How it Work

Exercise may not be as much a cause of lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, etc., as has been thought. It’s long been known, based on experimentation and observation, that exercise reduces risk of heart disease and diabetes. Researchers at U. Michigan took a founding population of rats and bred them selectively in two groups, one for high aerobic capacity, one for low. At the 11th generation, they found that the low-aerobic-capacity rats had more markers for cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and more abdominal fat – on the same diet and exercise program as the high-capacity rats.
This confirms the common-sense observation that some rats – and people – have more athletic talent than others. However, it also raises the question of what causes what – specifically, do people genetically predisposed to aerobic fitness, and by implication to have lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, also spontaneously exercise more? Instead of exercise causing reduced risk of heart disease, the genes that cause reduced risk also cause exercise? We humans are biased to think dichotomously – either a causes b or b causes a. In this case, it looks like each causes the other. Original research in Science (21 Jan issue). (1/26)

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