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How exercise alters DNA uncovered

By Kathleen Blanchard     Aug 1, 2013 in Health
We know exercise is good for weight loss, but now researchers know even more about how it alters DNA to stave off obesity by changing the way we store fat.
A study finding published in the journal PLoS Genetics earlier this month was the first to show exercise alters DNA methylation related to fat storage. But there is more to the story about how lifestyle choices can change our genes to help stave off and even reverse disease.
The finding adds to a growing body of knowledge about epigenetics that show though we can't change our DNA we can change the way our genes are expressed to fight disease.
Dr. Dean Ornish, author of "Reversing Heart Disease" pioneered studies showing changes in diet and lifestyle are powerful tools for staving off and even reversing disease because of the way those choices affect our DNA.
DNA methylation is what switches our genes on and off. When DNA is methylated our genes are switched off, meaning they are no longer in control. The result is that we become more vulnerable to disease from transcription factors that can turn normal cells into cancer as an example.
Researchers at Lund University Diabetes Centre who conducted the study enrolled overweight men that were previously sedentary in an exercise program that the men ended up attending 1.8 times a week. The plan was attendance three Latimes a week however.
The men's average age was 35 and all were healthy. The study is the first to map DNA methylation and fat storage related to exercise.
The researchers analyzed 480,000 of the men's genomes after a period of six-months of spinning and aerobics classes.
The finding revealed changes in 7,000 of the men's genes that also affect risk of type-2 diabetes in addition to obesity.
The men were able to shed pounds, reduce their waist circumference and lower their cholesterol profiles.
Genes showing the greatest changes in methylation were those that affect fat storage and risk of obesity and diabetes.
Last year a study published in the journal Nature also revealed a single session of cycling altered gene expression in ways that can affect metabolism.
Tina Rönn, Associate Researcher at Lund said in a press release earlier this month that "... altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease."
Mapping DNA methylation in fat cells has never before been studied, Rönn explained.
We are learning more about how our behaviors directly affect our gene to lead to better health.
Now we are learning that exercise especially, even a single bout, alters our genes in ways that can help prevent disease through DNA demethylation. Diet, the way we think and the way we perceive our environment are also powerful tools that can alter our DNA to help us live longer and healthier lives.
More about Exercise, DNA methylation, Dna, Studies, Epigenetics