Study finds popular Chinese herb activates energy-burning brown fat

A newly published study details an investigation into ginseng, a traditional Chinese herb used for medicinal purposes, and its alleged ability to help reduce obesity. The findings are positive, suggesting that ginseng may help manage body weight by activating brown adipose tissue, more commonly called 'brown fat,' and trigger the formation of a similar energy-burning tissue called 'beige fat.'READ: Here's how anti-obesity 'brown fat' helps protect health

The study, which was recently published in BMJ, details the work performed by a team of scientists with the Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters. Put simply, the scientists set out to investigate the alleged benefits ginseng offers on reducing body weight.

According to the study, a ginseng extract was used and its effects on gut bacteria were noted. The team found that ginseng induced Enterococcus faecalis, a strain of gut bacteria found in humans other mammals.

This particular bacterium is able to produce myristoleic acid, an unsaturated long-chain fatty acid that activates energy-burning brown fat and triggers the formation of beige fat. Unlike the white fat that stores energy, brown and beige fat are present in much lower quantities and work by burning fat.

Because beige and brown fat generate heat by burning energy, increasing and activating these fat tissues may help increase the number of calories one burns in a day, reducing body weight as a positive side effect. Though the study doesn't suggest that people should start consuming ginseng as a weight loss supplement, it does point out that these findings can help shape the development of future probiotic-based obesity treatments.