Could A Pill Replace Exercise? Researchers Discover Protein ‘Sestrin’ Mimics the Effects Of a Workout

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Given the option, would you avoid the gym altogether and simply pop a pill or drink a supplement that brings about the same benefits as a workout? It sounds farfetched, but the idea of lounging around all day yet still enjoying the health benefits of an intense workout may soon be possible. While there are still many details to be worked out, researchers at the University of Michigan say that the naturally occurring protein Sestrin appears to mimic the effects of exercise on both flies and mice in experimental trials.

These findings could have far reaching implications across the fitness, medical, and scientific fields. For instance, Sestrin could conceivably help individuals unable to work out due to old age or health problems maintain their muscles.

“Researchers have previously observed that Sestrin accumulates in muscle following exercise,” explains Myungjin Kim, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, in a release.

Researchers wanted to further investigate Sestrin’s connection to exercise, so they decided to conduct an experiment using flies. They designed, in their own words, a “fly treadmill,” in which a group of flies were trained for three weeks to climb up and out of a test tube. Some of those flies were normal, while others had been specifically bred to lack the ability to make Sestrin.

“Flies can usually run around four to six hours at this point and the normal flies’ abilities improved over that period,” says professor Jun Hee Lee, Ph.D. “The flies without Sestrin did not improve with exercise.”

Also, when researchers provided another group of normal, un-trained flies with a max dose of Sestrin, these flies immediately became more adept at the treadmill, and overall physically superior to other flies, even the flies that had just spent three weeks training. Perhaps even more noteworthy, the flies given a max dosage of Sestrin didn’t appear to get in any better shape after exercising, indicating that the Sestrin alone effectively caused them to reach their full physical potential.

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SOURCE: Study Finds, John Anderer