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AMPK: Why You Should Reactivate this One Critical Enzyme

Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is found in every cell in your body and acts as a crucial source of cellular energy. AMPK also helps prevent against obesity and diabetes.

When you're younger, you have more AMPK available. But, as you age, AMPK slowly starts to decrease, potentially causing weight gain and other health issues like diabetes or obesity.

How can you reactive this critical enzyme?

Listen in as Dr. Mike shares with you the importance of AMPK and why you should consider restoring it.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 4, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Anti-aging and disease prevention radio is right here on RadioMD. Here's author, blogger, lecturer and national medical media personality, Dr. Michael Smith, MD, with Healthy Talk.

DR MIKE: So, there is a cellular enzyme that I want you to reactivate. A cell-based enzyme I want you to reactivate.

Now, when I say enzyme I think the first thing many people think are digestive enzymes or in some cases proteases, the enzymes that break down inflammatory proteins. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm not talking about a food based-enzyme or a digestive enzyme, I'm talking about a cell based enzyme and this enzyme is so critical to how your body and how your cell, in particular, manages energy that it's critical we keep it at a high functioning level throughout our life.

So, let's just back up for a moment and let's talk about why enzymes are so important because I think you're going to start seeing kind of a resurgence of enzyme research. And I say resurgence because it was maybe about a decade or so ago that there was a lot of research looking into different enzymes in the body, particularly enzymes involved in cell energy production and how we could reactivate them, supply them, replenish them, those kinds of things. And that research kind of fell out and we made way for the CoQ10 research and the Omega-3 research which was awesome and necessary but now we're starting, as I said, to see a resurgence in enzyme research and it's a good thing.

So, what is an enzyme? What does an enzyme do for us? And, again, I'm not talking to digestive enzymes. I'm talking about compounds, small molecular compounds in your body, that, really, without them the basic life processes wouldn't occur. You know, we're basically chemical factories. The beating of your heart, for instance, is managed by chemistry. Substance A combines with Substance B that converts into Substance C and you get some sort of effect.

That's the basics of life right there: A+B=C, chemistry; however, in order for that reaction to occur, for that chemistry to occur, Substance A has to get together with Substance B. There has to be the right temperature, the right pH, they have to be in close vicinity and if all of that comes together in a lucky way, you might actually make C and get the effect you want.

Well, that's where enzymes come in. Enzymes help Substance A to find Substance B. Enzymes help the body or the cell to reach the right pH and temperature, so that you can make Substance C and get the effect you want in a physiological time frame so that you can function and have life. Without enzymes, eventually that chemical reaction would occur. You might get a beat of a cardiac muscle cell about once every ten years, if you didn't have enzymes. Eventually the chemistry would happen but it would just take so long in terms of what we call physiological time to the point where the reaction wouldn't really be able to support life.

So enzymes are used by the cell to accelerate, to initiate, propagate and move forward the chemistry of the cell in a much more physiological, timely manner so that you can live. And one of those key enzymes is called AMPK: adenosine monophosphate protein activated kinase.

We'll just call it AMPK. It's an incredibly important enzyme in the cell. It's sometimes referred to as the master energy switch and all that really means is AMPK helps to coordinate cell energy production pathways. When AMPK is activated at a high level, your cells are able to manage energy better--both the production of energy and the storage of energy.

The cell is just more efficient at everything that has to do with energy. Sugars, fat, protein, ATP, all those words you've heard me talk about before, when AMPK is activated to a good optimal level, your cell manages all that stuff well and if a cell can manage energy and how it brings the precursors to energy in, how it actually takes those precursors and runs them through these pathways and how you end up with ATP and if you have too much sugar and fat and protein coming in, how you can store them--all of that is the management of energy. When the cell can do that, when the cell can manage that whole process well in a healthy way, the cell is healthy, the tissue is healthy, the organ is healthy and the organism--you and me-- we're healthy. And one of the key enzymes in that whole process is called AMPK.

Just like everything else as you get older, you lose hormones, you lose antioxidants, everything drops, skin drops. Everything drops, wrinkles form. Well, same thing here AMPK drops in function and in activity as you get older. I don't have a number for it but we just know that when a cell becomes less efficient at managing energy, when the cell becomes engorged with fat, when the cell is no longer able to make a decent amount of ATP so that it can function normal--when all that stuff happens, it's often directly coordinated to a low level of AMPK activity: adenosine monophosphate protein kinase.

Now, I'm going to give you just a list of things these are the dangers of reduced AMPK activity and this is all research based. When there's a low level of AMPK you're going to get an increase in belly fat. That's because cells are storing more fat instead of burning fat. One of the true signs of cell dysfunction is when cells engorge themselves with fat--not just fat cell--all cells can begin to form fat droplets and stuff if they're not burning that fat as energy. So, fat cells get bigger. Even non-fat cells start to engorge with fat as well. The liver becomes what's called non-alcoholic fatty liver. All of that kind of stuff can happen when you have low AMPK because you're not managing energy. Number two, chronic inflammation goes up.

Reduced levels of AMPK elevates blood sugar because you're not managing sugar; you're not managing energy. Once you have that sugar issue, now you have the next thing the fourth thing: insulin resistance problems. Insulin is that hormone that drives sugar inside the cell but if your cell is having a hard time managing sugar you tend to overproduce insulin to try to overcome that problem with sugar and, eventually, the cells become very insensitive, resistant, to insulin. High cholesterol and high triglycerides can happen when you have low AMPK. You lose the powerhouses. You don't have as many mitochondria when AMPK is not activated.

So, all of these things have been associated with reduced AMPK activity. However, when you reactivate it to younger levels, more youthful levels, there's evidence that we can extend lifespan by as much as 20-30%, improve glucose uptake in cells, lower blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce blood triglycerides—basically, everything I've just covered the dangers of reduced AMPK activity reverse when you reactivate it. So, AMPK is a cell enzyme and this is not about digestion. This is a cell enzyme, AMPK, that is the master regulating switch for managing cell energy.

From the precursors, to the production, to the storage and that is so critical to how healthy a cell is. How can you reactivate it? Well, you can work out really, really, really hard like triathlon level. You can restrict calories to about 30-40%, which most of us just can't do. No one is really going to do the first two.

So, really the best way to do it is with two plant-based extracts: one is called Gynostemma pentaphyllum and the other one is called Rose canina. That's also where we get rose hips from. There's good evidence in the literature that Gynostemma pentaphyllum in combination with rose hips or Rose canina will reactivate AMPK, that important cell enzyme. Go check it out at

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD.

I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.