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Home / Juvenon Health Journal / Exercise: A Brain Tonic

 

Juvenon Health Journal – September 2012, No. 7

askbenDr. Treadwell
answers your questions.

question: Does exercise act as an “anti-oxidant?”
-Bob (Tampa, FL)

answer:  Interesting question! Exercise is actually both an oxidant and anti-oxidant. It is an oxidant in the sense that it produces an increase in metabolism, which in turn promotes an increase production of oxidants. However, we have evolved a protective mechanism, which senses the increase in the level of oxidants produced during exercise, and in response activates a set of genes involved in the production of anti-oxidants. Therefore, if one is sedentary and wishes to begin an exercise program, he/she should start slowly over a period of time to build-up and activate those anti-oxidant genes. This partly explains how a conditioned athlete can take a lot more physical stress than a sedentary person. Exercise, done properly and on a regular basis, is a potent anti-oxidant!

Send your questions toAskBen@juvenon.com.
For more questions and answers, click here.

Dr. Benjamin V. Treadwell is a former Harvard Medical School professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.

Research Update
A group of investigators from Japan’s Kyoto University and Sapporo Medical University examined the effects of exercise on the formation of beta amyloid plaque in a strain of mice engineered to produce excess amounts of amyloid precursor protein. Previous work from their laboratory demonstrated a clear association between a high fat diet (HFD) and an increase in amyloid plaque formation in the brain. The mice on this diet also showed impaired cognition and memory as determined in standard tests (water maze) used to measure mental acuity.

The investigators used a previously established mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, as this model appears to mimic the characteristics of human Alzheimer’s disease. One of the characteristics of this model is a high level of the production of the neurotoxin, Abeta. The investigators divided the mice into five groups by the following criteria:

  • Group 1 was fed a normal health chow for the entire 20-week experimental period.
  • Group 2 was fed a high fat (HFD) diet for 20 weeks.
  • Group 3 was fed a HFD for 20 weeks in pens that included exercise wheels.
  • Group 4 was fed a HFD for 10 weeks followed by an additional 10 weeks of normal healthy diet.
  • Group 5 was fed a HFD for 10 weeks followed by a normal diet and exercise for 10 weeks.

At the study’s conclusion, all groups were put through a series of tests (water maze, etc.) to examine their memory and other forms of mental acuity. After the memory testing, the animals were sacrificed and samples of brain tissue were examined microscopically for Abeta plaque formation and for levels of the Abeta-degrading enzyme, neprilysin.

Exercise and Diet Improve Brain Function
The results of the study showed a large increase in the production of the brain-cell killing toxin, Abeta, and an increase in Abeta plaque formation in the animals fed a HFD. The mental function tests demonstrated a corresponding decrease in the animal’s memory. This correlated with the increase in Abeta plaque formation in the HFD animals as compared to the controls fed a normal diet. What was even more impressive were the results from the experiment of those animals fed a HFD, but allowed to exercise. Based on brain-function testing and observed brain plaque amounts, their brain health was virtually identical to that of the normal healthy chow fed mice.

Exercise Improves the Removal of Toxic Abeta
What is most interesting from this study is that it not only suggests diet is important for a healthy sharp-functioning brain, but that exercise is too. Exercise appears to help improve the activity of an enzyme, neprilysin, which was shown to be active in removing the sticky-toxic Abeta particles before they can destroy brain cells. So, in summary, a healthy diet helps prevent the production of brain-destroying Abeta sticky particles, perhaps by maintaining a healthy insulin pathway. Additionally, exercise is important in triggering neprilysin, which is key in removing toxic Abeta sticky particles from the brain tissue before they cause irreversible damage.

Read abstract Here

This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.

1107_title

By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.

From ‘oh my creaky knees’ to ‘now, where did I put my keys?’ we are given constant physical and mental reminders of the realities of aging. Fortunately, modern scientists never grow tired of researching what exactly can be done to help stop or at least slow-down worrisome aging symptoms.

Countless studies provide evidence to support the adage ‘use it or lose it’ when it comes to remedying age-related physical decline. Even in the elderly, both aerobic and resistance exercise can improve physical strength and endurance. The biochemical mechanism responsible for exercise-induced health improvement involves the tuning-up of numerous metabolic pathways. One exercise-activated biochemical pathway was discussed in a recent Juvenon Health Journal (Volume 11, Number 2). The article summarized research demonstrating the exercise-induced production, by muscle cells, of a newly discovered fat-metabolizing hormone, irisin. This means that exercise may not only increase strength, but can also promote health by removing fat through activation of fat-burning metabolic pathways.

In this month’s Juvenon Health Journal, we continue to explore some of the lesser-known benefits of exercise. For instance, recent research now reveals an interesting connection between exercise and the decline in mental acuity associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

High Fat Diet and Disease
Research over the previous two decades has implicated the insulin pathway in the development of diseases, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, and more recently Alzheimer’s disease. A high fat diet has a harmful effect on metabolism as it impairs the capacity of cells, especially liver, fat and muscle cells, to remove glucose from the blood. This is due to the decreased ability (desensitization) of the cell receptors to take up glucose in response to insulin. It now appears that the insulin pathway is a major player in mental health, and the development of diseases characterized by mental decline, including Alzheimer’s (see JHL, Volume 11, Number 3). What we eat can have a significant effect on health by affecting the production of insulin, by the pancreas, as well as reducing the sensitivity of the receptors on cells for insulin (the glucose gate-keepers). A diet high in calories derived from fat, especially saturated fat, has been clearly associated with obesity, the pre-diabetic state known as metabolic syndrome (MS), and full-blown type II diabetes.

And if there wasn’t already plenty of compelling reasons for a healthy lifestyle, now a new study clearly shows how exercise and diet have a profound effect on the health and function of the memory centers of the brain.

Neuro-toxin Formation in Alzheimer’s Disease
Before we get into the nitty gritty of complex new study results, let’s review some brain basics and the prevalent theory on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The cells of a specific center in the brain (an area for memory known as the hippocampus) produce a protein molecule known as amyloid precursor protein or APP. Scientists believe this protein molecule’s main function is to protect the neurons of the brain. However, based on scientific evidence, there are some instances – as in Alzheimer’s disease – where APP may also be secreted from the brain cell and then converted into toxic fragments (amyloid beta, Abeta) by specific enzymes known as proteases.

These fragments have a unique tendency to bind to each other to form large sticky particles. These Abeta sticky particles can then kill the delicate cells of the nervous system, which may result in severe decline in brain health and function. A characteristic feature of brain tissue found in Alzheimer’s patients is the appearance of Abeta plaques. Dubbed senile plaques, they are formed when a large enough number of the sticky particles bind to each other. How do scientists isolate these toxic plaques? Basically, because of their relatively large size, these senile plaques fall out of solution and rest on the brain tissue (parenchyma).

But what does all this have to do with diet and exercise? A higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with diseases of a malfunctioning insulin pathway, such as metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. Armed with this knowledge, a group of researchers set out to determine if a high fat diet affects Abeta production and Abeta plaque formation and in turn induces dementia.

The Mouse Experiment: Alzheimer’s Disease, High Fat Diet and Exercise 
The investigators opted to use an established mouse model in the study, as this model appears to mimic the characteristics of human Alzheimer’s disease. One of the characteristics of this model is a high level of the production of the neurotoxin, Abeta. The investigators divided the mice into 5 groups by the following criteria:

  • Group 1 was fed a normal health chow for the entire 20-week experimental period.
  • Group 2 was fed a high fat (HFD) diet for 20 weeks.
  • Group 3 was fed a HFD for 20 weeks in pens that included exercise wheels.
  • Group 4 was fed a HFD for 10 weeks followed by an additional 10 weeks of normal healthy diet.
  • Group 5 was fed a HFD for 10 weeks followed by a normal diet and exercise for 10 weeks.

At the study’s conclusion, all groups were put through a series of tests (water maze, etc.) to examine their memory and other forms of mental acuity. After the memory testing, the animals were sacrificed and samples of brain tissue were examined microscopically for Abeta plaque formation and for levels of the Abeta-degrading enzyme, neprilysin.

Study Shows Exercise and Diet Improves Brain Function

The results of the study showed a large increase in the production of the brain-cell killing toxin, Abeta and an increase in Abeta plaque formation in the animals fed a HFD. The mental function tests showed a corresponding decrease in the animal’s memory. This correlated with the increase in Abeta plaque formation in the HFD animals as compared to the controls. What was even more impressive were the results from the experiment of those animals fed a HFD, but allowed to exercise. Based on brain-function testing and observed brain plaque amounts, their brain health was virtually identical to that of the normal healthy chow fed mice.

Exercise Improves the Removal of Toxic Abeta
The most significant and astounding finding from this study is the result showing the positive effects of exercise on offsetting the negative effects of an unhealthy high-fat diet on brain function and the appearance of toxic Abeta plaque on brain tissue.

Further examination of the brain tissue for neprilysin showed similar levels in both the HFD fed mice as well as the HFD-exercised mice. However, an interesting result emerged when they compared the activity of the neprilysin isolated from the brains of these mice. The exercised mice had much more active neprilysin. Exercise appears to act on improving the activity of the enzyme, neprilysin, which is active in removing the sticky-toxic Abeta particles before they can destroy brain cells. So, what is the take-home message behind this intriguing research? We now know that a healthy diet helps prevent the production of brain-destroying Abeta sticky particles, perhaps by maintaining a healthy insulin pathway. Researchers also discovered that exercise is important in activating an enzyme, neprilysin, which helps remove the toxic Abeta sticky particles before they irreversibly damage our brain tissue.

What Does This Mean to Me?
This experiment, along with human clinical studies, make it clear that diet and exercise are important for our health, including the health of our brain and mental functions. Interestingly, previous studies have shown a loss of neprilysin activity in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, which appears to be due to an elevation of oxidized and inactive neprilysin. Exercise is known to improve anti-oxidant production in a variety of cells. This suggests that the improved neprilysin activity in the exercised animals may be the consequence of increased levels of neprilysin-protecting anti-oxidants.

These findings further support the notion that regular exercise combined with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low in sugar and saturated fats can help improve our physical, as well as mental health. Additionally as we age, we should consider taking supplemental nutrients including vitamins and antioxidants, which combat age-associated oxidants that may lead to disease.

 

Creative Commons LicenseExercise: A Brain Tonic by Juvenon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. If you are interested in more in-depth information on this topic, please contact us.


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Inquiries to info@juvenon.com are answered individually whenever possible. Communications sent to multiple recipients carry clear instructions that allow recipients to unsubscribe.
 

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