Published on 8 March 2018

DRWF-funded study could pave the way for new diabetes treatments.

Researchers in Sweden looked at how the health benefits of exercise training on the brain could improve all round health and reduce additional complications like obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In the results of the study, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found the same mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of exercise training on the brain could also help to counteract the build-up of fat and strengthen the immune system.

A report on their findings was recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The study, part funded by DRWF sister organisation Diabetes Wellness Sverige, began in 2014, when researchers at the Karolinska Institute reported that they had discovered a mechanism behind the beneficial effect of exercise training on the brain.

The latest follow-up study showed that the same process also boosts fat metabolism and strengthens the anti-inflammatory properties of the immune system.

Dr Jorge Ruas, Principal Investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute, said: “We have linked the two parts of the expression ‘sound mind, sound body’. Our research adds to the understanding of why exercise training benefits the body and in the long run can lead to the development of new treatments for obesity or diabetes.”

A person running on a road.

In the earlier study, researchers were able to show that trained muscles can help to clean the blood in a way similar to the kidneys and liver.

Through exercise training on the brain, the muscles could convert the stress marker kynurenine into kynurenic acid to speed up metabolism and help people lose weight. High levels of kynurenine - an enzyme produced in certain brain cells - were recorded in people with depression and mental illness by researchers.

For the follow-up study, researchers examined the function of kynurenic acid in more detail and concluded that kynurenic acid could convert white fat into energyburning brown fat.

Dr Ruas said: “We have shown that kynurenic acid prevents weight gain despite excessive energy intake. Our next step is to identify the complex chain of interacting molecules that is affected by diet and training.”

The study was funded by DRWF, the Berth von Kantzow Foundation, the European Research Council, the Erling-Persson Family Foundation, Karolinska Institutet, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Skandia, the Stichting af Jochnick Foundation, the Swedish Diabetes Association, the Swedish Society for Medical Research and theSwedish Research Council.

Read the report in Cell Metabolism
Find out more about DRWF-funded research
Find out more about type 2 diabetes
Read the DRWF leaflets A healthy diet and diabetes and Exercise and diabetes here

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