Last week marked the beginning of the “Great Gluttony Season”, starting with Thanksgiving, followed by numerous festive events that generally involved lots of guzzling and glugging and not a huge amount of strenuous activity.
To be followed by a New Year filled with scale-sorrow.
Well good news from the scientists at the University of Bath in England which was published online in The Journal of Physiology just in time to bring a little seasonal good cheer. The experiment involved 26 healthy young men. All exercised regularly. None were obese. Baseline health assessments, including biopsies of fat tissue, confirmed that each had normal metabolisms and blood sugar control, with no symptoms of incipient diabetes.
The researchers wanted to see what would happen when these intrepid volunteers increased their energy surplus whilst reducing their energy consumption.
In layman’s terms what would happen if like the rest of us over the holidays they lolloped on the sofa and stuffed themselves into a stupor!
Group 1; increased food intake by 50% whilst reducing daily moment to fewer than 4000 steps per day.
Group 2; increased food intake by 50% whilst reducing daily moment to fewer than 4000 steps per day. However they also ran moderately fast for 45 minutes each day on a treadmill. To balance energy in vs. energy out, this group ate an additional 25% more calories than group 1.
Over all, the two groups’ net daily energy surplus was the same so in theory the results should be the same.
However results were surprising after just 1 week group who had not exercised showed an unhealthy decline in their blood sugar control.
In fact when their fat cells were examined using sophisticated genetic testing techniques it was found that they were now over expressing various genes that may contribute to unhealthy metabolic changes and under expressing other genes potentially important for a well-functioning metabolism.
Group 2 who had also over indulged but had exercised once a day fared remarkably better. Their blood sugar control remained healthy, and their fat cells showed far fewer of the undesirable alterations in gene expression than among the sedentary group 1.
“Exercise seemed to completely cancel out many of the changes induced by overfeeding and reduced activity,” said Dylan Thompson, a professor of health sciences at the University of Bath and senior author of the study, leaving the exercise group “better off than the non-exercise group,” despite engaging in equivalently unhealthy behavior.
The study’s practical message that “if you are facing a period of over consumption and inactivity, a daily bout of exercise will prevent many of the negative changes, at least in the short term,” Dr. Thompson said.
So instead of starting 2014 filled with revelers-regret make time to go for a post-prandial stroll each day, besides you could do with a break from your nearest and dearest (and they you!).