Little did I know that Noggin is a protein that works in, where else, the brain.

Noggin - wikipedia entry

Well in a recent blog (yes, I'm using my blog to repost someone else's blog) in the New York Times, it has been discovered that exercise increases the level of Noggin in your brain. Why is this beneficial? Well, instead of repeating, you can read the NYT blog here.

Noggin blocks the effects of BMP, a different protein, one that inhibits your body from creating new neurons. So exercise increases Noggin in your brain, which blocks BMP, which means your brain can create new neurons, keeping you mentally agile and adaptable. To an exercise professional, that is amazing news. What a great perk to entice people to use personal training.

"Hey, wanna stay mentally sharp and nimble as you age. Come exercise!" I can assure you I'll be using that exact line in advertisements for a while.

One of the things that made me want to repost this article is found in the 7th paragraph. When researching the possibility that too much Noggin can over stimulate the adult stems cells, wearing them out and eventually preventing the growth of new neurons, the study's lead doctor indicates:

"Instead, he says, it seems that the effects of exercise are constrained and soon plateau, causing enough change in the activity of Noggin and BMP to shake slumbering adult stem cells awake, but not enough to goose them into exhausting themselves"

I find this fascinating, as the body has a similar mechanism at the muscle cell level when dealing with the energy systems of cells. In muscle cells, there is an organelle (a specialized sub-unit within a cell) called mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants of muscle cells. It is in the mitochondria that the cells produce ATP, which is a primary source of chemical energy within cells. Exercise increases the mitochondrial density within muscle cells, allowing each cell to burn more fuel, thus burning more calories. That is one of the reasons resistance training is just as important as cardiovascular exercise when trying to change your body composition (in other words, lose weight!). So, more exercise, more mitochondria, less body fat. Excellent! However, here is where the tie in to Noggin appears. After 4-6 weeks of sustained resistance training, the body will not increase mitochondrial density. So after those first 4 to 6 weeks, you've maxed out on how much fuel each individual muscle cell can burn.

To me, the fact that there is a mechanism, apparently not yet discovered, that prevents the body from producing endless amounts of Noggin, which would be detrimental, is a beautiful and amazing adaptation. It also makes me wonder that if the levels of Noggin which the body will produce due to exercise is constrained because too much Noggin is detrimental, does the body's mechanism for limiting mitochondrial density also a protective device. Can too much exercise induced mitochondria cause problems at the cellular level? I have no idea! But I am really geeking out on the correlation between the two systems of the body and am very happy to be continuously surprised and wondered by our physical human form.