Exercise in a pill – would you take it?

Exercise in a pill – would you take it?

An observational study involving more than 44,700 black women and lasting almost 20 years found that regular, vigorous exercise offers significant protection against development of an aggressive subtype of breast cancer. According to this report in Oncology Nurse Advisor, black women who engaged in brisk exercise for a lifetime average of three or more hours a week had a 47 per cent reduced risk of developing oestrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer compared with those exercising an average of one hour per week.

The results aren’t really surprising. We keep on hearing that exercise is good for us. But have you ever stopped to wonder why? I can imagine how getting your heart pumping on a regular basis could make it stronger, but why would it reduce your risk of getting cancer?

Well, a paper published in this month’s Cell Metabolism claims that scientists have found a particular molecule which is produced during exercise and released into the circulation can a beneficial effect on other tissues such as fat cells and the liver. Beta-aminoisobutyric acid (BAIBA) reduces cholesterol, reduces insulin levels, reduces fasting blood sugar levels, reduces triglyceride levels and can be correlated to lower body mass index in people who exercise regularly. In the laboratory, it reduced weight gain and balanced blood sugar levels in mice.

It seems that we may soon be able to swallow at least some of the benefits of exercise in a pill – the researchers note the fat potential of a naturally manufactured metabolite could be the perfect antidote for the epidemic of obesity and could prevent the diseases like diabetes that are associated with being overweight.

It doesn’t really answer the question about cancer, though I think it would be safe to speculate that there’s another molecule or two circulating after exercise that somehow inhibits the growth of rogue cells.

So, if there was a pill to prevent obesity and all of the diseases that go with it, would you take it and sit on your bum all day? What about strength and flexibility – will they find molecules for those? And what on earth will happen to the dogs of the world if there’s no longer a benefit for humans in walking them? I suppose scientists will have to come up with a ‘walkies’ pill so that they’ll get excited about watching TV with their immobile owners.