by Matt Weik
Previously I published content on why a magic fitness pill wouldn’t solve anything in terms of our behaviors as a society. I also mentioned I didn’t feel it would do much to fix our obesity epidemic. The last thing I said in the article is that a magic pill will never exist. Well, I might be eating my words soon. Researchers now believe that they have data that could very well bring to market the pill that we all joked about.
Less is more
Researchers for a while now have known about myostatin and the effects it plays in the body. Myostatin is a protein that is released by myocytes within the body that inhibit muscle growth. For those of you who follow bodybuilding, know that in order to put on insane size, myostatin in the body needs to be suppressed. Many call this the secret key to muscle growth yet no one is really truly sure how to suppress it. For those of you who have seen animals such as cattle and dogs that are insanely muscular, that’s due to a gene mutation caused by a lack of myostatin. Those with low or no myostatin have incredible muscle mass and strength compared to those who have myostatin in their body.
So, what does this have to do with being a magic fitness pill? Well, the less myostatin you have in the body, the more muscle mass you can put on your frame. The more muscle mass you have on your frame, the more calories you can burn even while at rest since muscles are constantly using up energy and therefore burning calories. Let’s put it this way, if you can put on muscle mass without truly having to do much thanks to the suppression or removal of myostatin, your body becomes a furnace and is constantly burning calories throughout the day, even if you are sitting on the couch. This in turn, can help people lose weight much easier than fighting the effects of myostatin and having to diet and do cardio in order to burn calories on top of resistance training in the gym to make very little natural muscle mass gains.
Researchers have been looking at myostatin for a while now, especially when it comes to muscle wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy. If they can suppress the levels of myostatin in these individuals, they will then have the ability to strengthen their muscles back up and put on lean muscle mass once again. There are also cases where some humans are lacking myostatin and are naturally more muscular and leaner than majority of the people around them. While all of this is quite rare, it does happen on occasion.
How suppression can help the obese
When it comes to obesity, researchers now believe that some cases might be due to the person having too much myostatin present. Producing too much myostatin can make it difficult for an individual to lose weight even when exercising and dieting. One researcher mentioned, “Given that exercise is one of the most effective interventions for obesity, this creates a cycle by which a person becomes trapped in obesity.” In order for these individuals to regain their life and functions, they would need a way to suppress the levels of myostatin found in their body.
In a study, researchers bred four different groups of mice to be observed:
1.) Lean mice with uninhibited myostatin
2.) Obese mice with uninhibited myostatin
3.) Lean mice without the ability to produce myostatin
4.) Obese mice without the ability to produce myostatin
As expected, the mice who weren’t able to produce myostatin had more lean muscle mass as compared to the uninhibited groups. However, the obese group that couldn’t produce myostatin, while containing more muscle mass, were still obese. Interestingly enough, even though they were obese, when tested for cardiovascular health as well as metabolic health, they were identical to the lean mice and considered healthier than the obese mice with uninhibited myostatin.
A researcher from the Vascular Biology Center at Augusta University said, “In our muscular obese mouse, despite full presentation of obesity, it appears that several of these key pathologies are prevented. While much more research is needed, at this point myostatin appears to be a very promising pathway for protection against obesity-derived cardiometabolic dysfunction. Ultimately, the goal of our research would be to create a pill that mimics the effect of exercise and protects against obesity. A pill that inhibits myostatin could also have applications for muscle wasting diseases, such as cancer, muscle dystrophy and AIDS.”
Think of the possibilities that this type of pill could have on society. While people might still be obese by definition, at least their health would be improved even if they didn’t change their unhealthy habits. That being said, think of what’s to come for those who are into fitness and health. We are talking about leaner, stronger, and more muscular bodies. While many will think it’s considered “cheating” and that they worked hard to get the physique they have while others simply took a pill, I don’t see this being any different than people who take steroids or other muscle building/fat shedding supplements to get an edge on their physique. It would be great to have a pill that could also help so many people fighting diseases where myostatin is the catalyst. We have a lot to look forward to with this technology and I’ll gladly eat my words from previously published content if this pill comes to market and can help millions of people. The future might be here sooner than we thought!
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “One step closer to an ‘exercise pill’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2017.