A pill that can simulate the effects of a tough workout and help you lose weight? It sounds like the kind of hyped up claim that is so often made by supplement manufacturers, but in this case the claim comes from a more credible source.
Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new molecule that appears to be capable of duplicating the effects of exercise and tricking the body into burning fat.
The researchers have named their discovery “Compound 14” and their studies indicate it could be a viable future treatment for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Compound 14 in Action
The thing that makes Compound 14 so special is its ability to obstruct the normal function of an important cellular enzyme (ATIC) that is needed by the metabolism. This interference has an interesting knock-on effect because it causes the cells to become inundated with a molecule called ZMP. This increase misleads the cells into thinking energy supplies have run dry by triggering the cells energy sensor (AMPK). The cells react to this perceived lack of energy by increasing metabolism and glucose uptake.
According to an article published in Chemistry and Biology (journal), the research revealed theactivation of AMPK via Compound 14 resulted in an improved glucose tolerance and reduced fasting blood glucose levels. It also provided weight loss, but it must be noted the study was conducted on obese laboratory mice, not humans.
The research team was headed by Professor Ali Tavassoli, who is confident the new molecule can be developed and used as treatment for several diseases including type 2 diabetes. His colleague, Dr Felino Cagampang, is equally enthusiastic about the possibilities opened up by their creation and draws attention to the fact that while the molecule produced dramatic results when administered to obese mice, it had no noticeable effect on normal weight mice. “This new molecule appears to decrease glucose levels and at the same time reduce body weight, but only if the subject is obese,” Cagampang said.
Initial testing was carried out on two groups of mice. One group was given a normal diet that allowed them to retain their normal weight. The other group was fed a high fat diet that caused them to become obese and weakened their tolerance to glucose (a classic symptom of early diabetes). The scientists then treated both groups with Compound 14. It had no effect on the normal-weight mice, but the first dose alone was sufficient to lower the glucose levels of the obese mice and, after seven days of treatment, their glucose tolerance had improved and it was discovered the mice showed a weight loss of 1.5g (5% of their body weight).
Speaking about the failings of current treatments for type 2 diabetes, Cagampang pointed out the present focus is on improving insulin sensitivity or elevating circulating insulin levels and stated neither way is wholly successful for helping sufferers to achieve glycaemic control. So if the molecule proves to be a viable option for humans it could revolutionize the way the condition is treated.
Obesity is also a growing concern; 15 million Brits are overweight and the figures are expected to rise dramatically by the year 2030, but many weight loss supplements fail to deliver the results dieters crave and many prescription-only options have unpleasant side effects. The tests suggest Compound 14 also has a lot to offer as a weight management aid, but further studies will be required before the molecule can be considered to be a safe treatment option for obese people and diabetics.