January 13, 2012
Scientists have reportedly discovered a key protein in muscle that is responsible for the healthy benefits of exercise, improving blood sugar and targeting unwanted fat. Naming the newly identified exercise ‘key’ after Iris (the messenger of the Greek gods), scientists have yet to unlock the potential benefits in humans. For now, researchers have only managed to exhibit the effects in mice, though a future exercise-mimicking pill or medical intervention could be on the timetable.
The secret is a membrane protein in muscle cells, which is found both in humans and in mice. Once this compound is broken down during exercise, it is secreted as a hormone. This is the hormone that the researchers have dubbed “irisin” after Iris. Irisin has a “profound” impact on fat cells, and acts as a chemical messenger within your body. The Boston scientists responsible for the study have published their findings in the journal Nature, where they unveil the unique fat-fighting abilities of irisin. According to the scientists, irisin induces ordinary ‘white’ fat cells to convert to something known as ‘brown fat’, which burns a large amount of energy in the process.
‘Breakthrough’ Pills Cannot Replace Exercise, Proper Nutrition
For years, scientists have attempted to activate this process in order to simulate the true effects of exercise. In fact, even irisin cannot admittedly match all the benefits of traditional exercise. According to Bruce Spiegelman, who ran the laboratory where irisin was discovered:
“We’re not trying to replace diet and exercise. That’s still important.”
The research was conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, where scientists assured eager consumers that the potential pill could never truly replace exercise. In addition, more research is needed before the compound can be tested in people.
Also, there is simply no way to know the long-term side effects of tampering with such a complicated biological process.