The health benefits of exercise on blood sugar metabolism may be dependent on cellular degradation (autophagy).
Autophagy occurs when cells respond to starvation and other stresses on the body by degrading damaged or unneeded parts of itself to produce energy, University of Texas Southwester Medical researchers reported.
The process is often referred to as the cell's housekeeping pathway and Dr Beth Levine, senior author of the study, speculated that it may have some relationship to the dynamic between exercise and health benefits.
Dr Levine focused on the ability of exercise to prevent blood sugar abnormalities in the face of a high-fat diet and generated the first evidence that exercise stimulates autophagy.
The researchers found that mice genetically unable to increase autophagy in response to short-term exercise have decreased endurance and fail to experience the normal benefits of exercise on blood sugar metabolism.
"Our finding that exercise fails to improve glucose metabolism in autophagy-deficient mice strongly suggests that autophagy is an important mechanism by which exercise protects against diabetes," said Dr. Levine.
What's more, the discovery raises the possibility that autopraphy may contribute to other health benefits of exercise, such as protecting against neurodegenerative diseases and aging, she explained.
In 2003, a study found that autophagy is also active in tumour suppression and is absent in 40 to 75 per cent of cases of human breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
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