WEIGHT TRAIN TO BURN MORE FAT!
As the world struggles with everexpanding waistlines, the remedy suggested by friends and health gurus is usually a healthier diet and more aerobic exercise. But wait, before you step out for your next power walk have a read of the research by a team of Boston University scientists suggests that lifting weights may be just as important as the Stairmaster when it come to losing weight and improving health.
In experiments with genetically engineered mice, Kenneth Walsh, a School of Medicine professor of medicine, and fellow researchers have demonstrated that so-called type II muscle, the tissue created by resistance training, improves the body’s overall metabolism through chemical signals that promote fatburning by other tissues, such as the liver. Their findings appear in this month’s issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
“These muscle fibers have been understudied and their metabolic effects have been underappreciated,” says Walsh, whose lab at MED’s Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute focuses on how metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes negatively impact heart health. “People thought these tissues were important for picking up heavy things and not much else.”
Walsh and his team genetically altered mice so that the Akt1 gene, which regulates the growth of type II muscle fibers, was turned off. For several weeks, the researchers fed the mice a high-fat, high-sugar diet, the rodent equivalent of fast food. The result, says Nathan LeBrasseur, a MED assistant professor of endocrinology: “Everybody got fat.” Really fat. The mice became obese and insulinresistant. Fatty acid deposits formed around their livers, a condition known as hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver disease.
But then the researchers turned on the Akt1 gene in one group of mice they dubbed MyoMice. The results “were quite striking,” says LeBrasseur. Over the course of two weeks, body fat of the mice whose type II muscle fibers were allowed to grow melted away. Fat also disappeared from their livers. The MyoMice grew physically stronger and blood tests revealed that they had again become metabolically normal. Plus, all this happened without any increase in physical activity.
Walsh speculates that the ease with which researchers can prompt rodents to do aerobic exercise may have contributed to the research neglect of type II muscle fibers. “The thing is, if you put a little wheel in a cage, the mouse will run several kilometers every night,” he says. “But I challenge you to get a mouse to lift weights.” Fortunately, humans may be easier to convince. Walsh and his team say their findings indicate that people should consider adding resistance training to their exercise programs.
They’re hoping their next study will help identify the novel proteins, known as myokines, that the type II muscle fibers are using to communicate with other tissues involved in metabolism.