Walking exercise alters protein digestion, amino acid absorption, and whole body protein kinetics in older adults with and without COPD.
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Gut-related symptoms and an increase in markers of gut dysfunction have been observed in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It remains unclear whether exercise, in relation to inducing hypoxia, plays a role in disturbances in protein digestion and amino acid absorption and whole body protein kinetics. Sixteen clinically stable patients with moderate-to-very severe COPD and 12 matched healthy subjects completed the study. Protein digestion and amino acid absorption, whole body protein kinetics were measured in the postabsorptive state via a continuous infusion of stable tracers in combination with orally administered stable tracer sips during 20min of walking exercise and up to 4h post exercise. In addition, concentrations of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) and amino acids were measured. Patients with COPD completed one study day, walking at maximal speed, whereas healthy subjects completed two, one matched to the speed of a patient with COPD and one at maximal speed. The patients with COPD tolerated 20min of vigorous intensity walking with an elevated heart rate (P < 0.0001) and substantial desaturation (P = 0.006). During exercise, we observed lower protein digestion (P = 0.04) and higher SCFA acetate (P = 0.04) and propionate (P = 0.02) concentrations on max speed study days, lower amino acid absorption (P = 0.004) in subjects with oxygen desaturation, and lower net protein breakdown (P = 0.03) and propionate concentrations (P = 0.04) in patients with COPD. During late recovery from exercise, amino acid absorption (P = 0.02) and net protein breakdown (P = 0.02) were lower in patients with COPD. Our data suggest that 20min of walking exercise is sufficient to cause perturbations in gut function and whole body protein metabolism during and up to 4 h post exercise in older adults and in patients with COPD with exercise-induced hypoxia.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Gut function is disturbed in older adults with COPD. As exercise is the cornerstone of pulmonary rehabilitation in COPD, knowledge of the response of the gut to aerobic exercise is of importance.