Exercise in a pill? Research gets closer to that goal

It is well known that regular exercise has a myriad of benefits both for your physical and mental health. However, some people may be unable to exercise adequately due to old age or underlying health conditions. Now, researchers are close to being able to help provide those who cannot exercise with a quick and easy solution via an exercise pill. A team of scientists from Baylor College of Medicine has discovered a molecule that may help capture the benefits of exercise without the need for strenuous effort.

This molecule is found in the blood and is produced during exercise in mice. The molecule was discovered by collecting and comparing blood samples taken from non-exercising mice and mice that had been running on treadmills. It was found that exercising mice had an increase in a modified amino acid called Lac-Phe, which is synthesized from lactate and phenylalanine.

The researchers also discovered that obese mice that received a high dose of Lac-Phe over 12 hours reduced their food intake by around 50 percent. In addition, exposure to this molecule for an extended period of 10 days showed a decrease in cumulative food intake, weight loss, and improved glucose tolerance.

Lac-Phe was also found in horses and even humans after exercising. In human tests, it was seen that exercises such as sprinting, resistance training, and endurance training showed the biggest increase in the molecule.

An enzyme called CNDP2 was also identified and is said to be a contributing factor in the production of Lac-Phe. The research showed that mice that are lacking in CNDP2 did not lose as much weight as other mice on the same exercise plan.

According to Dr. Jonathon Long, assistant professor of pathology at Stanford Medicine, “we wanted to understand how exercise works at the molecular level to be able to capture some of its benefits.”  Long also said that “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.”

The team of researchers hopes that the exercise pill can help trigger the benefits of exercise, such as weight loss, a regulated appetite, and an improved metabolic profile. As for the next steps in their research, the scientists aim to find more details about how the effects of Lac-Phe spread throughout the body and brain, including the brain.

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