Worried about eating too much over the holidays? Exercise may protect against the inflammation that can come with overindulging for a week, a very small new study suggests.
In the study, researchers looked at four lean, active adults in their
early 20s who consumed 30 percent more calories than usual for one week.
The participants were instructed to eat normally, with the extra
calories coming from Boost shakes. All participants exercised aerobically for at least 150 minutes over the course of the week.
After the week was up, the researchers measured the participants' "glucose tolerance,"
which is a test of how well the body can use and break down the sugar
glucose. Previous studies have shown that even one week of overeating
can impair people's glucose tolerance.However, none of the adults in the
study developed impaired glucose tolerance.
The researchers also collected fat samples from the participants' bellies, in what Alison C. Ludzki, a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan and the first author on the paper, likened to a "mini liposuction."
The samples showed that the study
participants did not have increases in important markers of fat tissue
inflammation, which otherwise would have been expected in people who
consumed 30 percent extra calories for a week, the researchers said.
This finding also indicates that exercise may protect against the inflammatory effects of short-term overeating, the researchers wrote in a preliminary write-up of their results.
The researchers hope to collect more data, in a larger number of
participants, and also to compare these results against those of
participants who overeat but do not exercise, in order to measure the
strength of these effects, Ludzki said.
Inflammation is an immune reaction that can be triggered by a variety of factors, including excess eating,
Ludzki told Live Science. In people who overeat, inflammation coincides
with both weight gain and insulin resistance (a reduced sensitivity to
insulin, the hormone that keeps blood sugar in check), but scientists
aren't yet sure whether it causes insulin resistance
and problems with metabolism or if it's merely associated with them and
some other factor is at play. But in people with obesity, inflammation
becomes a "sort of chronic immune response" in fat tissue, Ludzki said.
The results are still preliminary; so far, the lab has been able to
test only four active adults, though the scientists have plans to
perform additional testing on more participants, Ludzki said. She also
noted that the study relied on self-reporting; the researchers provided
the calorie supplement drink Boost to the participants, and they used a
popular diet-tracking app to monitor their caloric intake.
Ludzki said it also would be beneficial to look at the effects of
overeating over longer periods of time, such as two or four weeks, to
see if the association between exercise and protection against
inflammation held steady. Future research could also investigate the
effects of gender, the types of exercise that people do (aerobic versus
anaerobic) and different food types on the results.
"It's important to know that it's still preliminary," Ludzki said of
their results. She told Live Science that the lab was mainly trying to
determine whether they would see results in a very short-term overeating
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