A recent US study has shown that the blood of fitter people contains an elevated percentage of fat-burning molecules after exercise, compared to that of their less fit counterparts.

The researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center said that in addition to increasing athletic performance, a better understanding of these fat-burning ‘metabolites’ could help prevent or treat chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type II diabetes by correcting metabolite deficiencies.

Senior study author Dr Robert Gerszten, director of clinical and translational research at the MGH Heart Center, said, ‘Every metabolic activity in the body results in the product of [fat-burning] metabolites. A blood sample contains hundreds of these metabolites and can provide a snapshot of any individual’s health status.’

The study used a ‘mass spectrometry’ technique developed by the MGH Heart Center in collaboration with MIT and Harvard, which enabled researchers to analyse blood samples in great detail and develop a ‘chemical snapshot’ of the metabolic effects of exercise.

For the study, blood samples were taken from healthy study subjects prior to, immediately following and after a 10-minute exercise stress test. The blood levels of 200 different metabolites, which are released into the blood in tiny quantities, were then measured.

After 10 minutes of running on a treadmill, study subjects with relatively higher fitness levels exhibited a 98 per cent increase in the breakdown of stored fat, sugar, and amino acids. The less fit participants had only a 48 per cent increase.

Gerszten said that people’s ability to burn fat more efficiently was probably down to a combination of training and genetics.

Commenting on the study, Emmanuel Skordalakes, an assistant professor in the Gene Expression and Regulation Program at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, said that the study helped to provide, ‘emerging evidence that begins to explain some of the biological processes and pathways that are regulated during exercise and which have a beneficial effect for us’. However, as Skordolakes noted, ‘We can’t just make these metabolites and gobble them down. It’s not as simple as that. These are very complex pathways and that has to be done very carefully.’

Source: Science Translational Medicine