50 Cups of Coffee a Day Change Your DNA? (Or Exercising…)

DNAThere is almost no question in anyone’s mind anymore about the benefits which can be derived by exercising. We know it burns calories, reduces the risk or having a stroke and developing heart disease as well as reducing the risk of developing Type II diabetes. What most people don’t know, though, is that exercise can also help change your DNA. Yes, that’s right. What is even more astounding than this is that this process happens after a single 20 minute workout. The changes that occur are unlike those which occur from external stimuli such as toxic air or exposure to other carcinogens. Exercise literally changes your DNA from the inside out.

In a study carried out at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, a team of scientists monitored the muscle changes which occurred because of the body’s adaptation to exercise. They enrolled 14 young women and men into their study and had them exercise on a bike which measured their maximum levels of activity. The difference in this study from others which were similar is that participants were also required to have some of their muscle cells biopsied both before and after participating in the survey.

change-your-dna-with-exercisingWhen comparing the biopsy samples, the scientists discovered that more genes had been turned on after the exercise on the bike. In addition, the DNA of the participants when compared to the control group was able to turn on certain genes. This is usually accomplished by the body placing limits on how much methylation occurs in certain cells. This is the way that your body knows how to engineer a liver, for example, from stem cells that might be programmed to produce a kidney.

The process of methylation also helps cells pump the nutrients they need and the enzymes required while you are working out. Each time you exercise, the more intense your workout is, the more methyl is pumped out. One way this happens is because your muscles adapt to what you are doing. This means, essentially, if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

In order to confirm the way the genes were expressing themselves, the scientists next explored the effect that calcium had on the entire body’s system. Why? Because when people perform intense exercise, the body naturally releases calcium and this triggers the muscles to contract. When the amount of calcium released is blocked the muscles will still contract but not as efficiently or effectively. After the scientists added caffeine to their lab dishes, they were able to restore the contractions. This proved that the caffeine could enhance the way methyl triggered contraction and thus activated the genes that helped the muscles contract.

caffeine-to-change-your-dnaAll that being said, however, the researchers definitely do not recommend that people drink caffeinated drinks instead of exercising. Anyone who wanted to replicate these results simply by drinking caffeine would have to consume a lethal dose of about 50 cups of coffee in one day. What this does mean, though, is that exercise is  form of medicine and that a means of altering your DNA in a way that is beneficial may just be a job or bike ride away.

So even though we all know that a zebra can’t change it’s stripes, we now know that humans can change their own DNA something that was unthinkable just a few years ago.  The key is to just get off the couch and do something — go for a run, walk on the treadmill, climb some stairs. It scarcely even matters just as long as you do it for a minimum of twenty minutes.

The study in Stockholm was confirmed by another study carried out in Great Britain in which study participants were told to attend three classes of either aerobics exercise or spinning per week. The study participants were all healthy young men and women averaging about 24 years of age. Additionally, participants were told NOT to make any changes to either their diet or their normal daily activity levels.

The researchers carefully monitored the methyl groups in the fat cells of the male participants. All cells in the body contain DNA because this is where all the basic genetic information is housed.

exercisingEpigenetics is what the study of changes in gene expression on a cellular level is called. During this study, epigeneticists were able to literally track the changes that normal cells and fat cells underwent after exercise. They were able to detect changes in approximately 7,000 different genes, or about 35% of the participant’s genetic makeup.

They also paid close attention to the genes which are linked to obesity and Type II diabetes and were able to detect changes in those genes as well. Because of this study, scientists were able to make a genetic map of the DNA methylome contained in fat cells.

While the long-lasting effects or normal, regular exercise are not understood fully, these studies conclusively show that there are more benefits to exercising on a regular basis than simply losing weight. This along with lifestyle changes can help people lose weight with much more confidence than they might have had in the past.

Epigenetics better explained in this video below: