While yes, the concept is exciting in theory, and it could help those who absolutely can’t exercise for health reasons, what it means for everyone else is a bit troubling.
Why do you run? Or lift weights, or do Zumba, yoga or Pilates? Yes, staying slim is probably on your list of reasons somewhere, but I'm willing to bet it's near the bottom if it's on there at all.
Like many of my fellow runners, I find there’s nothing more therapeutic than going on a jog at the end of the day. Everything that seemed to be life or death when I was sitting in my cube instantly becomes meaningless once I start putting one foot in front of the other. Others find that bliss when they’re box jumping at CrossFit, holding eagle pose during yoga, or flip-turning in the pool. Then, on top of that, there's the proven heart-disease delaying, brain-boosting effects to boot.
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Point is, exercise gives you layers of perks that can’t be quantified by the scale. That's why when we heard scientists at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (owned by the same folks that make the famous Nestlé Toll House cookie dough) are developing a food substance that may be able to copy the effects of exercise, we just had to roll our eyes.
Though "exercise in a bottle" is still many steps away from reality, Nestlé researchers announced that they have figured out how to stimulate an enzyme (called APMK) that is in charge of regulating metabolism, which is the first step in creating food products that burn fat. Their research was published earlier this year in the journal Chemistry & Biology.
While yes, the concept is exciting in theory, and it could help those who absolutely can’t exercise for health reasons or who have chronic issues like diabetes, what it means for everyone else is a bit troubling.
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“The effects of exercise are so widespread—it builds muscle, helps with glucose and fat metabolism, protects against aging blood vessels—the list goes on, but there’s no way one pill [or one food or supplement] can address all of this,” says Michael Joyner, MD, a physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and an expert on human performance and exercise physiology. In other words: just targeting the fat-burning bonus won’t give you half of the actual benefits of exercise.
Not to mention, "if people feel like they’re getting some protective benefit from it, there’s a good chance their healthy behaviors will suffer,” notes Dr. Joyner.
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What’s the point of getting up and walking on your lunch break, if your lunch can do the walking for you? Who wouldn’t want to eat a burger every night, if a side of Nestlé's fat-burning food could work it off while you watch Homeland?
I’ll take my exercise in the non sci-fi form, thank you very much—because to me, nothing can replace the joy of running with friends, the rush of your fist hitting a punching bag, or that last squat you pulled off, when you didn’t think you had it in you.