What is AMPK And Why Does It Need To Be Activated?
AMPK or AMP-activated protein kinase is a phylogenetically conserved fuel-sensing enzyme. AMPK is found in every cell and serves as one of the main homeostasis regulators. Some call AMPK the ‘master regulator’ of metabolic health. AMPK naturally activates in response to decreased energy levels and an increase in AMP: ATP and ADP: ATP ratios. AMPK encourages processes that consume ATP to halt while promoting processes that generate more ATP.
Why is ATP so important? ATP is the energy currency of the body. This is the usable form of energy. Most food is converted to ATP eventually. ATP transports proteins and lipids into and out of our cells and provides energy for this process of transport. ATP plays a crucial role in powering muscle contractions. ATP is required in the synthesis, replication, and transcription of DNA and RNA.
How Does AMPK Activation Affect Aging?
AMPK controls the regulation of cellular homeostasis, metabolism, resistance to stress, cell survival and growth, cell death, DNA repair, and autophagy, which are some of the most critical determinants of aging and lifespan.
Recent studies have shown that with age AMPK activation and responsiveness decrease. This has contributed to poor metabolic regulation and the plummeting health with increased age. Promising results in longevity research demonstrate that through increased AMPK activation metabolic health improves, oxidative stress decreases, and life spans (with healthspan) increase. These studies were performed on rats and mice. There are ongoing human studies.
AMPK levels are believed to decrease in response to improper uptake of glucose and fat for energy production, accumulation of cellular waste, and damaged proteins. By increasing AMPK levels and activating them, these symptoms of aging may be reduced and potentially completely reversed. AMPK activation reduces fat storage, increases insulin sensitivity, reduces cholesterol/triglyceride production, and suppresses chronic inflammation and most symptoms of aging. Good AMPK levels and function means good mitochondrial health.
How To Increase AMPK Activation
With regular vigorous exercise AMPK activity naturally increases; however, the effects are lessened in the elderly. But, the elderly should still exercise. Exercise is now and will always be the best ‘anti-aging’ drug there is.
When you restrict your food, AMPK activates in order to make up for diminished energy levels. AMPK works to conserve and increase energy with the body’s current stores of glucose and fat. AMPK is part of the natural ‘stress response’ system. When cells and mitochondria sense a stressful situation, they go into survival mode. This mode ensures that old and misfolded proteins are fixed or removed, DNA mutations are repaired, cell membranes are repaired and mitochondria are either removed or repaired depending on their status. Caloric restriction enhances all of these functions.
The most commonly known AMPK activator is the diabetic drug Metformin; however, it is not available over-the-counter and is only prescribed to diabetics with type-2 diabetes for increasing insulin sensitivity. AMPK activation is not its main reason for being prescribed.
Berberine, however, mimics the effects of Metformin and has been found to be as good as if not better than Metformin during studies and trials.
Another AMPK activator is Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in grapes, wine, blueberries, etc.