Coral Sanfeliu, aging researcher: “Sitting for eight hours a day affects brain connections” | Health and wellness

Coral Sanfeliu (Sabadell, 69) heads the Neurodegeneration and Aging Group at the Barcelona Institute of Biomedical Research, CSIC. During his career, he has focused on studying what happens to the brain as we age and how exercise can protect it from deterioration over time. Sanfeliu just posted Brain in motion together with José Luis Trejo, director of the Lifestyle and Cognition Group of the Cajal Institute in Madrid. In just one hundred pages, two researchers offer major clues to how exercise can be a tool for healthy aging at the brain level.

Ask. One of the terms they bring up in the book is the benefits of hormesis, which is that small amounts of damage done to the body by exercise have long-term benefits. But the harm can also be excessive. What is the right dose of exercise?

Reply. Of course, if the damage is very severe, such hormesis will not occur. The term can also be applied to other issues, such as resisting distress or trauma, through which you then create a defense against that stress. But if the stress is excessive, the damage will be much greater than the possible benefit.

When it comes to exercise and its effects on the brain, there are studies done on humans, but most of them are on mice. We’ve seen, for example, that there are epigenetic changes, which are like tags placed on genes that cause genes to be activated against inflammation or oxidative stress. So, for these reasons, you may have a trauma and you are ready to overcome it because certain networks in the brain are strengthened or new networks are generated. The point is not that the damage will be avoided, but that it will be better dealt with when it happens. This is resistance, in this case caused by a hormetic response.

TO. Many people start exercising after years of inactivity and don’t start with something easy, but rather train for half marathons or running. crossfit. This is good?

R. Depends on. Science is not black and white. Sport is good, it has many advantages, but it must be progressive. The level of hormesis increasingly improves and the threshold at which exercise can be harmful rises. As for the effect on the brain, this does not mean that athletes are smarter than others. If you exercise a lot, you will not become smarter, although your brain reactions will be optimized. However, if you train very hard, if you run marathons, you need to monitor your heart rate, vital signs and tests. But from a brain perspective, strenuous exercise won’t do you any good.

TO. Will the benefits be the same if you start at any age or is it necessary to start early?

R. We should not think that exercise improves our health, but that if we don’t do it, our health will deteriorate. Children need to move, their brains are developing, they need to interact with their environment, and sports are important in this learning. If they don’t like one thing, they have to look for another or go somewhere to dance, but they have to move so that their brain matures well. And for seniors, any time is a good time to start.

TO. Is it possible to reverse cognitive decline if you start exercising at a very old age?

R. What has been damaged for so many years will never be restored. We will not be cured by exercise if there is neuronal death or significant loss of connections. But during normal aging, when there is no death of neurons or additional pathologies, it will protect. If we talk about the pre-Alzheimer’s state or pre-dementia, then although there are studies that have shown that something can be reversed, it is very difficult. Neither exercise nor diet will cure dementia, although its progression may be slowed somewhat.

TO. What should be the minimum activity to make a profit?

R. Everything adds up, but it must be an activity with a certain intensity. If we walk to work, it can’t be a walk looking into store windows, we have to walk as if we missed the bus. And this should be for at least 10 minutes straight, so that there is time for the heart rate to speed up, the factors to be released and everything to be activated. And you’ll have to make the weekly minimum. One of the recommendations is the 150 minutes recommended by WHO.

Coral Sanfeliu, CSIC researcher and author of The Brain in MotionGianluca Battista

TO. There is also talk about the harm caused by sitting for too long, which in our society is necessary in many professions.

R. Sitting for eight hours a day is harmful and affects brain connections and neurotransmitters. It’s true that sitting in front of a computer is not the same as sitting in front of a TV, which is even worse. When we spend eight hours sitting, we need an hour of activity to compensate. Sedentary lifestyles have increased with the pandemic and there are fears that dementia will increase not only due to the long-term damage the disease can cause, but also due to inactivity. In addition to increasing problems such as depression or anxiety.

TO. The book says that the exercises benefit not only those who practice them, but also their descendants.

R. This has been studied by authors such as José Luis Trejo, co-author of the book, who saw that mice that exercised mated with females that did not exercise produced offspring that, even if they did not exercise, had mitochondria with better functionality. and more changes in beneficial brain cells than in the offspring of parents who did not exercise. As a mechanism, it has been noted that there is an epigenetic factor called a microRNA that is passed on by sperm and reaches the embryo, although it is likely that there are other ways in which this intergenerational transmission occurs.

TO. Does it make sense to consider developing pharmacological treatments to replace the effects of exercise on the brain for people who are unable or unwilling to exercise?

R. Yes, that makes sense. If we can identify the mechanisms by which exercise activates antioxidant genes or protects against inflammation, or releases factors that benefit neurons or neurotransmitters, we can look for treatments that activate those pathways that lead from the gene to the production of a beneficial protein. Sirtuin, for example, is a protein that reduces oxidative stress in cells, and its production is activated during exercise. It is a survival and longevity enzyme, and we are studying substances that activate the gene that produces it: an example is resveratrol, which is found in grapes. Other options aim to control inflammation, which worsens with age and has negative effects on the brain.

You can follow EL PAIS Health and Wellness V Facebook, X And instagram.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button