets don't lie.

          Food prices falling across the board [newsday.com]

          Says to me that there's not a corn shortage.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by jshazen (233469)

            With the oil/gas prices going back down from their highs last year, using corn to produce ethanol isn't cost-effective, so the artificial (non-food use) shortage is relieved.

          • Re:No, even worse. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by TinBromide (921574) on Friday July 10, 2009 @08:42PM (#28656969)
            The cost of corn is very very very dependent on the cost of oil. Due to the energy hungry nitrogen fixation process required to make the fertilizer so rich in energy it can be used to make bombs (see the Oklahoma city bombing for the effects a van-load can have), corn has been described as being "edible oil", due to it taking 2 calories of oil energy to create 1 calorie of corn energy. Oil goes down, corn prices go down, food prices go down. Don't get me started on the wet milling process required to make corn products into xanthan gum, corn oil, natural raspberry flavor, and the hundreds of other corn derivatives that you read on the ingredients label of just about every processed food. (but a 13:1 energy in:energy out ratio comes to mind). Also, when it comes to meat, it takes 9 pounds of corn to make 1 pound of cow. There is definitely a trickle down effect where the price of food is based on the price of oil.

            Other food prices are also dependent on oil prices due to fertilizer costs and transportation costs as well.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by c_forq (924234)
              Having grown up in a family involved in different areas of the Ag industry, I am going to call bullshit. The biggest factor in corn pricing is government subsidies (I have a relative that is paid NOT to harvest 60+ acres of corn). Regarding fertilization, if you use too much nitrogen in corn it grows too fast and thin and collapses on itself, making it un-harvestable. Regarding cattle, the corn used for cattle more often than not is a lower grade than that sold for human consumption (worm and parasite in
            • Re:No, even worse. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by soundguy (415780) on Friday July 10, 2009 @10:43PM (#28657539) Homepage

              ... corn has been described as being "edible oil", due to it taking 2 calories of oil energy to create 1 calorie of corn energy.

              Bullshit. For millions of years, corn (and its ancestors) grew happily in the wild, uncultivated earth with only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide for sustenance. For thousands of years, up until the mid-20th century, it grew on cultivated land with the addition of animal waste as a fertilizer. Just because we currently use petroleum-enhanced fertilizers to increase yields and lessen the need for crop rotation does NOT mean that they are in any way "required".

              ...it takes 9 pounds of corn to make 1 pound of cow.

              More bullshit. Cattle are currently fattened in feedlots using corn because it means higher profits from higher yield and more marbled (and therefore more expensive) muscle tissue. 100% natural-grass-fed cattle use up ZERO pounds of corn, and that's pretty much all they had to eat before they were domesticated.

              While I'm at it, I'm getting really sick of the most egregious lies that keep getting trotted out around here regarding the amount of petroleum products that are "REQUIRED" by modern farm machinery to grow and process "natural" foods. Again, just because it's currently fashionable and economically desirable to do things that way does NOT make it MANDATORY. The vast majority of farm equipment runs on diesel fuel, which is easily replaced with biodiesel or alcohol. Stationary machinery that is currently powered directly by fossil fuels or with electricity generated using those same fuels are often in geographical areas where electricity can be economically generated by wind, solar, burning biomass, methane from waste processing, or nuclear. In fact, combines and tractors don't move very fast or very far. There's no reason they couldn't operate with a couple tons of batteries and hi-torque locomotive drives instead of those Cat & Cummins diesels

              A lot of you seem to forget that there are vast stretches of farmland in the wide-open west that already have the majority of their power generated by nuclear and/or hydroelectric systems. In short, the only reason we aren't weaning ourselves off of "edible oil" is the greed and corruption of the US government (specifically farmbelt senators-for-sale), big agri-business, and especially the global petroleum cartels.

              If an alien armada landed tomorrow and vacuumed out 100% of the oil and coal reserves on this planet, we'd suffer for a decade or two, probably losing a big chunk of the population to starvation and wars over food, but eventually we'd ramp back up using alternate energy sources and within a generation, Hummer would be a viable vehicle brand again (possibly as Electra-Hummer or something) and we'd all be right back to not giving a rat's ass about where energy came from or how much of it we're using.

              • Re:No, even worse. (Score:4, Informative)

                by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @12:00AM (#28657801) Journal

                Bullshit. For millions of years, corn (and its ancestors) grew happily in the wild, uncultivated earth with only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide for sustenance. For thousands of years, up until the mid-20th century, it grew on cultivated land with the addition of animal waste as a fertilizer. Just because we currently use petroleum-enhanced fertilizers to increase yields and lessen the need for crop rotation does NOT mean that they are in any way "required".

                What you describe is more costly then the current system. Prices still go up.

                More bullshit. Cattle are currently fattened in feedlots using corn because it means higher profits from higher yield and more marbled (and therefore more expensive) muscle tissue. 100% natural-grass-fed cattle use up ZERO pounds of corn, and that's pretty much all they had to eat before they were domesticated.

                And this way takes about a year and a half longer to bring a cow to market. Again, driving costs up. BTW, grass in pasture lands do no grow in the winter, hay is usually brought in and sometime corn silage when corn is not used as a feed.

                And yes, I do raise cattle on grass and hay.

                Also, the processes you are describing was economical before the need to feed as many people as are alive today was there. The ox or horse pulling a plow will not farm enough land for our current usages. Corn and animal prices would skyrocket if we went back to them.

                You know, you sort of sound like one of those "you can make rope from hemp and it's better then the rope in use today" type people. Except that when we switch to synthetic fibers, it wasn't because hemp rope was better, it was because the synthetic rope lasted about 3 years on the ocean where hemp rope needed replacing every 6 to 8 months. It made sense to use the synthetic crap because it was more efficient and cheaper. The same is with your, "they did it 2000 years ago, we can do it again today" attitude. While it is true, it can be done again, it can't be done efficiently or effectivly. And yes, I also live in Amish country and see a lot of farms worked in the old ways. They have five or more kids to a family and have them in the fields working by the time they are three or four. IT also takes them 10 to 15 times longer to prepare a field, about just as long to plant it, and longer then that to harvest it.

                The way it is now, most farmers have a profession outside the farm because the farm can't support them solely. IF they all went back to the old ways, then expect a serious increase in food prices or a shortage of food.

          • Re:No, even worse. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by aynoknman (1071612) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @01:15AM (#28658011)

            Markets don't lie.

            but they are frequently mistaken.

      • So we'll have lots of lean, taut people in the world, but they'll all have bad breath
    • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:14PM (#28656439) Homepage

      Haven't they heard of global warming? Can't they get them to exhale chocolate?

    • MMmmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by commodoresloat (172735) * on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:20PM (#28656479)

      Have you tasted penguin? It's fucking delicious. Almost as good as bald eagle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zerth (26112)

      You'd have to be able to exhale fat if you ate penguin burgers. Those guys are so fat, they can go for a month or two without eating practically anything.

      Being fat actually gets the males more loving, as the females of some species are more likely to mate with those who have a more resonant mating call, indicating thickness and thus likelyhood of not keeling over from hunger while the female runs off for weeks at a time.

      You could practically cook an emperor penguin on a fire of its own grease.

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      You've been livin in cave or something? The Chinese beat us to it! There is the Hunan Village serving take-out Kung-Pao Penguin!
    • Re:Global warming? (Score:4, Informative)

      by RsG (809189) on Friday July 10, 2009 @08:16PM (#28656831)

      Ugh. I get tired of having to explain this. You'd think it'd stick the first dozen times or so, and I wouldn't have to keep repeating myself.

      The CO2 from your breath is not the problem. The CO2 from your tailpipe is.

      The reason is their source. Carbon from food is ultimately bound via photosynthesis; you either eat the plants or eat the animals that eat the plants. Photosynthesis removes free CO2 from the air and binds the carbon, releasing the oxygen. Any high school student can tell you this.

      Every last ounce of CO2 coming out of your mouth, right now as you're reading this, was previously bound up as food, which was living tissue once, which (directly or indirectly) grew via taking CO2 out of the air. It's a closed cycle. Exhaling more CO2 will not result in a net increase in the carbon cycle.

      Your tailpipe is different. The hydrocarbons you're burning come from fossil fuels, which have been sequestered from the atmosphere for the past few million years. Burning them does add a net amount of CO2 to the carbon cycle.

      Climate change is not about what's in the air, it's about what's no longer in the ground. This is why Biofuels are a solution - the IC engine can be totally identical to one running on fossil fuels, but the hydrocarbons are grown rather than mined.

    • by meerling (1487879)
      Mmmmm.... Penguin Burgers........ (drool)

      Uh sir, do you want Walrus Fries with that?
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nebaz (453974) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:03PM (#28656357)

    I inhale cheeseburgers, I guess it would only be right to exhale them too.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by value_added (719364) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:55PM (#28656709)

      I inhale cheeseburgers, I guess it would only be right to exhale them too.

      One of the fundamental principles of the fast food industry is that the "food" shouldn't require any chewing. Obvious, but only after some careful thought, but wildly successful.

      The generic cheeseburger you inhale is constructed from greasy patties of frozen ground meat, a bun that lightly resembles bread, a thick viscous layer of an edible oil product colored to resemble cheese, and copious amounts of additional vegetable oil mixtures (using various combinations of egg products, corn syrup, and flavourings, colour, and gum) that keeps everything soft and wet.

      Substitute one or more of the ingredients with the real or fresh versions, and I suspect you won't be able to inhale. Whether chewing is a feature, I'll leave to you to decide.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10, 2009 @11:23PM (#28657691)

        oh goodness gracious how I love that food that resembles food.

        A former mayor of Philadelphia was once asked why no one else in the country can justly replicate the famous phili cheesesteak. He replied that their doing two things wrong 1) they're using real cheese and 2) they're using real meat.

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "I guess it would only be right to exhale them too."

      So if biodiesel smells like french fries [nytimes.com], does that mean my breath can always smell like french fries now? (without eating fries, of course)
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:03PM (#28656359)

    It's a stunning and amazing medical breakthrough -- finally, people don't have to be fat! In other news, eating a well balanced diet, excercise, seen sulking in the corner for not being hip enough. Dr. House overheard saying "It's stuff like this that makes me want to not dangle anymore."

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:26PM (#28656509)

      It's a stunning and amazing medical breakthrough -- finally, people don't have to be fat! In other news, eating a well balanced diet, excercise, seen sulking in the corner for not being hip enough. Dr. House overheard saying "It's stuff like this that makes me want to not dangle anymore."

      You know, I see this a lot when news that could help the obese comes along. I think it's a bit ignorant. First, would you have the same reaction if it similiar news (possible breakthrough) about compulsive gamblers, smokers, alcohilcs, hard drugs, or any other addiction? What about the debilitating OCD like Howard Hughs suffered or any mental disease really? I mean, buck it up and have some will power!

      I know many fat people who go days on in eating less than a 120lb person, maybe even losing the weight, only to be broken by one binge and rapidly going back to their old ways. I don't think it's just a lack of willpower, a lot of it is unnatural. Domesticated animals also get fat when there's always food in the bowl. Maybe it's in our nature: for so many generation, the next meal was uncertain, grab it while you still can.

      And then there are things like HFCS which adds to the problem. 100 years ago, regular chocolate was a real WEEKLY treat for an average kid, if at all, 300 years ago, sugar was kept in silver lockboxes due to expensive nature, now we have this crap swamping the area.

      Imagine in 100 years VR really gets there. I mean really, they bypass your eyeballs, wired right into the brain, touch, feel, smell, everything. Instant orgasm. Imagine how many people will be addicted. Not just because they lack the will power, but the human animal gets exposed to stimuli that in turn rewards its basest and most powerful areas of the brain and we act holier-than-thou when people actually get hooked.

      Food, for some people, is the overriding addiction that make other addictions fail. Any help they get is good. And Dr. House would know that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clang_jangle (975789)
        I just don't believe in that whole "victim-of-the-modern-diet" argument so many fat people like to use as an excuse. I live in the same society, shop in the same stores, and I'm not fat. It's called self-control.
        My mother has been at least 100 lbs overweight for many years. She insists she "hardly eats anything at all and just can't lose weight", but having been raised by her, I know better -- life with her is a non-stop cavalcade of food. Like all addicts, fat people lie.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:45PM (#28656639)

          I just don't believe in that whole "victim-of-the-modern-diet" argument so many fat people like to use as an excuse. I live in the same society, shop in the same stores, and I'm not fat. It's called self-control.

          Anecdotal evidence. I know people that smoke 3 packs a day and don't get cancer therefore smoking doesn't cause cancer. I may be fat but at least I didn't fail logic.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by iamhassi (659463)
          "I live in the same society, shop in the same stores, and I'm not fat. It's called self-control."

          If that's what you believe then you fail at googling [google.com].

          Can a person who is genetically pre-disposed to be fat be skinny? Of course, I've seen biggest loser, but they'll have to workout 12 hours a day and eat less than 1300 calories to reach the same size other people take for granted.

          And I'm very tired of skinny people going "I have self-control, you fat people don't". Um, no. I see your shopping carts
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by timeOday (582209)

          I just don't believe in that whole "victim-of-the-modern-diet" argument so many fat people like to use as an excuse. I live in the same society, shop in the same stores, and I'm not fat. It's called self-control.

          Good for you. I assume you eschew birth control for the same reasons. Food is for energy, sex is for making babies, if you don't want any, keep it permanently in your pants.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:44PM (#28656629) Journal
        Your point is well made, and quite important; but I don't think it goes quite far enough. Even if we did cling to the naive view of "willpower", so what? Is technology that makes life easier a bad thing? Why suffer when you can have your cake and eat it too?

        Sure, you could avoid weight gain by eating your veggies and running a lot; but if you can have your steak and be slim too, why not? There is something really perverse and masochistic about opposition to this sort of tech(and masochism is fine, if that's your thing; but imposing it on others is a bit much). There are loads of situations where you could avoid consequences by "self control", or you could just use a little engineering. If I need dental work, should I skip the anesthetic and just suck it up? Why? Anesthetics are cheap and pain sucks. If my eyes aren't so good, should I just squint? Why? A few dollars worth of polycarbonate and some optical know-how will make my life substantially better. Should I refrain from sex unless I can deal with children? Why? Prophylactics are cheap and highly effective.

        There are, certainly, some things that no amount of technology will compensate for, mostly because they are unethical; but in cases where the downsides of indulgence can be cleared up with a little engineering, advocating self-control instead is just puritanism. Perfectly fine to make the choice for yourself, or if you suffer the externalities; but damn perverse to impose on others.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tacarat (696339)
        Packs of hungry wolves eating the sickly, old and too fat to run for their lives should be reintroduced into our cities. Save an endangered species and get human evolution back on track.
      • by Daemonax (1204296) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:49PM (#28656665)
        To paraphrase Abbie Hoffman.
        Telling obese people to just stop eating and exercise is like telling manic-depressives to just cheer up.

        Obesity is a predictable problem of placing humans in an environment with surplus food. We have evolved in an environment where food was not plentiful, and one of the best behavioural traits to have if you wanted to survive was to eat as much as you could when you could. That behavioural trait is now causing problems for many people.
        Obesity is disgusting, but telling people that isn't going to solve the problem. Personally I wouldn't care one bit if taxes were increased (which would result in increased prices) for junk-food outlets like McDonalds and Burger King, it would hopefully limit the amount of shit that people eat, and would also be able to provide some funding for the massive costs that are going to be coming along very soon as obese and overweight people start requiring medical help.

        According to an article on the BBC about a week ago, 44% of children in Mississippi are obese or overweight, that is disgusting and something needs to be done to fix this problem.

        Apparently more than 25% of adults in my country, New Zealand, are obese. It is a serious problem, anything higher than 5% obesity in a population should be taken as a serious problem.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Processed fast foods are already more expensive then healthy whole foods. Go to McD's and it costs $7 for a burger, fries and a drink. Now go down to the grocery store, and spend the same amount on food, and you could make a healthy dinner for a family of 4. Sure it would probable take longer to prepare, but it's definitely cheaper to eat when you prepare your own healthy food. You can get 3 lbs. of carrots for $2. Those 1 lbs. hungry man premade dinners cost a lot more than making your own dinner. I
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by shaitand (626655)

            In your world it costs $7 for a single burger at mcdonalds. In my world it costs $4 for 4 double cheeseburgers that will feed two adults and as for the drink... why would you buy the high profit items like fries and a drink? If you are out even an overpriced drink at a gas station is a better value than a fast food place and if you are taking it home drink something there. Drinks, side dishes, and appetizers these items are on the menu for the morons who don't value their money or somehow think Ronald is en

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by PPH (736903)

          Obesity is a predictable problem of placing humans in an environment with surplus food.

          No problem. Divert all that food into the production of fuel for my Hummer. That way, every time I fill up, I can feel good about helping to keep people thin.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sjames (1099)

          While it doesn't help, the blame cannot be all on McD's. Personally, I achieved my lowest weight (merely 'overweight') after a year of biking 20 miles a day and staying under 1500 calories a day. I haven't eaten at McD's since my teen years (It's just not good eats :-) The problem is, it's just not possible to keep doing that and put in that 60+ hour work week.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 4D6963 (933028)

          Obesity is a predictable problem of placing humans in an environment with surplus food

          Yeah, that's what Americans like to think, but that's bullshit. Eating as much as you want doesn't make you fat. You can get fat off not eating enough but eating the wrong things. It's called malnutrition. If you eat the right food you can eat until you can't take anymore and not gain weight.

          See, for example, if you take 1960s France, the country was quite prosperous, everyone ate as much as they wanted, yet we didn't

      • by feepness (543479) on Friday July 10, 2009 @08:04PM (#28656753) Homepage

        I know many fat people who go days on in eating less than a 120lb person, maybe even losing the weight, only to be broken by one binge and rapidly going back to their old ways.

        That's because they are doing it wrong. They need to eat exactly what a person of their size should be eating or a teeny bit less, their body will naturally approach the correct weight with a bit of exercise thrown in. By going so they almost certainly binge because their body thinks it is starving.

        Yes, this takes. It also works.

      • by wrook (134116)

        If the we developed a drug that allowed people to be thin while eating whatever they want, would that really help people who over eat? Surely this is treating just the symptom. They are still addicted.

        Like you, I reject the idea that "will power" will help obese people improve their life. Changing your self is hard. You have to want to do it. You have to be able to imagine yourself as the person without the thing you are addicted to. And you have to be happy with that. Once you do that, will power is

        • But if your addiction has no symptoms, is it a problem? Addictions aren't bad because they are intrinsically evil in some way, they are bad because they get in your way. If they no longer do that, who cares?
        • The obese people are also at a likely genetic disadvantage.

          http://www.gghjournal.com/pdf/volume_19/19-4/ab4.pdf [gghjournal.com]

          As for the willpower thing, look at it like this. A drug addict can simply avoid drugs they have no actual need for it they can stop cold turkey. If your addicted to food you can't avoid it. Its advertised all over the place, and you still have to partake every day. It's an uphill battle for them.

      • I think it's difficult to differentiate those who have the problem because they refuse to exercise or moderate their eating, and those that have the problem despite taking those steps. It also has extra confusion due to the fact that there is such a wide range of weight problems, but people assume that the person who is carrying a lot of extra weight is just suffering an exaggerated version of the same problem that someone else who is only slightly overweight might have. Alcoholism has gotten more exposur
  • And we thought global warming was bad before...
    • Re:Fat - CO2? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ibag (101144) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:23PM (#28656491)

      Why do people think that CO2 = bad? There is a natural carbon cycle. CO2 goes into the air, plants breath it in and breath out O2 while turning the carbon into sugar. Animals eat the plants (and other animals) and use the bonds in molecules containing carbon as a storage for energy. As they use the energy, the carbon goes back into the atmosphere. When things are in relative equilibrium, everything is fine.

      The problem with fossil fuels is that there used to be a lot more carbon in the atmosphere, which was absorbed by plants which died and took the carbon with them. When we burn fossil fuels, we are re-releasing this carbon into the atmosphere, changing the balance of things. Except for deforestation and burning of fossil fuels, most other CO2 related activities don't actually change the overall amount of carbon in play. There is no need to be alarmist about this.

      • Re:Fat - CO2? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Slur (61510) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:57PM (#28656723) Homepage Journal

        Back when there was significantly more CO2 in the atmosphere different forms of life predominated, and we have evolved during the relatively oxygen-rich period which followed the lengthy period of sequestration of CO2 in trees and underground petroleum.

        The CO2 we have been increasingly releasing for the last century and a half is not counterbalanced at all because the number of woody trees which absorb CO2 is being significantly cut back at the same time.

        The combination of these factors causes more heat energy to remain in the atmosphere, which means more kinetic energy. Thus we should see an increase in extreme weather, plus an increase in the amount of heat flowing to the polar regions.

        As CO2 and heat increase there will be a corresponding increase in the amount of gaseous H2O in the atmosphere, which is also a heat-trapping molecule. Thus we should expect to see an increase in the number of hurricanes and large-scale storms.

        What is most feared is a runaway greenhouse effect, in which there simply isn't enough re-uptake of CO2 to counterbalance the domino effect, thus heat and kinetic energy keep going up and up. Ocean levels will most certainly rise, and at an increasing rate, which will lead to the increasing loss of coastal regions, large-scale loss of property, displacement of millions of people throughout the world, and various related crises.

        Certainly no one needs to be alarmist, but it is clear that we need to find some solution to regain a reasonable balance, and to do what we can right now. And the most effective thing we can do to slow this trend is alter our behavior and encourage others to do the same.

      • by sco08y (615665)

        Except for deforestation and burning of fossil fuels, most other CO2 related activities don't actually change the overall amount of carbon in play.

        And this one, specifically, wouldn't because the amount of energy stored in fat is trivial compared to the energy burnt by an organism over its lifetime. The simplest math is to compare your lifespan of 70 years vs. your fat reserves of a few weeks.

        If anything, this would be a (trivial) net gain since you'd be burning less energy hauling that fat around with you.

    • by bunratty (545641)
      Those that don't understand the carbon cycle are doomed to... uh... make stupid comments about global warming, I guess.
      • by GaryOlson (737642)

        Those that don't understand the carbon cycle are doomed to... uh...

        ...die from the effects of benzene poisoning.

  • by fryjs (1456943) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:05PM (#28656385) Homepage
    Politicians have been exhaling excrement for centuries.
  • by PumpkinDog (1253988) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:06PM (#28656391)
    The slogan writes itself "Don't Hold Your Breath"
  • by BenBoy (615230) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:08PM (#28656403)

    ... just sayin'

    And yeah, I know it's CO2 ... you want a global-warming joke instead, *you* make it.

  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:08PM (#28656409)
    Is this something that has to be engineered into an organism, or can it be applied after-market? From the sounds of it, it's a genetic splice and not something easily applied to preexisting organisms. TFA doesn't seem to say. Anyone know? Great news for the fatties of tomorrow, but what about the porkers of today?
    • by Obfuscant (592200)
      Well, it certainly gives all the insulting arrogant assholes something to talk about, now doesn't it?
      • Ah, but I can talk like that about chubby people 'cus I'm one of them! I'm not too sensitive about it, and I take my size in good stride. ;) Doesn't mean I wouldn't mind an 'easy' way to shed some kilos, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      I would wonder if some people already have these organisms as part of their bacteria in their body. If these organisms that convert fat to CO2 were already present in your digestive system, you could just get them to do the work for you.
      • It's a fair idea, and I've thought about something similar before - something like an artificial organism that could live in the blood and consume free glucose, thus leading to a release of glucagon and lipolysis. I could never figure out how this might be achieved, though.
    • by Surye (580125)
      Well, they talked about introducing the genes to the liver. And people can have liver transplants. And we can grow livers. Sounds like aftermarket possibilities. Even if not the liver, some effective organ.
  • .. the next logical step? Can't wait to see the day where global warming is not only caused by cars but by exhaling our fat asses.

    • by bunratty (545641) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:38PM (#28656573)

      The problem with cars running on gasoline is that the carbon in the carbon dioxide they emit used to be stored deep underground. Once it is emitted into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, about half of it will remain for hundreds of years, thus increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

      This is as opposed to the carbon in the carbon dioxide you exhale, which came from plants. The plants got the carbon from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Thus, exhaling carbon dioxide does not cause a increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

      The carbon cycle... learn it, live it, love it!

      • by feepness (543479)
        Modern farming uses fertilizer which is created from... you guessed it... fossil fuels.
  • Fat Air (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Great... and then this "fat air" condenses out, and you're left with chubby rain, all over again.

  • by j-turkey (187775) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:12PM (#28656423) Homepage
    So will mice taking this fat-to-CO2 drug have to pay for extra carbon credits? ;P
  • How to stop? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:14PM (#28656441)

    So what happens when you're thin enough? How do you avoid going down to dangerously low amounts of stored fat?

    Do genetic modifications go away on their own over time, or do they propagate as the affected cells divide?

    • Your post brings to mind the Stephen King novel Thinner [wikipedia.org].
    • So what happens when you're thin enough? How do you avoid going down to dangerously low amounts of stored fat?

      You start ordering supersize. How do you think you got the fat in in the first place?

    • So what happens when you're thin enough? How do you avoid going down to dangerously low amounts of stored fat?

      Bacon party!!! Sign me up.

    • Re:How to stop? (Score:5, Informative)

      by reverseengineer (580922) on Friday July 10, 2009 @11:39PM (#28657751)
      Well, if I understand what's going on in this process, fat metabolism is occurring because the mammalian cells given the glyoxylate shunt genes don't know how to use them "properly." That is to say, plants, bacteria, and fungi use the shunt to turn fat stores into sugars. A major reason for doing this is because they need to build polysaccharide cell walls. We don't have these, so apparently if we have access to the glyoxylate shunt, we run through it, but get nothing out of it. Indeed, less than nothing- to make the dreaded car analogy, it's like sort of like the hit in fuel economy you take by driving with the air conditioner on- your fuel is powering a second motor, but it's one that doesn't contribute to the car's motion.

      In terms of energy usage, the glyoxylate shunt is one of those shortcuts that turn out to take longer in the end- isocitrate molecules that take the detour are broken apart at a net energy cost, then the glyoxylate formed grabs an acetyl-CoA that could have gone to a more productive use, and then returns to the beginning of the Krebs cycle, having accomplished nothing. The shunt steers away from a couple of highly energetically favorable reactions of the Krebs cycle, and runs through one that costs energy.

      The Krebs cycle, the metabolic engine, ultimately has to turn more times to produce the same amount of energy, causing it to demand more fuel in the form of acetyl-CoA. In order to meet this need, your body turns to a particularly rich source of acetyl-CoA: the beta-oxidation of fatty acids. To finally answer the parent's first question, this is where negative feedback that regulates the breakdown of fats is likely to take place. You have an enzyme called acetyl-CoA carboxylase whose activity promotes biosynthesis of fat. As the name suggests, the enzyme adds a carboxylate group to acetyl-CoA to make malonyl-CoA, a compound which is a building block of fatty acids, as well as an inhibitor of enzymes that break down fats. If you run low on fats, acetyl-CoA carboxylase should act to prevent further fat metabolism, and promote the production of more. This will hopefully result in an equilibrium between fat synthesis and fat breakdown. I say hopefully because these tidy feedback loops do not always work as well in practice, which is why we have metabolic disorders in the first place.

      To answer the parent's second question, genetic modifications that correctly integrate into the host genome can generally be expected to be permanent, and spread through dividing cells. Of course, in the lab, you can add genes into an embryo of very few cells, and expect that as an adult, virtually every cell will have the genes, and even expect that the genes will be passed on to offspring. To add genes to a developed organism however involves infecting cells with a vector (usually a modified virus) that carries the genes. It is unlikely that all cells will be infected, and that all infected cells will properly integrate the foreign genes into the genome, and extremely unlikely that the genes would infect germ-line cells and be passed on. The most likely outcome would be a mosaic individual, of whose cells only some contain the foreign genes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dr_Barnowl (709838)

        You might even be able to administer this as a temporary treatment.

        When viruses divide in cells they hijack your own cellular machinery to do it, by using the same programming mechanism - the production of RNA which causes the synthesis of proteins. If you engineered a virus to produce the glycoxylate shunt RNA complexes, it would produce the shunts in cells it infected. Eventually the virus would run it's course and be eliminated by the immune system. The shunts would persist for some time but eventually g

  • The purpose of Fat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrMista_B (891430) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:29PM (#28656523)

    The purpost of fat is to ensure an organism survives when there is not enough food, and in worst case, during famine.

    During most of the history of the human species, famine has been inevitable and greatly lethal.

    Those humans who can best gain the most fat in the shortest amount of time, are most likely to survive - they are superior than the naturally thin people who are the first to die during famine.

    'Curing' people of the ability to gain fat would be severely detremental to the species ability to survive as a whole, outside of specific cases as stated in the article, such as disease or specific genetic conditions.

    • Right. And 'curing' people of bad eyesight is bad for the species need to be able to see prey.

      We're in a whole new range of ecological niches, and modifying both our environment and our bodies to match it is evolution in its most obvious form.

      • by MrMista_B (891430)

        Bad eyesight does not increase a human being's ability to survive in difficult survival conditions.

        Bodyfat, however, does.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tacarat (696339)
          Didn't we just have a discussion about how beer goggles being the only way some people get to breed? Bad eyesight does the same thing, but without the hangover later.
      • I'm in agreement with MrMista for I don't look at what society will be like in the next 100 years, but rather the next 10,000 and beyond. You see, in 100 years we may have replicators and teleportation. But in the next 10,000, WWIII may have came and went leaving all of what's left of humanity with sticks and stones. Do we really want to risk further damage to the human race (possible extinction) by removing core survival mechanisms? By then it may be too late to re-acquire the knowledge to undo the modific

    • On the other hand, if this is something that could be turned on and off at will, it has a *great deal* of therapeutic value.
  • Feh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by bobdotorg (598873) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:34PM (#28656553)

    Wake me up when they figure out how to make them exhale beer.

    I could go for a cold MausBraü about now.

  • Horror movies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bryan1945 (301828) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:45PM (#28656643) Journal

    Once some screenwriter or movie company gets a hold of this story/idea, we are in for a slew of new, badly thought out horror movies. Something like the "Resident Evil" trilogy crossed with mummies. Wonderful.

  • That's a lot of CO2! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sco08y (615665) on Friday July 10, 2009 @07:56PM (#28656711)

    Using random values from the web, CO2 is 1.9769 g/L, and human body fat is 900.7 g/L. So the fat is going to expand about 500 times before it gets out of the body.

    With Olestra, people were shocked, shocked, that you'd get runny shits if a fatty substance passed through your body undigested. My prediction: if this takes off, life will imitate art. [youtube.com]

  • Not news. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lindseyp (988332)

    Scientists just figured this out?

    I eat a varied and balanced diet which does include a portion of fat.
    I am not putting on weight.

    When I cycle to work, where does the carbon dioxide that I exhale come from?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10, 2009 @08:03PM (#28656747)

    The human body is in essence a fat-burning machine. It is made to burn fat, and fat is its most efficient, most safest form of energy. As a coincidence it can also handle pure sugars and carbs (which break down to sugars) by secreting insulin into the bloodstream when carbs/sugars are ingested. When insulin enters the bloodstream, two things happen: Firstly, the body's lipolysis stops (the breaking-down of fat), resulting in the body stopping its burning of your fat reserves, and instead starts storing the fat you ingested (ever had a "pasta diet" for a longer while and noticed the effect of it?). Secondly, the insulin (and not the sugar) results in the familiar increased heart activity (and sometimes palpitations) that come from sugar ingestion, which is a contributing factor to reduced cardiac health. Last of all, stressful production of insulin due a diet overly rich in carbs or sugars, as known since long, increases the risk of developing diabetes - simply put, a burned out pancreas.

    Carbs/sugars are the catalysts for storing fat instead of burning it. The problem is solved by reducing your carb/sugar intake, and replacing that energy amount by a fat intake.

    • by thethibs (882667)

      Right on. I don't know what these guys think they've found (RTFA is no help) but converting fat into CO2 is what our bodies do normally.

      Check out the Citric Acid Cycle: "In aerobic organisms, the citric acid cycle is part of a metabolic pathway involved in the chemical conversion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins into carbon dioxide and water to generate a form of usable energy."

      A minor point you missed: by the time they hit your blood stream, sugars and starches have all been converted into sugar.

      Another

  • Now we have those little fat bastiges to blame for global warming.
  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Friday July 10, 2009 @09:22PM (#28657165) Journal

    *sigh*

    Lipolysis -> Beta Oxidation -> Acetyl-COA -> TCA Cycle -> NADH/FADH -> ETC -> ATP -> CO2

    It's completely natural and spontaneous in the absence of excess blood sugar.

  • So now we get: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd[ ]org ['ot.' in gap]> on Saturday July 11, 2009 @05:38AM (#28658855)

    - Tons of CO released into the athmosphere.
    - People learning *nothing*.
    - Sugar and other too short carbohydrates without any other vital substances still being the no. 1 unhealthy stuff.
    - Very likely other bad side-effects of the bacteria genes.

    And all so we all can eat tons of fat.

    Wow, what a... uum... great... deal!

    I know something better to make people "exhale" the saturated fat* *and* the sugar:
    Make them vomit vigorously, as soon as an overdose of saturated fats and short carbohydrates enters their body, without the vital substances and fibers to cope with it.
    Or even better, add detector cells to the tongue.

    And then watch their eating habits change all by themselves. :)

    ___
    * Because fat all by itself is a good thing. You just should not eat a whole pound of it. ^^

  • Window gunk (Score:3, Funny)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @11:27AM (#28660919)
    Oh man, imagine all the condensate on the furniture, computer screens and keyboards, windows and the like. Fortunately a typical geek lair doesn't have windows.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Paul Erlich

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