HEALTHY LIVING
01/08/2014 08:38 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Exercise Benefits Lie In Molecule Called BAIBA, Scientists Find

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You can thank a little molecule called BAIBA for exercise's health benefits.

A new study in the journal Cell Metabolism shows that levels of the molecule BAIBA -- short for beta-aminoisobutyric acid -- increase during exercise, and this particular molecule increases the expression of calorie-burning genes in fat cells. In addition, rising levels of BAIBA during exercise was associated with benefits to triglyceride, fasting blood sugar and total cholesterol levels.

Researchers stumbled upon BAIBA when they were trying to find how exactly a protein called PGC-1∝, which is known to play a role in muscle response to exercise, sends signals to other tissues in the body. They found that when they forced the expression of this protein PGC-1∝, metabolites -- including BAIBA -- were then released from muscle cells.

"Our finding bolsters the underlying notion that signals generated in one organ -- such as exercising muscle -- are released into the circulation and influence other tissues such as fat cells and liver," study researcher Dr. Robert Gerszten, of the Cardiology Division and Cardiovascular Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

Gerszten worked on the study with colleagues from the Karolinska Institutet, Frele Universitat Berlin, Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston University School of Public Health, Vanderbilt University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal.

The study was conducted both in mice and human cells in a lab setting, and the association between BAIBA levels and metabolic traits was studied in 2,067 people who were part of the Framingham Heart Study.

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