UT Researchers Put Magic Pill to the Test

Published: Aug 12, 2013
Researchers in UT’s Human Performance Lab study a dietary supplement that enhances fat loss and maintains muscle tone without changes to diet and exercise routines.
Researchers in UT’s Human Performance Lab study a dietary supplement that enhances fat loss and maintains muscle tone without changes to diet and exercise routines.
Imagine a dietary supplement that enhances fat loss and maintains muscle tone without changes to diet and exercise routines.

Sounds like a magic pill, but the researchers in UT’s Human Performance Lab have been studying the supplement, phosphatidic acid, which has been shown to enhance fat loss and maintain muscle tone. They’ll extend the research to a sedentary population this fall.

“When you exercise, your body releases a signal that tells your muscles to get bigger and stronger,” said Assistant Professor Jacob Wilson, director of the lab that specializes in studying how nutritional supplements impact training. “That signal is called phosphatidic acid.”

Research has been previously done with phosphatidic acid on cell cultures. Wilson and his team were contacted by Chemi Nutra to see if the same results could be achieved on human subjects in resistance training.

Wilson’s team received $60,000 in Spring 2013 to perform the study with a group of male students who had been actively training for at least three years. They measured factors like muscle size, strength and body fat. The team also studied the health risks, of which they found none.

“Everything increased but fat, which went down,” said Jordan Joy ’12, a graduate student who works for Wilson in the UT lab.

Visually, they could see differences too.

“They were getting shredded,” said Ryan Lowery ’13, who attributed the gains to Joy’s resistance training program combined with the supplement. “The guys absolutely loved it.”

After a successful study, the team presented its results at the International Society of Sports Nutrition conference in June. Chemi Nutra then returned to the team with another $60,000 for a Fall 2013 study of the effects in non-exercising, 30-50 year olds (a timeframe when folks start losing muscle due to age).

“Since phosphatidic acid is a signal to grow, we want to find out if it can work by itself,” said Wilson.

From an academic standpoint, this kind of research is as experiential as it gets.

“UT has a lot of talented students, but these guys have the opportunity to explore at the highest level and produce work on a national level,” said Wilson, who will be rolling out a graduate program at UT next summer. “They are connected to everybody in this industry.”

The funding was used to purchase high tech machines that increase capacity and efficiency for the lab. For example, Wilson secured a new, Dual Emissions X-ray Absorbptiometry (DEXA) machine, with “image clarity and detail so powerful you can see calcifications, or defects, on the heart,” he said.

For another supplement study, Wilson has been able to buy Dynavision, a piece of equipment considered the gold standard for testing reaction time. The equipment increases the levels of studies and depth of research the team is able to produce.

“When we’re at national conferences, guys from doctoral programs come up to us and are blown away by the work we’re doing,” Lowery said.


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