Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, in the US, have discovered a new mechanism that could reduce obesity.
According to the study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the presence of an enzyme dubbed Tyk2 is more than 50 per cent lower in obese people.
The scientists, led by researcher Andrew Larner, found that Tyk2 helped regulate obesity in mice and humans through the differentiation of brown fat.
Brown fat effectively burns calories by regulating body heat, and while it was previously only found to be active in babies, scientists discovered four years ago that it is also active in adults.
As such, scientists were able to encourage the development of brown fat in mice lacking Tyk2 so that obesity is not only prevented, but may also be reversed.
Mr Larner said: "Our findings open new potential avenues for research and development of new pharmacological and nutritional treatments for obesity."
The benefits do not end there, however, as it is also hoped the developments would lead to a reduction in cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Anyone with a body mass index of 30 and above is classified as obese, with those exhibiting a score above 40 defined as morbidly obese, which as the name suggests, has even greater health implications.
According to the NHS, more than a quarter of adults in England are obese, demonstrating the scale of an epidemic that appears to be on the rise.
Although science is constantly probing the role of genetics in the development of obesity, there are a number of practical steps that people excessively overweight can take to shed the pounds.
Avoiding processed and fast foods is a must, while incorporating fruit, vegetables and unrefined carbohydrates into the diet will also help with weight management.