Can we just say that if we could get all the benefits of a really good workout just by popping a pill, that we would do so in a heartbeat?
In news that we’ve been waiting for all our lives, The New York Times Wellness blog reports that a recent scientific study attempts to make this dream a reality, and we can hardly wait.
Unfortunately, the results are pretty mixed. In research originally published in the journal Nature, scientists from the Scripps Research Institute found that a compound they created and injected into obese mice increased the activation of a protein. The protein, called REV-ERB, partially controls circadian rhythms and internal biological clocks, at least in animal subjects. The results of the study showed that the injected mice lost weight, even on a high-fat diet, and improved their cholesterol levels.
Much to the researchers' surprise, the mice also began using about 5% more energy, even though in many cases they were actually more sedentary after the experiment. That’s right. Not only did these lucky rodents get all the benefits of exercising, they got to do so while doing the mice equivalent of eating chips and laying on the sofa. Jealous!
Intrigued, the Scripps researchers then teamed up with France’s Pasteur Institute and others to drill down into what was happening inside the muscle when the compound was injected. When they did, they found similar energy-burning results.
Thomas Burris, co-author of the study, and now chairman of the department of pharmacological and physiological science at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, says it’s not impossible to think that such a drug might one day become reality, but adds that there are many unanswered questions. Some wonder whether athletes would use the compound to enhance their performance.
“I have been told to expect some weird phone calls,” Dr. Burris says.
Dr. Burris adds that the fundamental aim of this research is to aid those who can’t exercise, not give a free pass to those who are too lazy too.
“Exercise has so many health benefits,” he says, “no drug can recreate all of them.”
Get back to the drawing board, scientists, we’ll wait!