An apple sits on a weight scale.
When is the magic bullet against weight gain going to appear on the market? It may be a while, but it’s definitely in the works. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

For years chronic dieters have dreamt of a pill that would melt fat away while they … do nothing.

That super pill has yet to be found, but researchers appear to be looking in the right medicine cabinet.

Researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute recently published a paper in Nature claiming that they were successful in getting bad fat cells to act like good ones.

Your body uses two types of fat cells: white and brown. The white cells store fat, which can mean weight gain. The brown cells burn excess energy, which can help with weight loss. Physical activity causes those brown cells to burn energy, which is why most weight-loss programs promote exercise.

The researchers’ discovery could ultimately change this dynamic.’s Science of Us website quoted study co-author Chad Cowan as saying, “What our study shows is that it’s possible to find a drug that would make your bad fat cells get up off the couch and do something good for you.”

Dr. Cowan notes, however, that while they found two substances that make white fat turn into brown fat, a viable pill is at least a decade away.

Closer to home, weight loss surgeon Jon Schram, MD, supports research but cautions that a medical cure for obesity is a ways off.

“We’ve been looking for the magic pill for years in our battle to combat obesity. It seems like we’re always about 10 years away,” said the Spectrum Health Medical Group bariatric surgery program medical director. “I guess that means that we’ll still have to keep working hard. Fortunately the surgical techniques continue to improve and provide a real tool for those who struggle with severe weight problems and associated medical conditions.”

Dr. Schram also notes that even if a pill is developed, it won’t replace exercise.

“There are far too many benefits to exercise to ever considering dropping it from our routines,” he said. “There’s improved cardiovascular health, improved sleep, improved mental health, it gives you more energy and it can be a lot of fun. Don’t expect all that from a pill.”

Research continues on this breakthrough. The molecular substances used for this conversion are immunosuppressants, which weaken the body’s immune system. One of the next steps is to find less troublesome substances for this process.