In a Yoga Class
People participate in a YogaWorks class in Santa Monica, California in this handout picture taken early 2009. REUTERS

Much has been written about fitness trends, obesity, and weight reduction, but there are common misperceptions about the metabolic process of weight loss, according to a new study. One of the researchers, Professor Andrew Brown, head of the University of New South Wales School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, throws light on the misconception and confusion among health specialists, fitness professionals and the common man.

The current notion is that the fat lost during weight reduction has been transformed into energy or heat. However, Ruben Meerman, co-author of the study, refutes this and says that this perception violates the Law of Conservation of Mass. He asserts that most of the mass is exhaled as carbon dioxide and goes into the air.

Meerman is a physicist, a writer and TV co-host for science programs. He met Brown on ABC TV's Catalyst science programme which did a feature on weight loss. Meerman's interest in biochemistry of weight loss was influenced by his own personal experience of losing 15 kilogrammes in 2013. Meerman wanted to know where the lost weight has gone. An interesting discussion on his findings was explained in detail on the Catalyst.

Here, the authors were able to explain how fat is converted into carbon dioxide and breathed out. To metabolise 10 kilogrammes of fat, 29 kilogrammes of oxygen is required. The process produces 28 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide and 11 kilogrammes of water. Carbon dioxide is exhaled through the lungs, while water is excreted through perspiration, elimination of wastes and other processes.

Brown says that Meerman's intent to trace every atom in the fat being lost during weight reduction led to a new approach in understanding the process. The authors think that there seems to be widespread unfamiliarity with the basic life processes of the human body which should be taught comprehensively and correctly in schools. Thus, they recommend that these basic concepts be integrated in the academic curricula so the general public may be equipped with the proper understanding of weight loss processes. The authors' work was published in the British Medical Journal, Dec 16 issue.