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Mol Biosyst. 2012 Apr;8(4):1187-96. doi: 10.1039/c2mb05428k. Epub 2012 Jan 27.

Physical fitness level is reflected by alterations in the human plasma metabolome.

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Computational Life Science Cluster, Department of Chemistry, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden.


An excessive energy intake combined with a low level of physical activity induces detrimental processes involved in disease development, e.g. type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However the underlying mechanisms for regulation of metabolic capacity and fitness status remain unclear. Metabolomics involves global studies of the metabolic reactions in an organism or cell. Thus hypotheses regarding biochemical events can be generated to increase the understanding of disease development and thereby aid in the development of novel treatments or preventions. We present the first standardized intervention study focusing on characterizing the human metabolome in relation to moderate differences in cardiorespiratory fitness. Gas chromatography-time of flight/mass spectrometry (GC-TOF/MS) was used to characterize 460 plasma samples from 27 individuals divided into two groups based on physical fitness level (VO(2)max). Multi- and univariate between group comparisons based on 197 metabolites were carried out in samples collected at rest prior to any intervention, over time following a nutritional load or a standardized exercise scheme, with and without nutritional load. We detected decreased levels of gamma-tocopherol (GT), a vitamin E isomer, in response to a high fitness level, whereas the opposite was seen for the alpha isomer (AT). In addition, the high fitness level was associated with elevated ω3-PUFA (DHA, 22 : 6ω3) and a decrease in ω6-PUFA (18 : 2ω6) as well as in saturated (16 : 0, 18 : 0), monounsaturated (18 : 1) and trans (16 : 1) fatty acids. We thus hypothesize that high fitness status induces an increased cardiorespiratory inflammatory and antioxidant defense system, more prone to deal with the inflammatory response following exercise and nutrition intake.

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