Too often do supplement companies like to make outrageous accusations on the profound capabilities you can attain by using their pill, powders, capsules or liquids. The science linked to these natural compounds in the products is often accurate and justified, but the results they would sell to you would be completely exaggerated. This was more of an issue in the 90s and early millennia, fortunately this kind of activity is far more regulated in the modern-day.
But what if there was a pill that could actually exert these kind of profound benefits?
A recent study carried out by Salk Institute scientists suggests that this may well be a real possibility, particularly with regards to endurance benefits anyway.
The study in question is a follow-up on a previous study which identified a gene pathway that is triggered by endurance training. Having this level of understanding allows us to determine the foundation for the positive benefits you get from this form of exercise.
The benefits of endurance training have been researched extensively in recent decades and are well-known to even the most ‘fitness-un-enthusiasts’ among us!
The latest research is taking this gene insight one step further and set out with the intentions of mimicking this gene response without actually exercising.
The study – conducted using mice – successful induced this genome pathway using a chemical compound. The success was largely achievable by building on previous findings looking at mice, carried out by Evans lab who identified an important gene related to developing health benefits linked with endurance training (utilise fat effectively as an energy source): PPAR delta (PPARD). They noticed that mice genetically engineered to have the PPARD gene pathway ‘always-on’ became endurance athletes, making them incredibly insulin sensitive and ‘immune’ to weight gain.
They also found that PPARD can be induced using a compound called GW1516 (GW). This had similar results, in that the mice were still very insulin sensitive and were able to control their body weight. However one difference between these two means of activating PPARD was that the GW method did not impact endurance performance itself (the duration or intensity the mice could sustain exercise).
The recent study used this insight and developed what was previously done. Increasing the GW dose and expanding the duration of the test, from 4 weeks to 8.
Both groups of mice (those who received GW and those that didn’t) who were subject to the test were completely sedentary prior to testing.
They found that mice in the control group ran for about 160 minutes before reaching exhaustion, whereas mice who were given the GW lasted 270 minutes before reaching the same exhaustive state.
Both groups of mice reached their physical limit when blood glucose levels dipped below 70ml/dl, indicating that the point of complete exhaustion was a consequence of hypoglycaemia.
Gene expression was also a variable examined during this study. The researchers found that 975 gene expressions changed in the response to GW intake.
An interesting take away from this analysis was that gene expressions that was suppressed were linked to genes necessary for getting energy from carbohydrate intake. Whereas the elevated gene expression found was those that are associated with the metabolism of fat.
The takeaway from this analysis in the study is quite revealing, linking the PPARD pathway to suppressing glucose being used during long bouts of exercise. This is in contrast to how the body would typically derive energy: from carbohydrates. This is because it’s a more readily available energy source, comparatively to fats.
The test group of mice also showed no physiological alterations that you’d typically see from enhancing your aerobic capacity, such as increased blood vessels and mitochondria.
Although the use of GW will need to be further reviewed, the initial results suggest that it may be a useful supplementary tool for population who are physically immobilized, such as the elderly and the obese. The benefits of GW may also spill over to the realm of sports performance, and could lead to dramatic improvements for aerobic performance.