Two new studies are investigating the possibility of a pill that we can take that will give us the same benefits as getting your recommended amount of exercise. Some of the research has shown great promise. The question still lingers however, is this a wise move? Should we really encourage people to become less active?
Nature Magazine published the best looking of the two studies. Researchers from Scripps Research Institute from Juniper, Florida have reported that they found a compound that was injected into obese mice. It increased the activation of a protein that is called REV-ERB. This protein is known to control part of an animal’s circadian rhythm and internal clock. Even on a high-fat diet, the animals that were injected with the compound lost weight and also had a better cholesterol profile.
Something that the researchers did not expect was the amount of oxygen that the animals were taking in. They brought more oxygen into their systems and expended 5% more energy than normal through the day even though they weren’t getting any more exercise than the mice that had not been injected.
Intrigued by the results, the researchers teamed up with a team in France and took mice that had low mitochondria levels in their muscles, which results in less endurance, and a 60% lower oxygen capacity. They would reach exhaustion fairly quickly if they were put on an exercise machine. When these mice were injected with the compound, their cells kicked the REV-ERB protein into gear and the muscles created new mitochondria and gave more strength to the existing ones.
It is still not known whether this compound would increase the output of the protein in humans. It is also unknown if it can really duplicate the effects of exercising. One of the doctors on the team states that the point of developing a pill if they do is to help those who cannot exercise due to a disability, not for people who just don’t want to exercise.