Lounging around the weekend may weigh heavy on the minds of the health conscious. But these sedentary stretches may not affect the waistline, provided they're preceded by a bit of exercise.
A new study from UT Southwestern Medical Center shows neurons in mice that influence metabolism. The research offers new insight into the brain as a potential role in fitness and – in the long term – may provide a target for developing therapies that improve metabolism.
"It does not take much exercise to alter the activity of these neurons," said Dr. Kevin Williams, a neuroscientist at UT Southwestern. "Based on our results, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism."
The study, published in the December edition of Molecular Metabolism, measured the effects of short- and long-term exercise on two types of neurons that comprise the melanocortin brain circuit, which is shared by both humans and mice. One of the neuron types (POMC) is associated with reduced appetite, lower blood glucose levels, and higher energy burning when activated; the other type (NPY / AgRP) increases appetite and diminishes metabolism when activated.
POMC neurons and inhibit the counterpart NPY / AgRP neuron for up to two days. Those changes last longer with more training.
The findings expand the scientific understanding of the melanocortin circuit, which previous studies could be altered through feeding or fasting.
Glucose metabolism in patients with conditions such as diabetes. More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the population. Another 84 million have prediabetes, which can lead to diabetes within five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It is possible that activating melanocortin neurons may be beneficial for patients, especially for diabetics who need improved blood-glucose regulation," Dr. Williams said.
The study brain brain activity in mice given training regiments that lasted from zero to 10 days. Scientists found that a single workout that has lasted to six hours. "Dr. Williams said," This is probably the result of many people who do not feel hungry immediately after exercise.
POMC neurons, which improve glucose metabolism when activated. These neurons remained active longer if they also expressed a protein called the leptin receptor.
Dr. Williams' lab is preparing a second study to establish the mechanisms by which exercise triggers changes in melanocortin neurons. The study will also record the results of the changes related to biological functions such as glucose metabolism and energy balance.
"This is not just for fitness," Dr. Williams said. "A Better Understanding of Neural Links to Exercise Can Help"
Materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Notes: Content may be edited for style and length.