Exercise Alters Epigenetic Pattern of Genes That Affect Fat Storage

First Posted: Jul 04, 2013 09:33 AM EDT

A new study claims that exercise even in small doses changes the expression of our innate DNA.

The study conducted by researchers at Lund University described the effect of physical activity on the epigenetic levels in fat cells.

"Our study shows the positive effects of exercise, because the epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes", said Charlotte Ling, associate professor at Lund University Diabetes Centre, in a press release

Genes present in the DNA are inherited and are something that cannot be altered. Genes are known to carry methyl groups that affect 'gene expression', whether the genes are activated or deactivated.  This methyl group is influenced by several things such as exercise, diet and lifestyle through a process known as DNA methylation.

This field of research called epigenetics has gathered a lot of attention over the recent years.

To prove their finding, they conducted a test on 23 slightly obese overweight healthy men all aged 35. The researchers checked what happened to the methyl groups in the fat cells of these 23 participants. They also included 35 healthy men of the same age who were not involved in any physical activity. The researchers checked what happened when the healthy men attended spinning and aerobics classes over a six month period.

According to Tina Ronn, associate researcher at Lund University, the participants were supposed to attend three sessions per week but they had attended on an average just 1.8 times.

With the help of technology they analysed 480 000 positions on the genome and noticed that epigenetic changes occurred in 7,000 genes. They focused on methylation in genes that were associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

"We found changes in those genes too, which suggests that altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease", said Tina Ronn.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

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