What is AMPK? How Does It Influence Aging?
AMPK is an energy sensor enzyme found in our cells that is key in energy metabolism. The enzyme is known as a genetic “master switch” that influences our metabolism (which is the process that maintains life). When activated, AMPK has beneficial effects on our body which are associated with increased health and lifespan. As we age, our levels of AMPK decline. Find out how to naturally activate AMPK to help slow aging.
What is AMPK?
Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, better known as AMPK, is an enzyme that’s vital in energy balance. It monitors the energy levels (i.e. the number of ATP molecules) in a cell and helps balance when they are too high or low.
In other words, the AMPK enzyme is like a switch that tells our cells when to store energy and induce the formation of molecules like fat and when to use the existing energy stores (in other words, burn fat).
AMPK is known as a longevity pathway because activating it decreases many of the symptoms that are associated with chronic conditions and aging. It also has other critical roles to play in regulating various cellular processes in our bodies and influencing other longevity pathways as well.
What are the Benefits of AMPK to the Body?
AMPK is an energy-sensing enzyme and is activated when cells start running low on fuel. It plays a key role in determining our metabolism and body fat composition. When we age, our AMPK levels drop which could be one of the reasons why we tend to gain weight as we get older (apart from diet and lifestyle causes). Scientists are still discovering more about this molecule, but here are some of the known benefits of activating AMPK.
It regulates fat metabolism and keeps fatty acid levels in check
The goal of almost every diet is to burn fat and “lose weight.” Activating AMPK causes your body to use up the stored energy that’s in your fat cells, in particular abdominal fat. At the same time, it also prevents your body from forming triglycerides and cholesterol.
Triglycerides are a form of fat that’s found in your blood. When we eat more energy than we need, our bodies store that energy in the form of triglycerides. High levels have been associated with hardened arteries and increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other conditions.
Did you know that fish oil has been shown to lower triglyceride levels? To find out more about the benefits read What is Krill Oil and Why is It Good for You?
Cholesterol is used to build hormones, synthesize vitamin D, and build and repair cells. Your body can manufacture all the cholesterol it needs but high levels have been associated with many heart conditions. Activating AMPK naturally will help keep your cholesterol levels in check.
AMPK increases the production of antioxidants
AMPK increases the production of various antioxidant proteins that create a defense against oxidative stress which causes tissue damage. Oxidative stress is thought to be one of the leading causes of aging. Activating AMPK can help fight off tissue damage from free radicals.
Apart from increasing the production of certain antioxidants, AMPK also inhibits the inflammatory pathway NF-kB. High levels of NF-kB are associated with many chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more.
To find out more about this pathway, read NF-kB and Inflammation - Finding the Longevity Balance
Increases energy production
Mitochondria are the batteries of the cells in our bodies and they produce energy. AMPK naturally boosts mitochondrial activity and production. In fact, a study revealed that low levels of the enzyme decrease mitochondrial activity and muscle performance.
Enhances blood circulation
AMPK is key in promoting vasodilation which is a process that causes the widening of blood vessels. The enzyme does this by stimulating the release of nitric oxide in blood vessels. Increased blood circulation pumps oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our bodies and also allows them to remove waste products. All in all, improving blood circulation is very good for our health.
May promote healthy weight
AMPK, when activated in the brain’s hypothalamus by the hunger hormone ghrelin, increases appetite and consequently weight gain. Whereas AMPK released in the body helps burn fat, and this can result in weight loss. Inhibiting the activity of brain AMPK could result in weight loss.
Regulates blood sugar levels
High levels of blood sugar are detrimental to our health. AMPK stimulates the breakdown of glucose for fuel (in the form of ATP) and the uptake of glucose into the muscles. This helps regulate blood sugar levels.
When AMPK is activated in the hypothalamus, it stimulates glucose production in the liver by inhibiting glucose storage (glycogen synthesis) which can also help combat hypoglycemia, a condition that’s asymptomatic with low blood sugar levels which can negatively affect brain function and stability.
Promotes longevity by influencing other longevity pathways
Apart from its ability to rev up our metabolism, reduce blood sugar, and help with fat metabolism, several studies have shown the enzyme has a role in increasing longevity and calorie restriction-induced lifespan through its influence on other longevity pathways.
It activates sirtuins - the crucial anti-aging family that controls cellular health and processes. Sirtuin activity declines as we age and activating AMPK can help keep levels optimal.
For more, read How Sirtuins and NAD+ Influence Longevity
AMPK inhibits mTOR naturally - mTOR is crucial for muscle growth and cellular repair. It signals to the body that nutrients are abundant and growth can happen. However, too much has been associated with cancers, diabetes, obesity, and other age-related conditions.
Interested in finding out more? You might enjoy reading What is the MTOR Longevity Pathway?
As we have found, activating AMPK has many benefits for our health and longevity.
What Happens When AMPK Levels are Low?
Low levels of AMPK and dysregulation have been associated with many chronic diseases and conditions including obesity, high blood sugar, neurodegeneration, chronic inflammation, increased belly fat, and decreased energy levels because of fewer mitochondria and poorer functioning mitochondria.
What are AMPK Inhibitors?
As mentioned, AMPK is like a switch and it monitors how much energy we have in our cells. It’s a survival mechanism that turns on when it senses energy and nutrients are low and turns off when it senses that there is plenty. Here are some of the known AMPK inhibitors:
Excess fat intake - Several studies found a correlation between a high-fat diet and decreased AMPK levels. Subjects that were obese also showed low levels of AMPK.
High glucose intake - Ongoing exposure to high levels of glucose can negatively affect AMPK levels. Researchers also found that short term high glucose levels reduced AMPK activation in the muscle, kidneys, and liver.
Excessive calories - in a nutshell, eating more than you need will signal to your body that there’s plenty and it’s time to build up the stores. Excessive calorie intake inhibits AMPK
Excessive protein - High levels of amino acid activate mTOR - the pathway responsible for building and repairing muscle. AMPK and mTOR are intricately connected and when mTOR is activated, it seems like AMPK is inhibited. Scientists are still discovering more about this connection, as well as its relationship with exercise.
Insulin resistance - When the body becomes resistant to insulin, high levels of this hormone can be found in the blood. High levels of insulin inhibit AMPK.
What Activates AMPK?
AMPK tends to naturally decline as we age. But there are some things that we can do to activate this pathway naturally which will result in more energy, weight loss, lower inflammation levels, and feeling younger overall. These include:
Taking fewer calories makes fat cells release the hormone adiponectin that activates AMPK in several tissues such as the skeletal muscles. And this is what may connect calorie restriction with a slowed aging process and lower risk for disease.
For more on exercise, plus some ideas on how to incorporate it into your daily life, read Five Easy Anti-Aging Hacks to Increase Your Longevity.
High fiber diet
According to a study, a water-soluble, dietary fiber diet can induce AMPK activity. This helps in weight loss and improved lipid profiles. Water-soluble fiber is found in most fruit and vegetables. It seems like there is quite a lot of truth in the old saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) may activate AMPK in various tissues, such as muscles. Studies have shown ALA may reduce hypothalamic AMPK, which could aid with reduced appetite.
To find out more, read The Anti-Aging Benefits of Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA).
Youth & Earth has a potent liposomal form of ALA that’s in combination with vitamin C for added antioxidant protection - Liposomal R-Alpha Lipoic Acid 200mg & Vitamin C 650mg.
Heat and cold stress
Coldwater and heat therapy are anti-aging hacks that have been around for many years.
Exposing your body to cold water, either through a shower, a cold swim, or cryotherapy has been shown to activate AMPK in brown and white fat tissue. The brown fat is the fat that protects our organs and the white fat is caused by excess food and lack of exercise. Regular cold water immersion was shown to increase brown fat and reduce the stores of white fat.
Polyphenols, that substance that gives fruit and vegetables their color, have been shown to activate AMPK. The most effective are berberine, resveratrol, and quercetin have been shown to activate AMPK.
Although increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet will help boost polyphenol levels, one of the best ways is to take a supplement that has been specifically designed to activate AMPK. Our product, RELEAF, is a rich source of berberine that activates AMPK by mimicking calorie restriction.
Our product PRESERVAGE contains plant chemicals that inhibit mTOR and activate AMPK and is a great source of resveratrol, curcumin, and quercetin.
Here’s a brief video by Dr. David Jones L Ac, MSPH, DACM on 4 ways to boost AMPK. He mentions metformin as an AMPK activator. Did you know that berberine has been shown to be as, if not more, effective as metformin? To find out more, read Berberine the Super Anti-Aging Antioxidant.
AMPK is a critical enzyme to our health and longevity. And, although levels naturally decline with age, there are ways to activate this longevity pathway to reap the health benefits. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, practicing calorie restriction, and supplementing with a product such as RELEAF will help activate AMPK which will lead to increased energy, reduced weight, and improved health. It’s never too late to begin to make a change today.
"Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest."
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or health provider before starting a new health regime or program. Do not ignore medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you’ve read on this site or any Youth & Earth product.