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Fasting, the Ketogenic Diet and AMP-K: The New Kid on the Block
AMPK and Warburg
The Warburg hypothesis is something that comes up often around these parts. Very briefly put, Warburg showed that whether oxygen was present or not, cancer cells would rather use glucose for energy derivation. Even though when oxygen is present, cells can rely on mitochondria to make significantly more energy, cancer cells still seem to rely on the inefficient process of glycolysis (the breakdown of sugar).Well, while AMPK may stop cancer by blocking pathways like mTOR, newer data shows that it actually blocks the Warburg Effect by blocking the ability of cancer cells to use sugar for energy.4
Amping up AMPK
The great thing about AMPK, is the plethora of ways we seem to be able to manipulate it. AmpK seems to take away the helplessness of disease or “luck” of cancer and lets us know that we do have biologic pathways that can clearly be manipulated by our lifestyle to thwart off disease.
AMPK is upregulated via several mechanisms (in no apparent order):
Muscle contraction during exercise,5,6 with the more intense exercise resulting in increased expression of AMPK7
Carbohydrate restriction (with or without fasting and even in the face of an increase in calories)8
In a very nerdy, sciency kind of way, AMPK is one of the many reasons why the current and ancient lifestyle that relies on lower amounts of carbohydrates in the diet along with periodic lifting of heavy weights and intense exercise like sprinting puts so many people back in control of their health and in the driver’s seat in the fight against cancer. Activation of AMPK, which we can directly affect through our actions, may be putting us in an enhanced metabolic state to fight disease.
Summing it up
With all the recent talk of fasting, a ketogenic diet, and even calorie restriction, insulin (the hormone raised after carbohydrates are consumed in the diet) and the insulin-like growth factor receptor (where insulin and IGF bind) have been getting most of the hype. While it is well-deserved, as they are heavily implicated in cancer diagnosis and progression, we seem to be forgetting about AMPK, the new kid on the block. If we can increase an enzyme that helps stop cancer by fasting, limited carbs, and lifting some weights, isn’t the effect of lifestyle on health common sense at this point?
And remember, even biochemically and metabolically, our lifestyles and actions translate to our health. While Milli Vanilli may not, AMPK helps prove this.