Nutrition Business Journal

Exercise in a Pill: Researchers Discover Drugs that Mimic Benefits of Working Out

With two-thirds of the U.S. population overweight and one-third clinically obese, America is rightly obsessed with weight loss. 


Problem is, rather than make serious changes to address their diets and sedentary lifestyles, many Americans search for a magic pill or other product that will make the pounds fall off without having to do any real work themselves. Sound crazy? Well, yes, but researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have reportedly discovered two drugs that actually mimic the physiological benefits of working out without the need for actual exercise.

In studies done on genetically engineered mice, the researchers found that one drug, called AICAR, appears to build endurance and promote fat burning the same way running or other strenuous exercise might. The other, GW1516, also boosted endurance but only if the mice actually engaged in a moderate amount of treadmill running each day. By using these two drugs to simultaneously trigger two signaling pathways in the mice, the researchers found they could turn the rodents into long-distance runners and provide them with many of exercise’s other benefits, including lowering blood glucose levels. The study results were published in the July 31 advanced online edition of the journal Cell.

Although the study’s researchers say the drugs could most benefit people with muscular dystrophy or other disabilities that make exercise impossible—as well as help with obesity and associated metabolic disorders—news of the study results prompted a wave of media stories predicting the possible demise of the U.S. health club industry should scientists confirm the drugs would actually work on humans, enabling us to burn fat and build endurance while parked on the couch.

To read a particularly amusing piece about this potential exercise pill from the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Jeffrey, see

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