Exercise stimulates cell's housekeeping mechanism, protects against diabetes

Short-term exercise can reverse blood sugar abnormalities caused by a high-fat diet and protect against diabetes, according to new research from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Researchers studied the health effects of short-term exercise on two groups of mice. Both groups were exposed to a high-fat diet and experienced diabetes-like blood sugar changes. The control group was able to reverse these changes through regular short-term exercise. The test group, however, was not.

Autophagy

The test group was "autophagy deficient," which means that they were genetically unable to increase autophagy, a process where cells break down their own damaged or unneeded components to produce energy.

Autophagy is sometimes referred to as "the cell's housekeeping pathway".

The test mice had decreased endurance and failed to show changes to their blood sugar metabolism after exercise. Meanwhile, the control mice experienced a reversal in the blood sugar abnormalities caused by the high-fat diet.

Dr. Beth Levine, professor of internal medicine and microbiology and head of the Center for Autophagy Research at UT Southwestern says that,

“Our finding that exercise fails to improve glucose metabolism in autophagy-deficient mice strongly suggests that autophagy is an important mechanism by which exercise protects against diabetes. It also raises the possibility that activation of autophagy may contribute to other health benefits of exercise, including protection against cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and aging."

Exercise is known to have health benefits but the mechanisms have been unclear, according to Levine. Autophagy also is know to have several health benefits, with those benefit correlating closely to the effects of exercise.

Levine's previous research demonstrates that autophagy plays a role in immunity, lifespan extension, and suppression of breast cancer.

The research paper on the study appears in the journal Nature.

Benefits of exercise

Research shows that physical activity can provide myriad health benefits, according to Mayo Clinic.

Exercise can lower blood glucose and blood pressure and improve the body's ability to use insulin. It can lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, reduce body fat, and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Exercise keeps heart and bones strong and keeps joints flexible. It also gives a person more energy and reduces stress levels.

Source: UT Southwestern, Mayo Clinic

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