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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 12:15 GMT
'Couch potato' drug to fight flab
TV couch potato Jim Royle, played by Ricky Tomlinson
The drug may help to combat a couch potato lifestyle
A fat-busting drug that can convince the body that it is exercising when it is not, is being developed by scientists.

The so-called "couch potato" drug is being seen as a weapon against increasing levels of obesity and diabetes.

The new drug will be based on a genetic process called AMPK which was discovered by Professor Grahame Hardie at Dundee University in the 1980s.

The scientists said the drug tells the body's muscles to burn off carbohydrate and fats and prevents them from being stored in fat tissue.

Clearly the best policy is to eat sensibly and exercise regularly

Professor Grahame Hardie
Professor Hardie, from the university's School of Life Sciences, discovered the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) reaction about 15 years ago.

It is thought that this process, which is usually triggered by exercise, is responsible for the beneficial effects of an active lifestyle in warding off obesity and diabetes.

Professor Hardie is now working with pharmaceutical companies to develop a new generation of AMPK-activating drugs that may be more effective than existing drugs.

Sedentary lifestyle

He said the AMPK system was activated in cells when they run short of energy and triggers the uptake and metabolism of glucose and fats.

"Clearly the best policy is to eat sensibly and exercise regularly, which will greatly reduce your chances of becoming overweight and developing Type 2 diabetes.

"However, when regular exercise is not possible, such as in older people where other health problems may prevent it, drugs that activate AMPK are an alternative.

boys playing rugby
Prof Hardie: "Regular exercise is the best policy"
"They may help to combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle."

Type 2 diabetes is due to the body failing to respond properly to insulin, the hormone that stimulates tissues to absorb glucose from the blood.

Experts said a worldwide rise in this form of the illness was linked to a modern urban lifestyle of high-calorie, high-fat junk foods combined with lack of exercise.

Although the Type 2 form was previously only diagnosed in older people, it has recently been found in young people who are overweight.

Professor Hardie, who is the co-ordinator of a 1m European project on the fat-burning process , is also organising a conference to discuss the findings in Dundee later this year.

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Health
Diabetes threat to children
20 Aug 01 | Health
Teenagers 'want more exercise'
26 Jan 01 | Education
Active children 'do better in class'
20 Nov 00 | Scotland
Healthy change for young Scots
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