Life In The Fast Lane

Many of us watch our diet and exercise regimen and still struggle to keep our weight constant, let alone reduce it. As stress in our lifestyle increases, we can direct less effort in that direction. In the face of expensive possible solutions ranging from surgery, fancy diet pills, and weight loss foods and drinks, it is encouraging to read the BBC report of a more fun solution (1).

 Mice not men are the subjects of the studies by During et al at Ohio State U. First they showed that if their mice had a socially stimulating lifestyle with lots of friends and colleagues and many little challenging things to do, they stimulated the production of the protein BDNF, (Brain-Derived-Neurotrophic Factor), that encourages more neurons to grow  from neural stem cells.

The new and exciting development is that they have demonstrated that BDNF starts the conversion process of the white fat plumping up our experimental subjects into brown, energy producing fat.

The big experiment was then embarked on. Mice who had been in a dull restricted environment and had become very plump couch potatoes were introduced to the social milieu with lots of environmental complexity to make life fun and challenging, that is, good stress not bad stress. They were given amazing mazes, wooden toys, little huts to do whatever mice do in the dark as well as running wheels and the like.

The result? In a month the mice had lost half of their surplus white fat and were now svelte little socialites. Even their body temperatures had risen due to all that fat burning. Life in the fast lane had done the trick.

The same should be true for us. A busy, fun social life with lots of fun physical challenges is something to be put on the agenda, or at least at the top of the list for next year’s resolutions.

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