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Exercise can trigger changes at the DNA level to reduce fat deposition, study

Posted:  Thursday, December 25, 2014

Our genetic composition is pre-decided and not much can be done to reprogram it; this line of thought could be challenged in part! Swedish researchers revealed the exciting results of their recent study which found that exercise can positively bring about changes at the DNA level and influence fat storage patterns in the body.

The study, published in PLOS Genetics, followed 23 men, all of whom were slightly overweight but relatively healthy, during 6 months of the study period. They were not involved in any physical activity before the study, but were instructed to attend three spinning or aerobics classes each week. In addition, they were instructed not to change their diet or normal daily activity level.

As habituated, the men only attended an average of 1.8 sessions per week. During the course of the study, the researchers examined changes in methyl groups in the adipocytes of the participants. Changes in the methyl groups could affect the gene expression either activating or deactivating them. This study of gene changes at the cellular level is called epigenetics.

The researchers observed epigenetic changes in 7,000 genes, comprising 35% of an individual's genetic makeup. The researchers further studied fat cell cultures in labs and found that deactivating certain genes reduced their expression. This in turn reduced fat deposition within the fat cell.

“Our study shows the positive effects of exercise. The epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes," said the researchers. Previous studies have studied cellular and molecular changes in skeletal muscle, but this study is unique as it maps the DNA methylome in fat.

In addition, researchers also found changes in the genes linked to type II diabetes and obesity. Altered DNA methylation due to increased physical activity could possibly be the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease

The benefits of physical activity are known to all, but now there is a genetic basis for the same. Thus, hopping on the treadmill or catching some exercise would indeed be a good reward for health.

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