The thesis of this researcher from the University of Granada has won the prize awarded by the scientific journal “British Journal of Sport Medicine”, becoming the first Spanish scientist to win this prestigious award

Their work shows that intense physical activity for a short time has the same benefits, “or even more” than traditionally recommended exercise, such as walking every day for 60 minutes or doing gentle swimming

Between class and class, Fran responds to congratulatory messages from friends and family. The smile that was put on him on Tuesday, when he learned that he had won the prize for the best thesis in the world in the field of Sports Medicine, has not yet been erased from his face. An award granted by the ‘British Journal of Sport Medicine’, the most prestigious scientific journal in this area of knowledge.

The experience of Francisco Amaro-Gahete and the award of his thesis

“There were Americans, British, Russians, French. Researchers from all over the world. Who would have thought they were going to give it to me?” he admits to NIUS. But it did. The doctoral thesis of this young professor and researcher of the Department of Physiology of the University of Granada (UGR), was chosen among the 17 finalist candidates as the best of all. Francisco Amaro-Gahete, 29, thus becomes the first Spanish scientist to win this prestigious award.

“This corroborates that in Spain we are also doing high quality research in the field of Sports Medicine,” he says, proudly. His doctoral thesis was defended in 2019 and has a total of 18 scientific articles published in high-impact journals. Fran, bachelor of Science in Physical Activity and Sport and 5th year student of Medicine, titled it as follows: “Exercise training increases levels of the anti-ageing Klotho protein: health-related cardiometabolic implications. The FIT-AGEING randomized controlled trial” (‘Physical exercise increases levels of the anti-aging protein Klotho: health-related cardiometabolic implications. The randomized controlled study FIT-AGEING’).

Objectives of the thesis

Its main objectives were to study the association of plasma levels of Klotho protein with physical condition, energy metabolism and cardiometabolic health, and to study the effect of different physical exercise programs on these levels in middle-aged sedentary adults.

What translated into a more colloquial language, says Fran, would be something like confirming the important role that physical exercise has in our health, especially between the ages of 40 and 65, and its power to slow down the aging process. In addition, his study adds, a high-intensity intervaric training, that is, less activity time but more intense, has the same benefits, “or even more” than the traditionally recommended exercise, such as walking each day 60 minutes or doing soft swimming.

“We have a very powerful tool which is sport. If we know how to program it, in the right way, we can squeeze it much more and obtain additional benefits”, insists Fran who is aware of the lack of synergies, sometimes, between Sports Science and Medicine and how important it is to unite both disciplines to avoid deficiencies. “A doctor is not trained in the field of physical activity and vice versa,” he says. Hence, some recommended guidelines that are not always correct.

Physical exercise increases levels of ‘youth protein’

Under the direction of Drs. Manuel J. Castillo and Ángel Gutiérrez of the Department of Physiology (Faculty of Medicine) of the UGR and Dr. Jonatan R. Ruiz of the Department of Physical and Sports Education of the UGR, his thesis shows that the Klotho protein is a promising biomarker of longevity and cardiometabolic health that can be modulated by physical exercise.

“This protein was discovered a couple of decades ago in mice. Those who did not have the gene that encoded it, showed signs associated with aging, such as shorter life expectancy, osteoporosis or other disorders. While mice that had high levels, lived longer and were healthier,” explains Fran. During the last years, science tries to understand what physiological mechanisms regulate this ‘protein of youth’ and Fran’s thesis takes a step forward, in this sense.

“We are the first to show that physical exercise can be considered an anti-aging strategy, through an increase in the levels of this protein,” he says. That is, sport increases the Klotho protein and, with it, its ‘anti-ageing’ benefits. “It has, for example, antioxidant capacity, reduces free radicals and inflammatory parameters,” he says.

The experience of Francisco Amaro-Gahete

As it could not be otherwise, the author of the best thesis of Sports Medicine in the world, is passionate about several disciplines. “Fitness, hiking, cycling, running, basketball,…,” he lists. Although he acknowledges that there is little time he has been able to devote to the thesis. “Since 2013, we are focused on this work which, in the end, is a passion. More than 12 hours a day. I don’t know what a weekend or a long vacation is,” he explains. That’s why this recognition is so important to him and to the multidisciplinary team that supports him. “It’s a shared award. Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

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Best world thesis of Sports Medicine: "Less exercise and more intense, key to anti-aging"

Best world thesis of Sports Medicine: “Less exercise and more intense, key to anti-aging”. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Mor Shani @morsha

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