Study shows how childhood diet, exercise affect adulthood anxiety

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Health experts have long stressed the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting a good amount of exercise, but doing so in childhood may have a major impact on how you feel as an adult.

A recent study from the University of California — Riverside showed that a good diet and ample exercise in childhood leads to less anxiety in adulthood.

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“Any time you go to the doctor with concerns about your weight, almost without fail, they recommend you exercise and eat less,” study lead and UCR physiology doctoral student Marcell Cadney said in a press release. “That’s why it’s surprising most studies only look at diet or exercise separately. In this study, we wanted to include both.”

The mice study was published in the journal Physiology and Behavior and saw researchers split the young rodents into four groups. One group had access to exercise, another had no exercise access; one group was fed a standard, healthy diet and another consumed a Western diet.

Mice began their diets right after weaning and continued until reaching sexual maturity in three weeks.

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For another eight weeks, all four groups were housed with a healthy diet and no exercise access. Then, researchers analyzed behavior, measured the mice’s aerobic capacity and their different hormone levels. One hormone, leptin, is created by fat cells and primarily helps the body control its weight. Exercise in early life led to a boost in leptin levels in adult mice. It also led to an increase in adult fat mass, no matter what diet mice consumed.

Past studies have shown that even if people eat healthier later, consuming an abundance of sugar and fat in childhood can change the microbiome forever. Researchers of the current study plan to look into whether sugar or fat is more responsible for the negative impacts they found in mice that consumed a Western diet.

“Our findings may be relevant for understanding the potential effects of activity reductions and dietary changes associated with obesity,” said UCR evolutionary physiologist Theodore Garland.

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