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Is the Exercise Pill Coming?

A team of collaborating researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the Stanford School of Medicine have identified a molecule in the blood that is produced during exercise and even effectively reduces food intake and obesity in mice.

Their findings improve our understanding of the physiological processes that lie at the intersection between exercise and hunger.

Corresponding researcher Dr. Yong Xu at Baylor explained the importance of the team’s research: “Regular exercise has been proven to help weight loss, regulate appetite and improve the metabolic profile, especially for people who are overweight and obese… If we can understand the mechanism by which exercise triggers these benefits, then we are closer to helping many people improve their health."

The research could benefit groups unable to participate in regular exercise. Older people, frailer people, or those with severe underlying medical conditions may one day benefit from a pill that can provide at least some of the effects of exercise.

The Research

Xu and his colleagues conducted extensive analyses of blood plasma compounds from mice after periods of intense treadmill running. The running induced a molecule called Lac-Phe, an amino acid synthesized from lactate (the stuff that makes your muscles burn when you exercise).

In mice with obesity, a high dose of Lac-Phe suppressed food intake by upwards of 50% compared to a control group of mice over a period of 12 hours. Even more impressive is that the compound did not affect movement or energy expenditure.


Exercise Pill?

This does not mean, of course, that the end of exercise is in sight. Any treatments that may arise down the line from this research are likely to be reserved for only those in desperate need. Otherwise, old-fashioned exercise cannot be replaced. So continue to get outside, get moving, and work up a sweat– there are few things proven to be better for your mental and physical health.

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