Popular wisdom tells us that there is no better medicine than physical activity. What if there was a drug that exercised the same on our body beneficial effects? It is a distant prospect, but perhaps not impossible. In fact, a team of researchers from Baylor college of medicine and Stanford school of medicine in the United States has identified a molecule present in the blood which is produced during exercise and which, when administered to laboratory mice, it seems mediate the same effects as physical activity, improving some metabolic mechanisms and regulating the control of hunger and body weight. The results were published in the journal Nature.
Physical activity has great beneficial effects on our body: whether it is a run, a swim or a structured sport, in fact, the exercise he’s able to help in weight control e you protect us from heart and metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, while a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of its onset, along with mortality from all causes. It is for these reasons that i mechanisms of our body associated with physical activity are extensively studied by scientists dealing with metabolic diseases: in particular, in this area there has been a growing interest inidentification of molecules responsible for mediate i benefits cardiometabolici associated with physical activity.
Finding the molecules of exercise
In light of these needs, the researchers, through an approach that combined techniques that study single molecules with those of metabolomics (which instead handle enormous amounts of data relating to everything that an organism produces), have analyzed the blood plasma of mice subjected to intense sessions of physical activity. Among the enormous quantity of compounds produced by the organism, the one present in a much higher way than the others was a modified amino acidcalled lac-pheand derivative oflactic acidthe molecule produced by our body responsible for the annoying burning sensation in muscles subjected to intense efforts.
To test what kind of effects the discovered molecule might have, the researchers did administered, through intraperitoneal injections, high doses in topi with obesity induced by a high-fat diet. In the short term, lac-phe intake reduced the food intake of the mice, regardless of exercise, while continued administration was shown to reduce the level of fat, body weight and improve the regulation mechanisms of sugars. Conversely, when the molecule was “turned off” by genetic methods, the laboratory animals, while exercising, increased both food intake and body weight.
Hopes for the future
The researchers therefore searched for lac-phe in other animals and found them strong increases also in the bloodafter physical activity, of racehorses and human beings. In particular, in humans it seems that lac-phe increases especially when they are done high intensity activity (like sprints in running), followed by endurance ones (like weight lifting) and finally by aerobic ones. These results suggest that lac-phe could be a very conserved system among even evolutionarily distant animals that is capable of regulate the association between hunger control, physical activity e metabolism.