Scientists at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences referred to the enzyme as a ‘metabolic master switch’, which helps muscles turn glucose and fat from foods into energy. During exercise, it makes fuel more rapidly available to muscles.
Published in the Journal of Chemistry & Biology, the research examined how AMPK could be activated without exercise, with potential benefits to those who are unable to exercise, such as the elderly, or those with disabilities or long term illness.
“Our research has revealed new knowledge about this master switch,” said lead researcher Kei Sakamoto, head of diabetes and circadian rhythms at the Nestlé institute. “In some conditions, such as diabetes, the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin and muscle cells reject the message about their need to take up glucose.
“However, even under such medical conditions, AMPK can find an alternative way and take up glucose in muscle. Ideally, we’ll be able to develop products that will help promote and augment the effects of exercise.”
AMPK is already a target for drug developers looking for ways to treat metabolic disorders, like obesity, insulin resistance, and type-2 diabetes.
Professor Sakamoto stressed that no product could replace all the benefits of exercise, including its psychological and various physiological effects.
Head of the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, Ed Baetge, said the next step for the company’s researchers would be to identify natural substances that influence AMPK’s mechanism.
“This could lead to the development of new dietary approaches with targeted effects on the body that, like exercise, could help in addressing metabolic problems and maintaining a healthy energy balance,” he said.
The full study is available online here.