The Magic Muscle Building Pill Scientists Are Trying to Create
Could gyms, home exercise videos, and group fitness classes become a thing of the past?
The day may be coming a lot sooner than you think according to the findings from a new study that explores the possibilities of an “exercise pill.”
A new study published in the American Physiological Society investigated the effects of a “muscle-building exercise pill” on a crucial protein that inhibits muscle growth.  Researchers zeroed in on the protein myostatin whose primary function is to inhibit myogenesis — muscle cell growth and differentiation. Basically, think of myostatin as the brakes on a car, except that instead of slowing down a car, it’s slowing down muscle growth (i.e. your gains).
Scientists found that suppressing myostatin production lead to greater muscle mass and significant improvements in markers of kidney and heart health. This is noteworthy as some other research has shown that obese people tend to produce more myostatin than leaner individuals, which inherently makes gaining muscle much more difficult for the obese.
Dr. Joshua Butcher, lead researcher of the study, remarked:
“Given that exercise is one of the most effective interventions for obesity, this creates a cycle by which a person becomes trapped in obesity.”
Details of the Study
For the study, four groups of mice were studied:
- Iean mice with uninhibited myostatin production
- Obese mice with uninhibited myostatin production
- Lean mice that were unable to produce myostatin
- Obese mice that were unable to produce myostatin
As expected, mice unable to produce myostatin developed significantly greater muscle mass. However, obese mice remained obese even while putting on more muscle.
But the interesting note from the study was that the obese mice that couldn’t produce myostatin demonstrated markers of cardiovascular and metabolic health on par with their lean counterparts and substantially better than the obese mice with uninhibited myostatin production.
Lead researcher Joshua Butcher 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.”
So will exercise really become an antiquated concept, no….not even close. The research conducted in mice does show the potential to aid those in their journey towards successful weight loss and body recomposition.
But the extraneous benefits derived from exercise (better mood, sleep, etc.) simply can’t be replaced by a simple pill.
1) Butcher J, Larion S, et al. Augmented Muscle Mass as a Novel Buffer against Obesity-Derived Hypertension. American Physiological Society (2017). https://app.core-apps.com/eb2017/abstract/1fca1959bed02834d471e29e2878b9df
2) “One Step Closer to an ‘exercise Pill’.” ScienceDaily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170425153812.htm.