Exercise is necessary for maintaining physical and mental health, and improving our quality and length of life. But for people who find it difficult to exercise due to age, medical conditions, and time, these benefits cannot be reaped. But what if we could get some of the advantages of exercise, all from the comfort of an armchair?
What does the pill do?
Researchers, at Stanford School of Medicine and collaborating institutions, have identified a molecule – called Lac-Phe – released during exercise that can effectively reduce food intake and therefore lower obesity in mice. Lac-Phe was identified through the analysis of blood samples after treadmill running, revealing the compound to be significantly induced by physical activity.
“Regular exercise has been proven to help weight loss, regulate appetite and improve the metabolic profile, especially for people who are overweight and obese,” said co-corresponding author Dr. Yong Xu. “If we can understand the mechanism by which exercise triggers these benefits, then we are closer to helping many people improve their health.”
Obesity rates are growing worldwide, bringing along with it negative health impacts such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. To improve public health, this fact needs to be tackled, however, it’s important to remember studies have shown emotional health is important to address when it comes to obesity.
What are the applications of the pill?
The team isn’t suggesting that this could replace exercise itself, but allow people who are not able to do exercise to live a healthier lifestyle. “We wanted to understand how exercise works at the molecular level to be able to capture some of its benefits,” added co-corresponding author Dr. Jonathan Long. “For example, older or frail people who cannot exercise enough, may one day benefit from taking a medication that can help slow down osteoporosis, heart disease or other conditions.”
These findings also help solidify the interplay of chemicals involving hunger and exercise, a complex collaborative process. However, more work needs to be carried out to fully understand how Lac-Phe mediates this effect in the body and brain before humans will be able to take this medication.
Source study: Nature – An exercise-inducible metabolite that suppresses feeding and obesity