Why miraculous pills will not prevent you from needing the gym…

Forget the gym: Scientists discover a hormone that gives you the same benefits as exercise without breaking a sweat

This week the Daily Mail serves up another great story, which promises effortless weight loss, the great obsession of our society. Have a pill and you won’t get fat. Have a pill and you won’t need to exercise to keep strong and healthy. There is an enormous amount of misleading information out there, and this is a perfect example.

Like a lot of health news stories, this is a terrible retelling of a real study, which was recently published in “Cell Metabolism”, a prestigious journal.

In it, scientists identify a substance, Mots-c, produced in mitochondria, which modifies our metabolism (if you want to know more about mitochondria visit our post about three parents babies). They tested Mots-c on cells and in mice, and showed that it leads to faster usage of sugar and fat, in a similar way to exercise.

The study, however, does NOT suggest that this hormone will give the same benefits as exercise.

  • The mice on normal diet do not lose weight when treated with Mots-c, so it is unlikely to help in weight loss programmes.
  • The mice on very fatty diet put on less weight if they are treated with Mots-c. So if your diet is extremely fat-rich for a very long time, then Mots-c could make you gain less fat (but you would still get fat)
  • They only test Mots-c on mice; our metabolism is very different, as is the composition of our basic diets.
  • When you burn food, if your body does not store the energy produced, you will lose the rest in the form of heat, so you would probably get uncomfortably hot.

So, funnily enough, if you eat very unhealthily and rely on Mots-c to do the hard work, you’ll still get fat; and you would certainly break into a sweat doing it.

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