Here we go again!
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water (ok the gym, park, garden, basement; wherever you get your workout on), here is another pharmaceutical mirage, aimed at getting your attention and keeping you fixated to your couch.
LA Times August 1, 2008 reported: AICAR: Scientists say they’ve put exercise in a pill.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies Ronald Evans holds a vial of a drug that boosts the effects of exercise in mice. Evans works at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Ca. Researchers experiment with a chemical compound that they say can produce the benefits of aerobic activity without the work.
Physicians, public health officials, employers, researchers and average folk all agree: America needs to get off its ass and get moving. We’ve got the largest obesity epidemic in history, right here in our laps and the latest hype is about how science is going to save the day by allowing us to have our cake and eat it too. All 2,000 calories of it. But professor Krump (sorry Eddie) is going to protect us with another miracle pill.
AICAR has been tested in humans for a variety of conditions since the 1980s as a means of preserving blood flow to the heart during surgery. But the interest in AICAR as an exercise substitute is the result of the research of Ronald Evans, a molecular physiologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Evens made headlines in 2004 for engineering “marathon mice. He accomplished this by means of injecting a single gene into a fertilized egg.
Evans then turned his research to the possibility of getting the same results with a drug. Enter AICAR, a drug that closely resembles a nucleotide that prompts the production of an enzyme that activates the high-endurance genes. To everyone’s surprise, the experiment worked. The result is a chemical compound that drastically elevates the fat burning chemistry in mice, in the absence of exercise. Evans predicted that in the wake of his study, published in the journal Cell, the drug would “fly off the shelves.” You don’t say!
Let’s just say this pill actually works with humans. What do you get for the ability to remain on the couch? The fat burning equivalent of aerobic exercise. Ok,
- but how do you prevent the muscle wasting (loss) that occurs in the absence of strength training.
- the actual act of exercise can help improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, reduce mental stress, reduce depression and strengthen bones. Are you going to wait on the couch until a pill is developed to achieve this too?
- does this give folks a green light to eat any and every brightly wrapped, highly processed, toxic excuse for real food on the shelves of you local super duper mart?
- will the user of this drug get the same self-esteem boost that comes from adopting a healthy lifestyle and witnessing the positive physical, psychological, social and economic effects it produces?
- Is this the kind of therapy universal health care will fund?
The compound, which is naturally produced in tiny amounts in human muscle cells and has been studied for decades, is readily available through scientific supply companies. One company was offering AICAR for $120 a gram. At that price, giving a person the drug in the same concentration the mice got would cost thousands of dollars a day.
For the record, let me say: if AICAR turns out to be an effective, safe means of preserving blood flow to the heart during surgery and in preventing weight gain in the bed ridden; it should be employed in these circumstances. But to depend on another drug to lose and maintain a healthy weight is yet another step, in a long walk in the wrong direction. Break you dependence on the pharmaceutical industry to fix you once your broken. Use the strength and sense you were born with to “Make Your Lifestyle your Medicine and Your Medicine Your Lifestyle.