An Australian team of biochemists have published a report in the British Medical Journal that suggests fat can be breathed out as well as burned off as you lose weight.
However, they also warn that people still need to huff and puff with exercise to keep slim – hyperventilating on its own will not do the trick.
When fat is broken down to its constituent parts, a couple of things happen. Chemical bonds are broken, a process which releases heat and fuel to power muscles. But the atoms – the stuff fat is made of – remain, and much of these leave the body via the lungs as carbon dioxide, say the scientists.
Fat from food is stored in the body in cells called adipocytes. It is stored as a compound called triglyceride.
Triglyceride consists of three kinds of atoms; carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and this means that when it is broken down around a fifth of it forms water (H2O) and four-fifths becomes carbon dioxide (CO2).
The water formed may be excreted in the urine, faeces, sweat, breath, tears, or other bodily fluids and is readily replenished by drinking water.
But the exhaled carbon (in CO2) can only be replaced by eating food or consuming beverages such as fruit juice.
They estimate that an average person loses at least 200g of carbon every day and roughly a third of that occurs as we sleep.
Replacing one hour of rest with moderate intensity exercise, such as jogging, removes an additional 40g of carbon from the body, raising the total by about a fifth to 240g.
So to keep weight off you need to balance what you eat against what you burn off and exhale.
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