Study finds exercise can change fat cells’ DNA

How often have you heard people say, ‘Oh, it’s all in my genes, what can I do?’ A new study indicates that DNA does not control the body or predestine illness but that our health issues lie within our own power.

According to experts, while inherited DNA genes cannot be altered their expression in our bodies can through exercise, diet, and lifestyle, thereby slashing the risk of obesity and diabetes.

It was noted that a workout can positively affect the way cells interact with fat stored in the body.

“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, a co-author of the study and an associate professor at the Lund University Diabetes Centre.

Study of 23 men
The focus of the study was to get an insight into what happens on an epigenetic level in fat cells when people engage in small doses of exercise. The researchers examined the methyl groups in the fat cells of 23 slightly overweight healthy men within the age bracket 35 years.

The subjects who had previously engaged in no physical activity were put on a regimen of spinning and aerobics classes for a period of six-months.

“They were supposed to attend three sessions a week, but they went on average 1.8 times,” Tina Rönn, associate researcher at Lund University, explained.

Researchers examined the genetic makeup of the men’s fat cells after six months. With the help of technology capable of analyzing 480,000 positions throughout the genome, experts found epigenetic changes in 7,000 genes (approximately a third of a person’s total genes). They then looked specifically at the methylation in genes linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Outcome of the study
The analysis revealed that apart from changes to their bodies’ fat storage, exercise triggered a change in the DNA expression of genes tied to diabetes, suggesting that epigenetics may play a role in the disease.

Tina Rönn, lead author of the study and an associate researcher at Lund University stated, “We found changes in [type 2 diabetes-linked] 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. This has never before been studied in fat cells. We now have a map of the DNA methylome in fat.”

The findings, announced this week, appear online in the journal PLOS Genetics.

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