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Molecule Behind Benefits of Exercise Discovered

Update Date: Jan 07, 2014 07:00 PM EST

Scientists have discovered the molecule behind the benefits of exercise. It's no secret that exercise can help improve health and lengthen lifespan. However, the bodily changes that help promote these benefits are less clear.

New research shows that a molecule that is produced during exercise may produce the beneficial effects of exercise on metabolism.

"Our finding bolsters the underlying notion that signals generated in one organ-such as exercising muscle-are released into the circulation and influence other tissues such as fat cells and liver," senior author Dr. Robert Gerszten, of the Cardiology Division and Cardiovascular Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, said in a news release.

Previous studies found that a protein called PGC-1∝ regulates metabolic genes in muscle, but how the PGC-1∝-mediated response to exercise in muscle transfers signals to other tissues is unclear.

After conducting experiments on cells and mice, researchers identified β-aminoisobutyric acid (BAIBA) as one such metabolite and found that it increased fat cells' expression of genes that are involved with burning calories. It also reduced weight gain and helped balance blood sugar levels in mice.

Gerszten said the latest study suggests that BAIBA may contribute to exercise-induced protection from metabolic diseases like diabetes.

"Manipulating BAIBA-or the enzymes that generate BAIBA-may have therapeutic potential," concluded Gerszten. "Burning fat is likely to impact multiple aspects of metabolic health related to diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions."

The findings are published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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