Blood protein levels may predict exercise requirements

May 28, 2021
Blood protein levels may predict exercise requirements

Profiles of certain proteins in the blood can affect the way the human body responds to physical activity, said scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, Massachusetts. The results could help guide personalised exercise regimes and identify new therapeutic targets for diseases related to metabolism.

The study involved 650 sedentary adults, who undertook a 20-week endurance exercise program; the levels of around 5,000 proteins in the blood of the subjects were measured both before and after they completed the programme.

“There is a growing body of evidence showing that exercise stimulates the secretion of chemicals into circulation that can impart their effects on distant organs” added Dr. Jeremy Robbins of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at BIDMC. For example, some may experience improved endurance while others will see improved blood sugar levels, but, to date no aspects of an individual’s baseline clinical profile allows scientists to predict beforehand who is most likely to derive a significant cardiorespiratory fitness benefit from exercise training.

The BIDMC scientists however, successfully identified a set of 147 proteins that could indicate a person’s VO2max, a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness, even before the exercise programme began; and then a set of 102 proteins that could indicate the change in VO2max after it had been completed. Some of these proteins were also found to be linked to a higher risk of early death, highlighting a connection between cardiorespiratory fitness and long-term health.

“We identified proteins that emanate from bone, muscle, and blood vessels that are strongly related to cardiorespiratory fitness and had never been previously associated with exercise training responses,” said Dr. Robbins.

Based on the results, the scientists developed what they call a protein score, which could be used to predict how much a person’s VO2max would change as a result of the exercise. Baseline levels of certain proteins were able to predict who would respond to the exercise with more reliability than established patient factors, according to the scientists, and also predicted which subjects would be unable to significantly improve their VO2max even after a sharp uptake in physical activity.

The scientists are currently working to refine this process and improve its reliability by carrying out further research on larger populations.

“We now have a detailed list of new blood compounds that further inform our understanding of the biology of fitness and exercise adaptation, and predict individual responses to a given exercise regimen,” said Dr. Robert Gerszten, Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at BIDMC. “While no pill is ever likely to recapitulate the diversity of benefits from exercise, our study has helped create a roadmap to further explore potential interventions and provides an important step in individualising exercise as a therapy.”

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