The European Commission is providing 12.7 million euro to a network of European scientists seeking to understand the relationship between lack of exercise and onset of diabetes - as well as the health benefits of regular exercise for its prevention and cure. The aim of the EXGENESIS project is to help the EU and the rest of the world deal with the epidemic of obesity and its related disease, type II diabetes. The project also hopes to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Unless action is taken rapidly, the cost of treating these conditions and related problems, kidney, heart disease and blindness will overload European healthcare systems. The project, funded under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), brings together 26 research laboratories from 13 European countries, with expertise ranging from proteins to exercise regimes in large population-based studies. As the University of Nottingham in the UK explains, although there are genetic factors which increase the risk of developing obesity and Type II diabetes, a very rapid rise in the past 20 years is probably due to environmental factors such as increased consumption of processed and fast food, and a reduction in the amount of exercise taken throughout life. 'The aim of the EXGENESIS research project is to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that could be treated by diet and exercise, to identify better exercise and diet regimes and possibly discover new targets for medicines that could help people to achieve a more healthy lifestyle,' explains the University of Nottingham. The research team at the University of Nottingham, led by Michael Rennie, will investigate the idea that exercise helps to decrease the harmful effects of dietary fat on the ability of muscle to handle dietary glucose. As Professor Rennie explains, a combination of a high fat diet and infrequent exercise is believed to cause changes in the way in which fat is burned within muscle. In turn, this leads to the build-up of some fatty products which diminish the effect of the hormone insulin in helping to store glucose in the muscle. 'Exercise has more potential as a medical tool that many people realise,' adds David Carling from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Centre in London. Professor Carling and his team will conduct research into the effects of exercise at a molecular and biochemical level. 'In future, our research, combined with that of our colleagues across Europe, could help people make informed choices about healthy diet and lifestyle,' explains Professor Carling. 'It would be great for this work to lay the foundations for a future where the most individually appropriate exercise regimes could be prescribed. Perhaps we'll see a time when these could be individually tailored to suit biological makeup, an individual's molecular response to exercise and susceptibility to illness,' he adds. Sometimes, exercise is not enough to control or reverse the effects of illness, and there will therefore be a need for medicines to help manage these conditions. 'This project will also help identify new proteins that can be used as targets for the design of drugs that may be effective where diet and exercise regimes have failed. Overall, the information from this vast project will allow healthcare professionals to take a more holistic approach to some of our most common and potentially life-threatening illnesses,' concludes Professor Carling.