Nutrient intake and physical exercise significantly impact physical performance, body composition, blood lipids, oxidative stress, and inflammation in male rats


Background: Humans consuming a purified vegan diet known as the "Daniel Fast" realize favorable changes in blood lipids, oxidative stress, and inflammatory biomarkers, with subjective reports of improved physical capacity. Objective: We sought to determine if this purified vegan diet was synergistic with exercise in male rats. Methods: Long–Evans rats (n = 56) were assigned to be exercise trained (+E) by running on a treadmill three days per week at a moderate intensity or to act as sedentary controls with normal activity. After the baseline physical performance was evaluated by recording run time to exhaustion, half of the animals in each group were fed ad libitum for three months a purified diet formulated to mimic the Daniel Fast (DF) or a Western Diet (WD). Physical performance was evaluated again at the end of month 3, and body composition was assessed using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Blood was collected for measurements of lipids, oxidative stress, and inflammatory biomarkers. Results: Physical performance at the end of month 3 was higher compared to baseline for both exercise groups (p < 0.05), with a greater percent increase in the DF + E group (99%) than in the WD + E group (51%). Body fat was lower in DF than in WD groups at the end of month 3 (p < 0.05). Blood triglycerides, cholesterol, malondialdehyde, and advanced oxidation protein products were significantly lower in the DF groups than in the WD groups (p < 0.05). No significant differences were noted in cytokines levels between the groups (p > 0.05), although IL-1β and IL-10 were elevated three-fold and two-fold in the rats fed the WD compared to the DF rats, respectively. Conclusions: Compared to a WD, a purified diet that mimics the vegan Daniel Fast provides significant anthropometric and metabolic benefits to rats, while possibly acting synergistically with exercise training to improve physical performance. These findings highlight the importance of macronutrient composition and quality in the presence of ad libitum food intake.

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