Exercise in a Pill
Do you think Americans take too many pills, and that we should focus more of our resources on preventing disease with diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyles instead of drugs? Apparently most drug-makers agree.
Researchers from the philanthropic Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, MD, have developed a drug that provides all the benefits of exercise wrapped up in a pill.
"This is a drug that is like pharmacological exercise," said Ronald M. Evans, principal investigator.
When cells use their basic energy currency, ATP, they turn it into ADP and AMP. Using the energy obtained from food, they then regenerate the ADP and AMP to ATP. When exercise or fasting causes the body to use ATP faster than it can regenerate it, the AMP initiates a biochemical cascade that leads to increased exercise tolerance and promotes other aspects of good health.
The new drug bypasses the exercise part by directly stimulating the biochemical cascade.
The researchers are concerned about the potential for abuse, so are working with the World Anti-Doping Agency to develop a test that can be used to make sure athletes do not use the drug for performance enhancement.
Popping the pill while you watch tv instead of exercise, however, is apparently not a form of abuse. Consider this excerpt from the original article:
[T]he drugs could offer the benefits of exercise to people who do not get enough. "Almost no one gets the recommended 40 minutes to an hour per day of exercise," he says. "For this group of people, if there was a way to mimic exercise, it would make the quality of exercise that they do much more efficient. This might be enough to move people out of the `danger zone' toward a lower risk, healthier set point. By intervening early, you may forestall the emergence of more serious problems."
Evans expects these types of drugs will be attractive to a variety of individuals. "If you like exercise, you like the idea of getting more bang for your buck," he says of GW1516. "If you don't like exercise, you love the idea of getting the benefits from a pill," as with AICAR.
Meanwhile, I suppose we will see pills that deliver the effects of prayer, meditation, healthy marriages and success next. It seems to me, however, that if we developed pills to supply the benefits of reading books and performing laboratory research first, the whole process of making these other pills would be much more efficient.