Worried about overeating during the holidays? Exercise can protect against the inflammation that can come with overindulging for a week, a very small new study suggests.
In the study, researchers looked at four lean, active adults in their early 20s who consumed 30 percent more calories than normal for a week. The participants were instructed to eat normally, with the extra calories from Boost shakes. All the participants exercised aerobically for at least 150 minutes in the course of the week.
After the week was up, the researchers measured the participants ‘ glucose tolerance,” that is a test of how well the body can use and break down the sugar glucose. Previous studies have shown that even a week of eating too much can affect the people of the glucose tolerance.However, none of the adults in the study developed an impaired glucose tolerance.
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The researchers also collected fat samples from the participants in belly, in what Alison C. Ludzki, D. Ph. student at the University of Michigan and the first author on the paper, compared to a “mini liposuction.”
The samples showed that the participants in the study had increases in key markers of adipose tissue inflammation, which would otherwise be expected in people who consumed 30 percent more calories for a week, one of the researchers said. This finding also indicates that exercise can protect against the inflammatory effects of short-term overeating, the researchers wrote in a preliminary write-up of their results.
The researchers hope to gather more data in a larger number of participants, and also to compare these results with that of the participants who eat too much, but not to exercise, to measure the strength of these effects, Ludzki said.
Inflammation is an immune reaction that can be caused by a variety of factors, such as excessive eating, Ludzki told Live Science. In people who eat too much, inflammation coincides with both weight gain and insulin resistance (a decreased sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that keeps blood sugar in check), but scientists are still not sure if it causes insulin resistance and problems with metabolism or if it’s just associated with them and a number of other factor in the game. But in people with obesity, inflammation is a “type of chronic immune response” in adipose tissue, Ludzki said.
The results are still tentative; so far, the lab has been able to test only four active adults, although the scientists have plans to perform additional testing to more participants, Ludzki said. She also noted that the study relied on self-reporting; the researchers on the condition that the calorie supplement drink Boost to the participants, and they used a popular diet-tracking app to monitor their calorie intake.
Ludzki said that it would be useful to look at the effects of eating too much over longer periods of time, such as two or four weeks, to see whether the relationship between exercise and protection against inflammation has remained stable. Future research could also investigate the effects of gender, the types of exercise that people do (aerobic vs. anaerobic) and different types of food on the results.
“It is important to know that it is still provisional,” Ludzki said of their results. She told Science that the lab was primarily to try to determine if they would have the results in a very short period of overeating intervention.
Originally published on Live Science.