Centre for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) and the European Project FOIE GRAS, coordinated by CNC, have been working closely with the organizing team of the European University Games 2018 in order to promote exercise practice and healthy living.
As part of this EUG2018-CNC partnership, the CNC researchers and the FOIE GRAS ESRs have written a series of chronicles that build upon the benefits of exercise practice on health.
These chronicles result from the collaboration between the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) of the University of Coimbra, the European Advanced Training Network FOIE GRAS (http://www.projectfoiegras.eu), the Erasmus+ Program and the Academic Sports Federation University (FADU) in the scope of the European University Games Coimbra 2018.
These illustrated chronicles will be published in Portuguese at the local newspaper Diário de Coimbra and you can read here the English version on our website.
Physical exercise, health and fat-free livers: An introduction
Science, health and sports. Three intimately related areas for promoting our health. Soon, the city of Coimbra will welcome close to 4.000 athletes from 40 countries to participate in the European University Games 2018 (EUG), in what will be one of the biggest sports event in our country; together with Eurogym in 2012, EUG is the largest sports event ever hosted in the center region of Portugal. The EUG will take place between the 15th and 28th of July and the city is preparing to receive the participants and respective supporters with open arms. The Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) at the University of Coimbra (UC) and the Organizing Committee of the EUG are preparing initiatives that will take place during the period of the games and aim at communicating to the general public the importance of practicing exercise and its benefits for the body and mind. The European Training Network FOIE GRAS (fatty liver, in English) funded by the Horizon 2020 within the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions, also joined this initiative.
In this context, CNC and FOIE GRAS researchers, from national and international research institutions, have worked together in an unprecedented joint effort. This work was materialized in the production of thirteen chronicles that will be published here weekly and will elaborate for example on how exercise improves our general metabolism and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), the healthiness of vital organs like the heart, the pancreas, the gut or the brain and how its practice is related with improvements in fundamental aspects of our existence such as sleep, learning and memory. Additionally, they will discuss how periodical exercise practice can improve our reproductive health, reduce stress and promote true healthy aging.
This European network FOIE GRAS, coordinated by the CNC, gathers 13 partners from seven countries, and is devoted to investigating the mechanisms that underpin the origin of NAFLD, potential markers for its detection, as well as the development of new therapies to prevent the progression of this condition from a benign state into rather malignant stages such as hepatic cirrhosis, and later on, hepatic cancer.
What is exactly NAFLD? It is known that at a global level, between 5-40% from the population worldwide can suffer from this condition characterized by the excessive accumulation of fat in the liver (thence the term fatty liver) that is not associated with the exaggerated consumption of alcohol (or any, given that this condition is every time more frequent amongst children).
What causes NAFLD? Very easy, our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and a diet more and more based in an excess of fat, and above all (and it is here that lies the principal cause!) in an excessive consumption of sugars, that as we know, are present in practically everything we take into our mouths. From a situation initially benign, other much more complicated conditions can emerge, including hepatic cirrhosis and the development of insulin resistance and diabetes. It is not easy to think that after many years of abusing of sweets and fats, and with a very sedentary lifestyle, our liver can become similar to that of the tedious uncle that drinks too much at family gatherings. It is not easy to think about this, but it is a situation that is every time more frequent.
What can be done to reverse this process? There are not any drugs that can be truly efficient in reverting NAFLD yet, but there are two strategies that can work: a balanced diet and exercise…Yes, we are back to where we started. Physical exercise has here another very important therapeutic effect. And physical exercise is not only running to catch the bus in the morning. It is much more than that and involves dedication and motivation, oftentimes on a daily basis. However, no matter the effort involved in its practice, exercise is a necessary part of our lives; exercise practice virtually benefits every organ and system in our body and is a huge contributor to our well-being. The chronicles that the reader will find in the pages of this newspaper will focus on this very topic, and particularly on how exercise is important for the biological processes and diseases that are studied by the biomedical researchers at CNC and FOIE GRAS. I hope you like them and above all, that these chronicles contribute for a positive change in our lives.
Author: Paulo Oliveira is Principal Investigator at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC), University of Coimbra (UC), in Portugal, and Coordinator of the European Horizon 2020 project FOIE GRAS.
The project: This chronicle results from the collaboration between the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) of the University of Coimbra, the European Training Network FOIE GRAS (http://www.projectfoiegras.eu), the Erasmus+ Program and the Academic Sports Federation University (FADU) in the scope of the European University Games Coimbra 2018.
Coordination: Anabela Marisa Azul, João Ramalho-Santos, Mireia Alemany i Pagès, Paulo Oliveira and Sara Varela Amaral
Illustration: Rui Tavares
This chronicle reflects only the authors’ views and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.