New research from the University of California Riverside has found that exercise and a healthy diet in childhood leads to adults with bigger brains and lower levels of anxiety,
This research is the first of its kind where it is based on examining the long-lasting, combined effects of both factors when they are experienced early in life. UCR physiology doctoral student Marcell Cadney said that they wanted to include both diet and exercise in their study, as many studies rarely do this.
They found that early life exercise and proper healthy food intake reduced anxious behaviours in adults. The team divided the young mice into four groups — those with access to exercise, those without access, those fed a standard, healthy diet, and those who ate a Western diet (high in fat and sugar).
The mice started their diets immediately after weaning and continued for 3 weeks until they reached sexual maturity. After an additional eight weeks of “washout,” during which they housed all the mice without wheels and on a healthy diet, the researchers did behavioural analysis, measured aerobic capacity, and levels of several hormones.
Early life exercise increased adult leptin (It helps control body weight by increasing energy expenditure and signalling that less food is required) levels and fat mass in adult mice, regardless of the diet they ate.
The team plans to investigate whether fat or sugar is more responsible for the negative effects they measured in Western-diet-fed mice. Previous research shows eating too much fat and sugar as a child can alter the microbiome for life, even if they later eat healthier.
Both studies offer critical opportunities for health interventions in childhood habits.
Marcell D. Cadney, Layla Hiramatsu, Zoe Thompson, Meng Zhao, Jarren C. Kay, Jennifer M. Singleton, Ralph Lacerda de Albuquerque, Margaret P. Schmill, Wendy Saltzman, Theodore Garland. Effects of early-life exposure to Western diet and voluntary exercise on adult activity levels, exercise physiology, and associated traits in selectively bred High Runner mice. Physiology & Behavior, 2021; 234: 113389 DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113389