AMPK—the enzyme that makes physical activity healthy

January 3, 2017
Credit: University of Copenhagen

Physical activity benefits diabetics and others with insulin resistance. One of the reasons is that a single bout of physical activity increases the effectiveness of insulin. Thus, physical activity helps to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, while also reducing the effects of diabetes if it does set in. Until now, no one has understood the underlying mechanism of this phenomenon.

New research from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports reports that the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) plays a crucial role in enhancing the ability of insulin to stimulate glucose uptake in muscles. The discovery may be a breakthrough in finding a medical pathway to improve the health of people with limitations for .

"AMPK is central for insulin sensitivity in muscles, and thereby for the ability of muscles to take up glucose immediately after physical activity. That our research group has been able to demonstrate such an important and basic physiological role of AMPK in muscles is fantastic, and a reward after many years of effort," according to Professor Jørgen Wojtaszewski, who had overall responsibility for the group's work.

Wojtaszewski continues: "This is excellent news for people with decreased insulin sensitivity. We can now work from the standpoint that activating AMPK, both medicinally as well as through physical activity, will enhance the effectiveness of insulin in the muscles of these people."

Moving towards an 'exercise pill'

The study's main experiments were conducted on laboratory animals in which the genes coding for AMPK specifically were removed in skeletal muscle. The ability of these mice to increase insulin sensitivity after a single exercise bout was fully ablated. Over the last years the research group has conducted several experiments that show that it is highly probable that AMPK plays a similar role in muscles of man. In addition, last year, the group demonstrated that medicinal activation of AMPK could increase insulin sensitivity in muscles of mice.

"While physical activity is clearly preferred, because it improves health and welfare in a great many areas and ways, our finding points to a medicinal way to improve health that can benefit those who are limited in their ability to be physically active. This could include people with physical handicaps, ill people forced to stay in bed for more than a few days or of course those who do not fancy physical activity at all. Popularly put, we are moving towards the development of an 'exercise pill'", says Postdoc Rasmus Kjøbsted, lead author of the article that catalogued the group's research.

He concludes: "Moreover, our findings suggest that some types of physical activity are likely more effective than others in increasing . But more experiments are required to further clarify this."

The study is published as the article, Enhanced Muscle Insulin Sensitivity After Contraction/Exercise is Mediated by AMPK, in Diabetes.

Explore further: Discovery could lead to treatment to better regulate insulin

More information: Rasmus Kjøbsted et al, Enhanced Muscle Insulin Sensitivity After Contraction/Exercise is Mediated by AMPK, Diabetes (2016). DOI: 10.2337/db16-0530

Related Stories

Discovery could lead to treatment to better regulate insulin

July 12, 2016
Medication can help trigger the enzyme that kick starts insulin production in the body, but the drugs don't always work for those who are obese or diabetic, and most need to regulate their glucose and insulin levels. That's ...

Monounsaturated fatty acids may improve adipose dysfunction

February 4, 2015
(HealthDay)—Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) may reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity in adipose tissue, according to research published online Jan. 27 in Diabetes.

Preventing type 2 diabetes: When genes fail to respond

July 13, 2016
It is widely accepted that physical exercise lowers the risk of developing diabetes. Yet in one in five participants in related studies this positive effect fails to materialize. Researchers and clinicians involved in a collaborative ...

Metformin combats adipose tissue expansion via AMPK

May 24, 2016
(HealthDay)—AMPK activation by metformin is associated with inhibition of interstitial fibrosis and suppression of transforming growth factor β-1 (TGF-β1), according to a study published online May 13 in Diabetes.

Improved metabolic profile after roux-en-Y gastric bypass

July 24, 2015
(HealthDay)—Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) is associated with attenuated markers of oxidative stress in subcutaneous adipose tissue, according to a study published recently in Diabetes.

Recommended for you

Skimping on sleep may contribute to gestational diabetes

October 17, 2017
The amount of time spent sleeping in the United States has dropped significantly in the past twenty years with almost a quarter of women and 16 percent of men experiencing insufficient sleep. Now, a new study has found that ...

Artificial pancreas performs well in clinical trial

October 16, 2017
During more than 60,000 hours of combined use of a novel artificial pancreas system, participants in a 12-week, multi-site clinical trial showed significant improvements in two key measures of well-being in people living ...

Omega-6 fats may help prevent type 2 diabetes

October 11, 2017
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be significantly reduced by eating a diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, a new study suggests.

Where there's type 1 diabetes, celiac disease may follow

October 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—Parents of young children with type 1 diabetes need to be on the lookout for symptoms of another autoimmune condition—celiac disease, new research suggests.

Type 1 diabetes and the microbiota—MAIT cells as biomarkers and new therapeutic targets

October 10, 2017
Together with colleagues from AP-HP Necker–Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris, scientists from the Cochin Institute (CNRS / INSERM / Paris Descartes University) have discovered that the onset of type 1 diabetes is preceded ...

Likely new treatment target identified for diabetic retinopathy

October 10, 2017
In oxygen-compromising conditions like diabetes, the body grows new blood vessels to help, but the result is often leaky, dysfunctional vessels that make bad matters worse.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.