If your New Year’s resolution included exercise, here’s another reason to keep it up:
A hormone produced by exercise may slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and delay the onset of dementia, according to new research published this week in the journal Nature Medicine.
We’ve known for a long time how important exercise is for the brain.
But now, the actual biological mechanism that may explain the link between exercise and a healthy aging brain was found by Brazilian researchers.
During exercise, the hormone called irisin is released from muscle tissue into a person’s circulation.
It’s effect on fighting fat as been known for several years.
It’s even been called a “fat-fighting phenomenon” because it both burns fat and prevents fat cells from forming.
The latest good news about the exercise hormone comes from research done on mice.
The team at the University of Rio de Janeiro used mice that had been genetically engineered to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s.
They suppressed the gene in the mice that is responsible for producing irisin.
Without irisin, the mice began losing memory and the ability to learn.
When the gene was restored, the effects of irisin deprivation were reversed.
The researchers also found that irisin was present at lower levels in the brains of humans with Alzheimer’s disease, compared with healthy control subjects.
Even in healthy people, the amount of irisin circulating in the body does decrease naturally with age.
Experts caution that positive results in animals don’t always translate to humans but there’s no question that exercise is hugely beneficial to both body and brain.
And for those who are unable to exercise because of health conditions, there’s hope that new drugs might be able to provide a way for irisin to protect the brain.