Dutch researchers find another link between exercise and reversing the effects of aging

New study shows that exercise decreases levels of a specific fat that accumulates in our tissues as we age.

Researchers from Amsterdam UMC and Maastricht UMC+ have made a new discovery regarding the potential reversal of tissue aging through exercise. Published in Nature Aging, the researchers found that a specific type of fat, bis(monoacylglycero)phosphate (BMP), accumulates in our tissues as we age but can be diminished through moderate-to-vigorous exercise.

The investigation, conducted on both mice and human subjects, aimed to understand the role of complex lipids in aging. By analyzing ten different tissues in aging mice, including muscles, kidneys, liver and heart, researchers found a widespread accumulation of BMP compared to other lipids. The lipid signature was similarly observed in muscle tissue samples from older humans, indicating a conserved mechanism of lipid accumulation during aging across species.

The study’s translational aspect involved assessing the impact of exercise on BMP levels in human participants. Postmenopausal women who engaged in a healthy-aging intervention, including daily exercise, showed a decrease in BMP levels in their muscle tissue. This suggests that exercise may have a modulatory effect on the lipid composition associated with aging.

“Everyone says that ‘it’s just part of getting older,’ but this doesn’t actually have to be true,” said Georges Janssens, first author of the paper and assistant professor at Amsterdam UMC. “By understanding more about the aging process, we can also look into new ways of intervening.”

This research highlights the role that complex lipid biology may play in aging processes. By identifying BMP accumulation as a potential hallmark of aging that is responsive to exercise intervention, the study paves the way for potential strategies to mitigate age-related tissue changes.

“The idea that we could reverse aging is something that was long considered science fiction, but these findings do allow us to understand a lot more about the aging process,” said Riekelt Houtkooper, a professor in the Genetic Metabolic Diseases lab at Amsterdam UMC. “These results are an important new step for our understanding of the aging process, but they are certainly not the final answer.”

The researchers now plan to conduct follow-up studies to better understand how BMPs contribute to aging, the consequences of BMP accumulation on the aging process, and whether there are the other ways to affect BMPs levels beyond exercise.