Exercise to lose weight and reduce lipotoxicity!

Thanks to reader Cody for finding a study I had come across previously regarding IMCL/IMTG.  Actually the study linked to was an update, but there's a secondary lesson, I believe, to be had from the results.  Since this was a study in older folks, there's a sub-message here:  it's never too late!

We previously reported an “athlete’s paradox” in which endurance-trained athletes, who possess a high oxidative capacity and enhanced insulin sensitivity, also have higher intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) content.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether moderate exercise training would increase IMCL, oxidative capacity of muscle, and insulin sensitivity in previously sedentary overweight to obese, insulin- resistant, older subjects. Twenty-five older (66.4 0.8 yr) obese (BMI 30.3 0.7 kg/m2) men (n 9) and women (n 16) completed a 16-wk moderate but progressive exercise training program.  
Body weight and fat mass modestly but significantly (P 0.01) decreased. Insulin sensitivity, measured using the euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp, was increased (21%, P 0.02), with modest improvements (7%, P 0.04) in aerobic fitness (V˙ O2peak). Histochemical analyses of IMCL (Oil Red O staining), oxidative capacity [succinate dehydrogenase activity (SDH)], glycogen content, capillary density, and fiber type were performed on skeletal muscle biopsies.  Exercise training increased IMCL by 21%. In contrast, diacylglycerol and ceramide, measured by mass spectroscopy, were decreased (n 13; 29% and 24%, respectively, P 0.05) with exercise training.   SDH (19%), glycogen content (15%), capillary density (7%), and the percentage of type I slow oxidative fibers (from 50.8 to 55.7%), all P 0.05, were increased after exercise.
In summary, these results extend the athlete’s paradox by demonstrating that chronic exercise in overweight to obese older adults improves insulin sensitivity in conjunction with favorable alterations in lipid partitioning and an enhanced oxidative capacity within muscle. Therefore, several key deleterious effects of aging and/or obesity on the metabolic profile of skeletal muscle can be reversed with only moderate increases in physical activity.
Here's a link to the preliminary work I believe I was looking for (from the references in the above paper):
Skeletal Muscle Lipid Content and Insulin Resistance: Evidence for a Paradox in Endurance-Trained Athletes

So I've blogged a bit about lipid accumulation in non-adipose tissue, lipotoxicity and insulin resistance.  IMCL seems to correlate with IR, but the "athlete's paradox" is that insulin sensitivity accompanies increases in IMCL in athletes.  Therefore IMCL cannot be "toxic" in and of itself.  In this study we see that exercise decreases diacylglycerol and ceramide levels at the same time as IMCL's increase.  The negative effects of IMCL appear to be correlated to the build-up of metabolites rather than the stored triglycerides themselves and/or the turnover of  IMCL -- it's a secondary storage tank in the obese, but perhaps more like a gas tank for the athlete.  Perhaps ceramide is the sole culprit, insulin sensitivity, oxidative capacity and IMTG all increased by around 20%.  Ceramide and DAG both decreased, but only ceramide decreases correlated with insulin sensitivity improvements.

But ... in reading the originally referenced article, something else jumped out at me.  They took 25, mainly weight stable, obese, older (avg age ~66), sedentary people and, near as I can tell, did not change their diet.  One can presume most of these were eating a SAD before and after.  The participants were simply put on a moderate exercise regime.  The exercise was 45 min cardio (moderate by heart rate and/or perceived exertion), 4-5X/week -- mostly walking or stationary cycling.  You know ... the type of exercise often poo pooed in the low carb community that can only, according to Taubes, make you hungrier and cause you to eat more.  The subjects actually averaged 3.5X/week for the 16 weeks of the study.  

The result?:   In 4 months an average loss of almost 3-3/4 lbs of fat mass.  If continued for a year, this would translate into an average of 11 pounds in a year.  Not too shabby when compared to the weight losses reported by Shai et.al., but more importantly this counters to oft-repeated claim that you can't lose weight by exercise alone.  

And health-wise?  Insulin sensitivity improved >20%  (even as IMCL increased), as ceramide and diacylglycerol decreased.  IOW, whatever the cause of the IR, exercise alone improved this state.  

So exercise CAN improve health independent of diet. 


LeonRover said…
I believe there is an incorrect conflation of Atwater kCalories with CO2 measured exercise, or alternatively, that 1 lb of WAT comprising 3,500 kCals can be "lost" by 70 sessions each of 50 mechanically measured kCals which is what conventional wisdom (CW) suggests. Even Time had an article about it within the current year.

One or two sessions per week of HIIT sprints or resistance training is the type of exercise for oldsters (such as I ) and indeed anyone interested in delaying age-related fatness and or sarcopenia.

It is the hormetic effect of muscle use that is important, not how much is done. Like sex, you know, use it or lose it.

My father was quite active till about his 87th year and only then began to lose muscle, dying 5 years later.
CarbSane said…
Just to clarify: While I feel Atwater's calorie factors for macronutrient -- although averages and not perfect -- hold up pretty well, I am not at all sure that the units translate perfectly to any calculations of caloric expenditure for activity.
Perhaps this is the crux of the argument for many who refute caloric balance. My position is that whatever the caloric expenditure of activity, it must be met by intake. If we fall short we lose fat mass, if we exceed it we gain, and if we mostly meet it we maintain. My experience with tables and formulas for estimating caloric expenditure is that they are so highly individual as to be useless to me. But I know if I'm more active I do burn more calories, and if I sit on my fat ass, I burn less.
Mild to moderate aerobic activity pretty much just impacts the "out" side of the equation directly in terms of energy required to do mechanical work. Now 100 cals to walk a mile doesn't sound like much, but it adds up just the same as little excesses. HIIT, OTOH, impacts both sides of the equation. Anaerobic glycolysis yields fewer ATP's effectively reducing your carb calorie intake. High intensity activity "damages" the muscles more so in addition to the mechanical work there's the energy cost of repairing that damage. So while the calorie expenditure doesn't seem to add up by Atwater's estimates, it's only because there are other factors involved.
Don't know if it has to be an either/or thing with exercise. As to the best type for oldsters? HIIT sounds like one route, but in my neighborhood there are several 80's+ folks to be seen out walking regularly and they're all looking pretty darned sprite to me! Even if the person compensates by eating a bit more (as in this study) they may also be more active the rest of the day. That seems counter-intuitive, but unless I'm exhausting myself, exercise definitely seems to make me more energetic.
Unknown said…
I ate 20carbs at a snack and at 1 hr was way high on the glucometer but I had read this and walked for only 15 minutes on my treadmill and at 2 hr was in good range. Must exercise more!
Anonymous said…
Effects of exercise on appetite dwarf other factors. If someone who is currently sedentary starts a strenuous exercise regimen, this will cause demand for protein to skyrocket. If the diet has a low % of protein, then the only way to meet the skyrocketing protein demand is to eat and eat and eat, which will result in weight gain.

On the other hand, if a person is already in good condition and accustomed to daily exercise and their diet has been adjusted for increased protein demands (if any), then the exercise may very well keep appetite under control. My own anecdotal observation is that sedentary TV-watching couch-potato types have a strong tendency towards mindless eating. The appetite here may initially be more psychological (a way to fill the time) than physiological, though once metabolic syndrome kicks in, the appetite may become physiological as well. Daily exercise can definitely curb the psychological hunger. In doing so, it helps keep metabolic syndrome at bay, which is the cause of uncontrolled physiological hunger.
CarbSane said…
I agree. Mindless eating is a huge component of overall overeating to begin with. Go for a walk, do something, eat less ;-)
Nigel Kinbrum said…
As long as going for a walk doesn't stimulate the appetite to the point that there's pigging-out on return. This was a problem for me.