Here’s how beneficial cardiorespiratory fitness is for brain health

A recent study released online in Metabolic Brain Disease adds more weight to past findings on the beneficial effects of fitness for brain health.

In the study, initiated by researchers at the Beckman Institute For Advanced Science and Technology, the primary focus was N-acetyl aspartic acid (NAA), a brain metabolite first uncovered in 1956.

“The concentration of N-acetyl aspartic acid (NAA) is of interest because it is a marker of neuronal integrity. The ratio of NAA to creatine, a standard reference metabolite, has been shown to correlate with measures of both cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition,” the co-authors explained in the findings.

“However, previous studies have explored these effects in isolation, making it impossible to know which of these highly correlated measures drive the correlations with NAA/Cr. As a result, the mechanisms underlying their association remain to be established.”

“We therefore conducted a comprehensive study to investigate the relative contributions of cardiorespiratory fitness and percent body fat in predicting NAA/Cr,” the co-authors stated.

During their study, researchers used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify and measure brain metabolites, particularly targeting NAA, a vital biochemical marker of neuronal health.

The findings demonstrated that a decreased percentage of body fat correlated with higher NAA in the white matter. The correlation is solely based on the effects of cardiorespiratory fitness, in which adults who engaged in more exercise were more likely to have improved structural brain connectivity, according to the co-authors.

“These results underscore the association of body composition with axonal integrity and suggests that this relationship drives the association of NAA/Cr with physical fitness in young adults,” the findings conclude.

The study, titled Body mass and cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with altered brain metabolism, was endorsed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects and notable figures in the Intelligence Community.

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