When it comes to inducing healthy and effective weight loss, there are a lot of theories and gimmicks floating around. AMPK is no theory or gimmick, however. It’s the real deal. Short for adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, AMPK is an important enzyme that, when activated, is effective at cranking up our metabolism and burning fat.
AMPK’s activity, or lack of it, per newhope.com, helps explain why certain individuals have little problem maintaining a desired body weight while others struggle to lose pounds and keep them off. Where does AMPK come from? We already have it within our bodies – it just needs regular stimulation to get it into gear and work for us. It can be found inside every one of our trillions of cells, where it serves as a master switch of sorts in regulating energy metabolism.
Not only is AMPK’s activity a key component in regulating our metabolism and, therefore, our weight, it is also tied in to our life expectancy. In turn, its level of activity closely correlates to our age – the enzyme is more active the younger we are, but its cellular activity decreases as we age, which helps explain the buildup of visceral fat and loss of muscle mass as we get older.
The most vital determinant of AMPK activity is believed to be how sensitive each cell is to insulin, a hormone. With increased insulin resistance, there is a corresponding reduction in AMPK activity, which explains why insulin resistance is associated with abdominal obesity: Rule of thumb (or waist): If the size of your waist is larger than the circumference of your hips, chances are you have insulin resistance.
Possible Results of Limited AMPK Activity
In summary, here’s what we could be looking at in terms of the consequences brought on by low AMPK activity, per newhope.com:
- Accelerated aging
- Chronic inflammation
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- Increased “belly” (visceral) fat
- Insulin resistance
- Mitochondrial insufficiency and dysfunction
- Poor blood sugar control
So, What Next?
Half the battle in dealing with all these consequences is knowing about the existence and function of AMPK, which, relatively speaking, is a new discovery in health-related science. Knowing why our bellies get bigger, why we age quicker, etc. means we can also learn how to ward off those conditions, starting with AMPK awareness.
Per lifextension.com, “Scientists view the discovery of AMPK as a major advance in how we understand and combat aging. By reactivating cellular AMPK, we move tantalizingly closer to gaining meaningful control over deadly aging processes . . . that predispose us to so many degenerative disorders.”
Regular exercise, preferably that of the vigorous variety, and cutting back on calorie intake are the two main strategies involved in jump-starting AMPK activity. While that’s not much of a revelation to those of us who have been chasing the exercise/diet golden goose for years or even decades, knowing how they influence AMPK gives us a clearer picture of why we are doing what we are doing.
For example, what specifically can we eat to kickstart those four-letter enzymes? In particular, a number of the specialized diets we hear about have been shown effective in lighting a fire under AMPK, among them the Mediterranean, DASH, Okinawan, New Nordic and Portfolio food plans – all of which feature an abundance of key parts such as olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, and the resveratrol that comes from red wine.
How to Boost AMPK
We’ve already touched on two ways to boost AMPK activity: exercise and reduced calorie consumption. Here are two others, per lifeextension.com: the prescription drug metformin, which can activate AMPK (but usually is only prescribed for those with type 2 diabetes); and botanical extracts, which may be available in nutritional supplements.
More specifically, Berberine (which outpreformed Metformin in clinical trials) and the Chinese herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum and transtiliroside (derived from rose hips) have demonstrated the capacity to activate AMPK. Among other supplements that reportedly can also accomplish this are mulberry leaf extract (the main diet for silkworms) and green coffee bean extract, which is loaded with chlorogenic acid, per betternutrition.com, a compound shown to improve glucose metabolism, impede fat accumulation and cut down the intestinal absorption of glucose.
Benefits of AMPK Activation
Here are several other benefits from proper AMPK activation, per selfhacked.com:
- Produces and burns sugars. AMPK promotes the breakdown of glucose for energy.
- Inhibits protein production. This is a good thing: This is done to conserve energy.
- Promotes cellular removal. Cells need to be “recycled” as part of our body’s “quality control.” The idea is to degrade damaged proteins and mitochondria.
- Creates new mitochondria.
- Acts as an antioxidant.
- Assists in delivery of oxygen.
- Important for fertility, by boosting the production of sex hormones.
- Increases blood flow by stimulating nitric oxide release in blood vessels, thus helping to widen them.
- Benefits the heart.
- Alleviates diabetes.