Physical activity is related to changes in the structure of the DNA without modifying the sequence of letters of the genes, their primary structure, so that it impacts on how the genetic information is expressed, according to a study led by researchers from the Hospital del Mar Institute of Medical Research (IMIM).
The study, published in the journal ‘Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise’, highlights that performing activity moderately-vigorously, that is, walking daily quickly or practicing a sport for at least 30 minutes, maximizes benefits to health.
The exercise of these characteristics acts on one of the key elements in triglyceride metabolism, which, in high concentrations, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and these DNA changes influence how our genes are read and their level of expression .
The IMIM Group, the CIBERCV, CIBERESP, CIBERONC, the Josep Carreras Research Institute and the UViC-UCC School of Medicine have collaborated in the work.
The coordinator of the IMIM research group and the last signatory of the work, Roberto Elosua, says: “We know that lifestyle has an impact on how the information contained in our genes is expressed, and we wonder if physical activity would be related to some change in one of these biological mechanisms: DNA methylation. “
DNA methylation is a chemical change in the DNA molecule, without altering the sequence of letters, which determines the level of gene expression, its ability to generate or not generate proteins.
The level of DNA methylation has been related to different diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and obesity, among others.
“In the analyzes we have observed that the people who practice more physical activity of moderate-vigorous intensity, have lower levels of methylation in two DNA sites,” explains researcher Alba Fernandez Sanles, one of the main authors of the study.
In fact, this type of activity is the one that is recommended to the general population to promote a good state of health and it is from which a greater benefit is obtained, according to the study.
Alba Fernandez Sanles points out that “one of the genes that we find with changes in their methylation marks is related to triglyceride metabolism. It is already known that physical activity decreases their levels, so our data suggest that the methylation of this DNA site could be a mediating mechanism of the effect of physical activity on them. ”
Researchers have analyzed data from two western populations, the Catalan Regicor (Register Gironi del COR) and the American Framinghan (Framingham Offspring Study).
In total, they have been able to work with the physical activity data of 2,544 people between 35 and 74 years old, based on questionnaires validated by the international scientific community.
DNA methylation was studied from blood samples from volunteers, and more than 400,000 marks distributed throughout the DNA in each of these people were analyzed.
“In previous studies we also observed that tobacco use modifies DNA methylation levels,” says Elosua, who highlights the importance of promoting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates the practice of physical activity for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
This project is funded by grants from the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Carlos III Health Institute.