We all know that too much food combined with too little exercise can add up to poor health and disease. But overeating and inactivity also speed up the aging process, right down to our cells. At the end of a cell’s lifespan, a process called senescence kicks in — cells lose the ability to divide and begin to secrete substances that damage the surrounding cells. While unhealthy lifestyle habits can accelerate this process, researchers at the Mayo Clinic wanted to know if increased exercise could counteract it. Thomas A. White presented their findings in a poster session on Monday, April 28, at the Experimental Biology meeting.
The research team compared mice fed a fast food diet (FFD) for 5 months with those fed a standard chow diet (control). Unlike the controls, the mice fed the fast food diet developed insulin sensitivity, impaired glucose tolerance, impaired exercise ability, and heart dysfunction. But when the same mice ran on a running wheel the exercise began to counteract the effects of their poor diet. White and his team observed a number of improvements, including body weight, metabolism and cardiac function. They also saw a significant decrease in signs of cell senescence and associated inflammation.
Their results suggest that lifestyle choices do play a major role in cell aging and that exercise may help protect against aging by interfering with cell senescence.
“Our data clearly show that poor nutritional choices dramatically accelerate the accumulation of senescent cells, and for the first time, that exercise can prevent or delay this fundamental process of aging. Despite the need to better understand the role of cellular senescence in aging and disease, our data underscore the profound impact of lifestyle choices on health and successful aging,” the authors say.
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “Road to fountain of youth paved with fast food … and sneakers? Exercise may prevent or delay fundamental process of aging.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2014