Monday, October 10, 2011

Exercise and brain health : just sprint for new mitochondria?

This is an interesting looking study (full text here)

Exercise training increases mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain

These findings suggest that exercise training increases brain mitochondrial biogenesis, which may have important implications, not only with regard to fatigue, but also with respect to various central nervous system diseases and age-related dementia that are often characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction.

Exercise training causes new mitochondria to grow in the muscles.  Mitochondria are fascinating, almost parasitic cells within our cells that now act as “power plants” that use oxygen and glucose to produce ATP, the energy currency of the cell.  Endurance gets better, since you are enabled to keep the muscles aerobically fuelled for longer.  By the way it is not just endurance training that does this, Gibala just this year has shown that sprint training also causes mitochondrial biogenesis.  An acute bout of high-intensity interval training increases the nuclear abundance of PGC-1α and activates mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle.

The adaptations are mainly in the muscles you are exercising  but it is not just your muscles that need power.  The brain has a massive demand for oxygen and glucose, even at rest. (We could get into the Perfect Health Diet here which recommends a basic level of glucose intake mainly from toxin free starch to provide the basic level glucose that the brain needs, so you do not need to break down protein to provide it)

Interesting too that the study used endurance exercise.  I wonder what the findings would have been  with resistance training?  I reckon based on Gibala's work that sprints would give the same benefits.....maybe without the wear and tear of endurance work.

The press release adds more:

These findings suggest that exercise training increases the number of mitochondria in the brain much like it increases mitochondria in muscles. The study authors note that this increase in brain mitochondria may play a role in boosting exercise endurance by making the brain more resistant to fatigue, which can affect physical performance. They also suggest that this boost in brain mitochondria could have clinical implications for mental disorders, making exercise a potential treatment for psychiatric disorders, genetic disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Speaking as someone with a father who has dementia, the mention of that condition always makes me pay attention.


John said...

Ketogenic diet increases mitochondrial density in mouse hippocampus.

Anonymous said...

There is a really good pool of research now pointing to the likes of sprint training (and I suspect resistance training falls into the same category), and high fat diet increase the function of these mitochondrial power houses. And as you suggest, Chris, without the wear and tear of endurance training and a high carb diet.

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Anonymous said...

This is a mouse study. The extrapolation to degenerative disease and mental disease is wild, and completely unsupported by the evidence in the paper.

I have enjoyed looking at this web site, but I think you would benefit from a more critical approach to basic exploratory science, even if the authors make exciting (but unjustified) conclusions.

ashe higgs said...

sorry anonymous, but I have to disagree. While there are some great forward thinking researches who actually USE their clinical research in real world settings (like John Berardi), half the problem with 'waiting for conclusive research' is research is never finished and never conclusive, if for no other reason than it's tough to get another grant once your research on a given subject is 'finished'.

i'd like to make three points;

a)i'm vastly more inclined to look USEFUL for info on health and wellness on than webMD.

if we consider MD's the pinnacle of the medical establishment, the vast majority know squat about how to actually stay healthy, on all fronts; nutrition, exercise and spirituality.

you need to look to the pioneers who are in the trenches and getting real results, with real clients like Paul Check, etc. we need these guys who are willing and able to make an intuitive leap and use this stuff to make a difference in peoples lives.

b) old school pioneer's like Vince Gironda were getting results and knew exactly what the f@%& they were doing when my dad was a baby, WAY before there was mountains of establishment research to support what they were doing, but they had the anecdotal experience that showed them the way.

c) could exercise as a prescription do any harm to someone suffering from dementia? i doubt it, so why not start using it NOW rather than waiting two or three generations when there are people out there today who could benefit from something so simple as a lifestyle change.