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Effects of aerobic exercise on gut microbiota in adolescents with subthreshold mood syndromes and healthy adolescents: A 12-week, randomized controlled trial

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Runhua Wang, Yuanyuan Cai, Jing Li, Suk yu Yau, Weicong Lu, Brendon Stubbs, Kuan pin Su, Guiyun Xu, Kwok fai So, Kangguang Lin, Lian wen Qi

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-372
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Published1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This study was funded by the Science and Technology Programof Guangzhou, China (202007030012), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC: 81671347 ), and the Guangzhou Municipal Psychiatric Disease Clinical Transformation Laboratory ( 201805010009 ). Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Background: Animal and human studies have revealed reciprocal association between exercise and gut-brain axis. However, the clinical evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCT) are still limited to directly assess the effects of aerobic exercise on gut microbiota. To fill this gap, we conducted this 12-week RCT in both groups of adolescents with and without sub-threshold mood symptoms. Methods: A total of 224 adolescents were randomized to the aerobic exercise intervention or psychoeducation-controlled arm. 49 adolescents with subthreshold symptoms and 142 clinically-well adolescents provided the sample for microbiota assessed by metagenomic sequencing. Aerobic exercise of running at the moderate-intensity for 30 min per day, 5 days a week, were conducted for 12 weeks. Results: Adolescents with subthreshold symptoms had significantly lower beta diversity than clinically-well adolescents in both the exercise intervention and psychoeducation-controlled arms (p<0.05). After intervention, no difference in gut microbiota diversity, phylum, genus, species level abundancies or gut microbial functions were found in both of the symptomatic or non-symptomatic groups. Metagenome-wide association study analysis showed no significant difference in metagenomic linkage groups. Limitations: The sample size is relatively small. The exercise intensity we employed may be insufficient to result in observable effects on intestinal microbiota. Conclusion: We conclude that a 12-week moderate-intensity aerobic exercise intervention showed no significant beneficial effect on the gut microbiota in clinically-well adolescents as well as in adolescents with subthreshold symptoms. The beta diversity of gut microbiota in adolescents with subthreshold mood syndromes may be impaired when compared with clinically-well adolescents.

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