[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Diet and exercise promote cardiovascular health but their relative contributions to atherosclerosis are not fully known. The transition from a sedentary to active lifestyle requires increased caloric intake to achieve energy balance. Using atherosclerosis-prone ApoE-null mice we sought to determine whether the benefits of exercise for arterial disease are dependent on the food source of the additional calories.
Mice were fed a high-fat diet (HF) for 4.5 months to initiate atherosclerosis after which time half were continued on HF while the other half were switched to a high protein/fish oil diet (HP). Half of each group underwent voluntary running. Food intake, running distance, body weight, lipids, inflammation markers, and atherosclerotic plaque were quantified. Two-way ANOVA tests were used to assess differences and interactions between groups. Exercised mice ran approximately 6-km per day with no difference between groups. Both groups increased food intake during exercise and there was a significant main effect of exercise F((1,44) = 9.86, p<0.01) without interaction. Diet or exercise produced significant independent effects on body weight (diet: F(1,52) = 6.85, p = 0.012; exercise: F(1,52) = 9.52, p<0.01) with no significant interaction. The combination of HP diet and exercise produced a greater decrease in total cholesterol (F(1, 46) = 7.9, p<0.01) and LDL (F(1, 46) = 7.33, p<0.01) with a large effect on the size of the interaction. HP diet and exercise independently reduced TGL and VLDL (p<0.05 and 0.001 respectively). Interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein were highest in the HF-sedentary group and were significantly reduced by exercise only in this group. Plaque accumulation in the aortic arch, a marker of cardiovascular events was reduced by the HP diet and the effect was significantly potentiated by exercise only in this group resulting in significant plaque regression (F1, 49 = 4.77, p<0.05).
In this model exercise is beneficial to combat dyslipidemia and protect from atherosclerosis only when combined with diet.