Regular physical activity has several health benefits, including slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease by changing the way the brain stores iron, says the study published Aug. 13 in the scientific journal International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
As the medical news website Medical News Today explains, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and causes degeneration of parts of the brain responsible for thinking, memory and language.
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Most of the time, the disease is associated with age and genetic factors, but lifestyle, such as a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet, play important roles.
However, exactly how physical activity protects the brain from the effects of Alzheimer’s was not yet known, the website says. One clue is that both the natural aging process and dementia are associated with changes in the way the brain handles iron.
The accumulation of the nutrient in the brain and changes in its metabolism lead to the formation of plaques of a toxic protein called beta-amyloid, which characterizes dementia.
Regular exercise can improve iron metabolism and prevent the accumulation of this protein in the brain, explains Medical News Today.
understanding the study
In the recently published research, scientists compared mice genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s with common or “wild” guinea pigs.
Half of the rats had free access to an exercise wheel in their cages, while the others led more sedentary lives.
After six months, the researchers measured the levels of iron and proteins essential for its metabolism in the brain and muscles of the guinea pigs.
According to Medical News Today, the study found that exercising regularly alters the metabolism and transport of iron in the brain and increases its availability in muscles.
The practice of physical activity caused the mice to have reduced levels of proteins that promote the storage of iron in the brain. Thus, there was a reduction in the amount of beta-amyloid in the brain of rats that were predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s.
Of course, further studies are needed to understand whether the effect of exercise on iron metabolism in the brain is also valid in humans.
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