Science 3 min read

Liver Enzyme Triggers the Same Brain Benefits as Regular Exercise

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A team of researchers at UC San Francisco has identified a liver enzyme that can produce the same neurological benefits as weeks of regular exercise.

Exercise is a great way to feel better, have more energy, and add more years. It’s one of the most powerful ways to protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline.

A few years ago, scientists found that brain function doesn’t have to decline as we age. While we might have an old brain, a specific intervention can help rejuvenate brain function over time.

An example of such an intervention is exercise.

Studies suggest that regular exercise improves cognition in older individuals at risk of neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia. Unfortunately, older adults are frail.

Many older adults have physical limitations or some disability, and regular exercise is not viable. As a result, they can’t reap the neurological rewards that come with working out every day.

This raises a question. Can we actually transfer the benefits of exercise without actually having to do the physical component itself?

As it turns out, we can!

Researchers have identified a little-studied protein that the liver produces after we complete an exercise. What’s more, they linked the protein to improved cognition and new neuron production.

The scientists from UC San Francisco described the enzyme in a published paper in Science.

A Liver Protein that Provides the Neurological Benefits of Exercise

The scientists discovered that when mice exercise, their liver secrets a protein called Gpld1 into the body.

They also noted that increasing the enzyme’s production led to improved cognitive function in aged mice. Nerves grew in parts of the animals’ brains, and they performed better on mental tasks in a maze.

As you may have guessed, the enzyme is also elevated in the blood of elderly humans who exercise regularly. Even better, merely increasing the amount of Gpld1 produced could confer the benefit of exercise.

In a statement about the project, senior author of the study, Saul Villeda said:

“If there were a drug that produced the same brain benefits as exercise, everyone would be taking it. Now our study suggests that at least some of these benefits might one day be available in pill form.”

With that said, several questions remain unanswered.

For one, the study suggests that Gpld1 doesn’t seem to cross the blood-brain barrier. That means, it must be activating other unknown pathways to exert any neurological effect on the brain.

Further research is required to understand the mechanism and produce a pill that provides the neurological benefit of exercise. The goal is to help the frail elderly maintain optimal brain health.

Read More: Researchers Introduce a New Way to Monitor Gym Exercises

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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