It goes without saying that lack of exercise and poor diet is bad for your health, but an animal study suggests that this lifestyle may also promote aging of the cells. Specifically, the study looked at whether a fast-food diet combined with exercise could offset the development of premature senescent cells—cells that have aged to the point where they stop dividing and begin to lose function.
The mice used in the study were divided into four groups: a healthy diet with exercise, a healthy diet with no exercise, a fast-food diet (that is, a diet containing foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, plus sugary drinks) with exercise, and fast-food diet with no exercise.
Unsurprisingly, the mice on the fast-food diet gained an unhealthy amount of weight. Over a four-month period, their fat levels nearly tripled. Also unsurprisingly, health improvements were seen in these mice when they began exercising. They gained less body weight and fat than the fast-food mice that didn’t exercise.
When the mice were examined for senescent cells, it was found that the fast-food-plus-exercise group had lower levels of senescent cells than the ones that didn’t exercise. These senescent cells were primarily found in fat that had built up due to the unhealthy diet. Additionally, most of this added fat accumulated in the midsection of the body and around internal organs. This phenomenon is known to be associated with various obesity-related diseases, and whether these extra senescent cells play a role in the development of those diseases or aging is a subject of future investigation.
The results of animal studies do not necessarily translate into human findings, but are an important first step towards potential human-subject research. That said, the good news is that the mice who exercised didn’t do anything particularly special—they just used an exercise wheel. This suggests that, if similar effects occur in humans, it would not require onerous levels of working out to achieve results. Simply finding ways to improve habitual activity is a good way to help stay healthy, whether it reduces cellular aging or not.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Brazier, Y., “Aging Happens Faster with Poor Diet and No Exercise,” Medical News Today, March 17, 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308046.php, last accessed June 29, 2016.
Schafer, M., et. al., “Exercise Prevents Diet-induced Cellular Senescence in Adipose Tissue,” Diabetes, 2016; doi:10.2337/db15-0291.