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Exercise-Induced Neuron Activity Leads to Sustained Metabolic Benefits

LONG-LASTING metabolic impact of a single exercise session could prove invaluable to patients with diabetes, suggests new research from the University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas, USA. The study explored the effects of exercise on neuronal activity in a mouse model, examining two types of neuron known to impact metabolism.

The neurons, hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and neuropeptide Y/agouti-related peptide (NPY/AgRP), make up the melanocortin brain circuit. Research has linked POMC activity to lower appetite, reduced blood sugar levels, and a more active metabolism, while the reverse is true for NPY/AgRP; previous studies have examined the effects of diet and fasting on these neurons, but not exercise.

To explore the effect of exercise on these neurons’ activity, a transgenic mouse model was developed, consisting of one exercise group (taking part in three consecutive 20-minute sessions of treadmill running) and a control group. Results showed that this single exercise session activated POMC neurons and deactivated NPY/AgRP neurons, leading to a boosted metabolism and reduction in appetite. Furthermore, the effects from this single session were shown to last for 2 days and lasted longer still if the training period was extended.

“It does not take much exercise to alter the activity of these neurons,” Dr Kevin Williams, University of Texas Southwestern. “Based on our results, we would predict that getting out and exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism.”

These findings may have a significant impact for patients with diabetes and other metabolic conditions. “A better understanding of neural links to exercise can potentially help a number of conditions affected by glucose regulation. It is possible that activating melanocortin neurons may hold therapeutic benefit for patients one day, especially for [people with diabetes] who need improved blood-glucose regulation,” concluded Dr Williams.