If I told you that weight loss was simply a matter of turning on a key enzyme in the body that would magically burn fat and turn up our metabolism, would you believe it? Well, scientists may have found this master switch for weight loss in the form of an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPk for short. The activity of this hormone goes a long way in explaining why some people have no problem maintaining their ideal body weight, while others seemingly fight a major battle to lose weight and keep it off.
AMPk is found inside every cell and serves as a “master regulating switch” in energy metabolism. Overall, the activity of this enzyme plays a major role in determining our body fat composition and especially the amount of visceral “belly” fat that we carry. Its activity is also tied to our life expectancy. When we are young, AMPk is more activate, but as we age the cellular AMPk activation decreases leading to visceral fat accumulation and loss of muscle mass.
The good news is that researchers are discovering natural ways to enhance AMPk. Specifically, certain dietary strategies and food components greatly influence AMPk activity in a positive way. Not surprisingly, these natural approaches hold great promise in the goal of near effortless weight loss as a result.
The No. 1 Factor that Influences AMPk Activity
The activity of AMPk is influenced by a great many factors including variety of hormones and dietary factors. That said, the most important influencer of AMPk activity ultimately appears to be the sensitivity of the cell to the hormone insulin. Hence, with insulin resistance there is reduced AMPk activity. So, the first step in improving AMPk is working to improve insulin sensitivity. By doing so, the process results in increasing adiponectin levels and lowering resistin levels which in turn lead to AMPk activation. Simple, right?
Improving Insulin Sensitivity
Improving insulin sensitivity is most successfully done with a combination of lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and improving diet and nutrition, and targeted nutritional supplementation. It is one of the key areas of focus in this program.
Other Recommendations to Activate AMPk
In addition to improving insulin sensitivity, there are a number of very important steps to activate AMPk. Most notable are reducing total calorie intake and regular “vigorous” exercise. It is also interesting that many components of the traditional Mediterranean diet activate AMPk. In particular, olive oil, various plant pigments found in vegetables and fruits, and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil.
There are also lots of natural products that activate AMPk. My best recommendations to start with are alpha-lipoic acid and berberine as both of these compounds have clinical evidence in promoting weight loss.
• Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring and necessary biological factor. Although it has some vitamin-like functions, as it can be synthesized in the body, it is not classified as a vitamin. ALA has several unique abilities, including the ability to work as an antioxidant in both water and lipid soluble parts of the cell and cell membrane; the ability to regenerate other antioxidants; and the ability to remain activity once it neutralizes free radicals.
Double-blind clinical trials in humans have demonstrated that ALA improves insulin sensitivity, blood sugar control, cardiovascular health, nerve function and lipid levels, and reduces symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Recent studies indicate that ALA may help to boost metabolism, promote the burning of fat as energy, reduce food intake, and therefore, potentially aid in weight loss. In one clinical trial, ALA contributed approximately three pounds of extra weight loss over the course of the 10 weeks.
To enhance the absorption of ALA, it is recommended that it be taken on an empty stomach or two hours after eating as food intake may reduce the bioavailability of ALA.
Berberine has also been examined as a weight-loss aid in two double-blind clinical trials. In a study conducted in 2012 published in Phytomedicine, 500 mg of berberine three times per day caused an average of 5 pounds of weight loss over a 12-week period. In another 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 37 men and women with metabolic syndrome were given 300 mg of berberine three times per day for three months. The body mass index (BMI) levels dropped from 31.5 to 27.4. There was also an improvement in insulin sensitivity and fat-regulating hormones.