A study from the University of Illinois has found that moderate amounts of exercise alone were able to reduce inflammation in belly fat that is associated with metabolic syndrome, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
More than other areas of fat on the body, belly fat is particularly dangerous because of the inflammatory molecules it produces and releases into the bloodstream. Fat tissue produces and secretes C-reactive proteins (CRP), elevated levels of which indicate an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Even without any change in diet, the benefits of exercise were apparent in the study. There was less inflammation in the belly fat, less fat in the liver, and improvements in insulin sensitivity.
The study, conducted by six University of Illinois researchers, evaluated the effect diet and exercise had on the level of inflammation in the visceral fat tissue of mice.
The mice were first fed a high-fat diet in order to induce obesity. Then, after six weeks, the mice were assigned to one of four groups for either six or 12 weeks so the researchers could compare both long-term and short-term results. Mice were either in a sedentary group, a low-fat diet group, an exercise group, or one that combined exercise with a low-fat diet.
Researcher Vicki Vieira, lead author of the study, said, "The surprise was that the combination of diet and exercise didn't yield dramatically different and better results than diet or exercise alone. Unexpectedly, the only significant increase from 6 to 12 weeks in belly fat-the type of fat that triggers these inflammatory diseases-was in the mice who were sedentary, which suggests that exercise is an effective behavioural approach to reduce the accumulation of visceral fat even when fat in the diet is high."
Professor Jeffrey Woods of the University of Illinois Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Integrative Immunology and Behaviour Program, finds this to be a promising discovery. "The benefits of exercise were apparent even if the animals were still eating a high-fat diet. That tells me that exercise could decrease or prevent these life-threatening diseases by reducing inflammation even when obesity is still present."
"The good news is that this was a very modest exercise program. The mice ran on a treadmill only about one-fourth of a mile five days a week. For humans, that would probably translate into walking 30 to 45 minutes a day five days a week," Woods said.
This is very promising news for those who have a difficult time dieting, since by exercising moderately they can still reduce the likelihood of developing obesity-related inflammatory diseases.