Impact of aerobic exercise and fatty acid supplementation on global and gene-specific DNA methylation

David John Hunter, Lynsey James, Bethan Hussey, Alex J. Wadley, Martin R. Lindley*, Sarabjit S. Mastana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Lifestyle interventions, including exercise and dietary supplementation, can modify DNA methylation and exert health benefits; however, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we investigated the impact of acute aerobic exercise and the supplementation of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) on global and gene-specific (PPARGC1A, IL6 and TNF) DNA methylation, and DNMT mRNA expression in leukocytes of disease-free individuals. Eight trained male cyclists completed an exercise test before and after a four-week supplementation of n-3 PUFA and EVOO in a double-blind, randomised, repeated measures design. Exercise triggered global hypomethylation (Pre 79.2%; Post 78.7%; p = 0.008), alongside, hypomethylation (Pre 6.9%; Post 6.3%; p < 0.001) and increased mRNA expression of PPARGC1A (p < 0.001). Associations between PPARGC1A methylation and exercise performance were also detected. An interaction between supplement and trial was detected for a single CpG of IL6 indicating increased DNA methylation following n-3 PUFA and decreased methylation following EVOO (p = 0.038). Global and gene-specific DNA methylation associated with markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. The supplementation of EVOO reduced DNMT1 mRNA expression compared to n-3 PUFA supplementation (p = 0.048), whereas, DNMT3a (p = 0.018) and DNMT3b (p = 0.046) mRNA expression were decreased following exercise. In conclusion, we demonstrate that acute exercise and dietary supplementation of n-3 PUFAs and EVOO induce DNA methylation changes in leukocytes, potentially via the modulation of DNMT mRNA expression. Future studies are required to further elucidate the impact of lifestyle interventions on DNA methylation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-309
Number of pages16
JournalClinical epigenetics
Issue number3
Early online date14 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2019


  • DNA methylation
  • DNMT
  • exercise
  • IL6
  • inflammation
  • n-3 PUFA
  • TNFa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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