AMPK activation—protean potential for boosting healthspan
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- McCarty, M.F. AGE (2014) 36: 641. doi:10.1007/s11357-013-9595-y
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AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) is activated when the cellular (AMP+ADP)/ATP ratio rises; it therefore serves as a detector of cellular “fuel deficiency.” AMPK activation is suspected to mediate some of the health-protective effects of long-term calorie restriction. Several drugs and nutraceuticals which slightly and safely impede the efficiency of mitochondrial ATP generation—most notably metformin and berberine—can be employed as clinical AMPK activators and, hence, may have potential as calorie restriction mimetics for extending healthspan. Indeed, current evidence indicates that AMPK activators may reduce risk for atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke; help to prevent ventricular hypertrophy and manage congestive failure; ameliorate metabolic syndrome, reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, and aid glycemic control in diabetics; reduce risk for weight gain; decrease risk for a number of common cancers while improving prognosis in cancer therapy; decrease risk for dementia and possibly other neurodegenerative disorders; help to preserve the proper structure of bone and cartilage; and possibly aid in the prevention and control of autoimmunity. While metformin and berberine appear to have the greatest utility as clinical AMPK activators—as reflected by their efficacy in diabetes management—regular ingestion of vinegar, as well as moderate alcohol consumption, may also achieve a modest degree of health-protective AMPK activation. The activation of AMPK achievable with any of these measures may be potentiated by clinical doses of the drug salicylate, which can bind to AMPK and activate it allosterically.