Victoria Vieira-Potter, PhD is an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri. The main focus of Victoria Vieira-Potter’s research is understanding how behavioral (e.g., diet, exercise, environmental toxin exposure) and biological (aging, hormonal changes) factors influence metabolic function.
Specific areas of interest include:
The relationship between white adipose tissue (WAT) inflammation and systemic metabolic function (e.g., insulin resistance and fatty liver)
How diet and exercise affect body composition and WAT inflammation
How estrogen loss and estrogen receptor signaling affect WAT metabolic function
Sex differences in WAT metabolic function
Exercise Changes Gut Microbes
In the fight against obesity, two factors have long been credited as key players—metabolism and gut microbes. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether exercise or diet play a more significant role when it comes to metabolism and healthy shifts in gut microbes.
Some have argued that exercise does not play a significant role in weight loss, as exercise can increase appetite resulting in greater food intake and reduce activity throughout the day. Our study, provided an opportunity to research exercise independently from weight loss.
Our research team divided young rats prone to obesity into three groups to study the impact of exercise on their metabolic function and fat tissue. All three of the rat groups were fed a high-fat diet.
Two of the groups were sedentary while the third group was able to exercise using running wheels. Of the two sedentary groups, one was allowed to eat as much of the high-fat food as they wanted, while the other group were fed controlled portions of the food in order to match the weight reduction caused by exercise. The exercising rats were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.
All rats were then moved to specialized cages where we could measure their metabolism. While the sedentary rats were obese, as expected, we also found that the exercising rats were metabolically healthier than both of the sedentary groups, and they developed different gut microbes than the other groups, despite eating the exact same amount of food as the sedentary group with unlimited food access.
These findings confirm that exercise is critically important in the fight against obesity and in overall health.