Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Strong Ankles Fight Off Age-Related Slowdown?

As you get older, various muscles and joints start to work less effectively. But which are the key muscles that matter most when it comes to walking and running? That's the question a group of researchers at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland set out to answer in a study that was recently published in the Journal of the Royal Society: Interface.
To answer the question, they assembled three groups of runners (13 in each group) with average ages of 26, 61, and 78. Then they analyzed their biomechanics while walking, running (at ~4:10 per km / 6:42 per mile), and sprinting all-out, looking for changes in the motion and forces at the ankle, the knee, and the hip. Here's some sample data, showing the average power at the ankle and knee through one stride cycle for walking (top), running (middle), and sprinting (bottom):

If you look first at the knee data, you'll see there are no significant differences between the age groups at any point. That suggests that weakened muscles around the knees don't appear to be a limiting factor for the older runners. The same is mostly true for the hips (data not shown). The ankles, though, reveal a different story. Even when walking, the oldest group isn't able to generate as much power at the ankle; this finding is consistent with previous studies. The difference is even more pronounced in running and walking: the older you get, the less power you're able to deliver at the ankle.
Why is the ankle seemingly unique? One possibility the authors mention has to do with the fact that the muscles around the knee and hips tend to be big and powerful, while the muscles around the ankle are smaller. That means that during walking or running, you're generally using a much higher percentage of your maximum strength at the ankle than at the knee or hip. This means that as you get older and begin to lose muscle throughout the body, the ankle is likely to become a limiting factor much sooner than the other joints.
So what's the answer? An obvious possibility is to spend a little extra time and energy strengthening the muscles that plantarflex (bend toward the ground) your ankle, like calf raises. Of course, it's premature to start designing exercise programs based on one biomechanical study. It will be interesting to see if the researchers follow up with a training study to see what effects ankle strengthening has on mitigating the decline in walking and running speed with age. These are hard studies to do, so I don't expect they'll be available very soon. Still, it's an interesting idea and something to keep in mind.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Exercise Your Liver

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By now, the health benefits of exercise have been fairly well established in the scientific literature. In fact, there’s very little controversy or debate regarding the general value of physical activity on everything from cardiovascular to mental health. Even so, research into the therapeutic effects of exercise is ongoing and continues to reveal intriguing, new applications. One of the more exciting findings of late is the role which aerobic exercise plays in the promotion of liver health.
The liver is the primary organ that assists the body to process toxins. In addition, it aids the digestive and immune systems, filters blood, stores nutrients and much, much more. Excessive alcohol use, exposure to environmental chemicals, medications, obesity, poor diet and viral infections are established culprits that can damage and/or stress the liver. Herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are frequently recommended and used by consumers and practitioners alike in an attempt to protect the liver from such insults. And, in some instances, there is a scientific rationale for using certain herbal extracts, including cinnamon, milk thistle and synbiotics (i.e. pre- and probiotics). This is especially true for those living with a relatively common liver condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
A review in the November 2014 issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology reports that, “regular, moderate physical activity enhances liver health” in part by improving blood flow to the liver, lowering inflammation, supporting hepatic carbohydrate metabolism and, ultimately, lowering fat build up in this vital organ. In one study, walking on a treadmill for a total of 40 minutes (5 minute warm up, 30 minute walking, 5 minute cool down) three-times weekly was enough to reduce various inflammatory markers and elevated liver enzymes in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) – an inflammatory disease that causes liver scarring and can lead to cirrhosis. Other trials have concluded that non-competitive aerobic training is also an effective adjunct for those living with chronic hepatitis C. As a bonus, improvements in insulin sensitivity, oxidative capacity and psychological well-being were noted in much of the research. These findings provide adequate cause to recommend moderate aerobic exercise for virtually anyone who is interested in properly caring for their liver.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Problem With Fruit Juice



Fruit juice is available year-round, affordable, convenient, and kids love it. Tropicana, Minute Maid, and other juice brands have spent decades educating us that fruit juice is just as healthy as fruit.
It worked! USDA stats place fruit drinks and juice as one of the top 10 calorie sources in children today. Kids and adults up to age 30 consume half of their recommended fruit intake as juice.
Unfortunately, getting your daily fruit in liquid form is not a healthy habit.
  • According to the USDA, increased consumption of even 100% fruit juice is associated with higher body weight in children.
  • A recent study published in Apetite shows that adults who consume fruit juice on a daily basis have higher blood pressure than those who do so only occasionally.
  • Fruit juice is high in sugar, but low in fiber, which is “juiced out” during production. A cup of orange juice has a similar amount of sugar as a Coke – 6 teaspoons worth.
  • In general, consuming calories in liquid form can easily lead to over-consumption; chewing takes more time and effort compared to gulping.
But what about the vitamins and minerals available in juice? Surely they are healthy, right? Many of the antioxidants available in a whole fruit do not make it through the processing phase into juice. In some cases, vitamin C is actually added to orange juice!
Our Recommendations:
1. Limit your juice intake to once in a while. Treat it as … a treat.
2. When you do drink juice, make sure it is 100% fruit juice – the label should state so.
3. Opt for freshly squeezed juice, not “from concentrate”.
4. Drink juice in small amounts – half a cup is a good serving size.
5. Don’t drink juice to hydrate – use water for that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Guidelines to Help You Get the Most From Reading Studies



  • Type of study. As stated above, the study has to be an RCT. An abstract won’t always come straight out and call a study an RCT, so look for the key word randomized. If you can’t find it, it’s not an RCT and the results aren’t worth your time.
  • Were the researchers blinded? Single blinding means the researchers did not know whether the participants they were testing belonged to the test or control group and is an absolute requirement for reducing bias and establishing internal validity. Like using an RCT, this is a necessity and the results of a study that doesn’t use it shouldn’t be trusted.
  • Who were the participants? Remember, we’re looking for good external validity here. Does the study population represent the general public, you or your athletes, or a group that you don’t even work with? If the participants don’t sound like you or your athletes, the results won’t necessarily apply to you.
  • What was the level of training of the participants? One of the golden rules of exercise research is to never, ever use novice athletes. Novice athletes will respond positively to just about anything. Seriously, never buy into the results of a study that used novice athletes.
  • What is the difference between the test and control groups? This is going to tell you what the study actually examined, and it’s not uncommon for a poorly designed study to end with the results reflecting something completely different from what was intended. Was the topic of the study the back squat, but the results were determined by testing leg press or leg extension weight? Seriously, this stuff is out there.

This all may sound a bit cynical, but in all honesty, that’s the scientific way. You need to examine everything closely, ask hard questions, and be a difficult sell on any idea. To do anything else is to be a sucker for every fad that comes along. Practice looking at studies, asking these questions, and thinking critically about the quality of the study and meaning of the results. Keep at it and you’ll be crunching through studies like a pro in no time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cumin as a Weight Loss Aid Read More

So how and why did this work? That's certainly a warranted question. As of now, most of you knew cumin probably as a spice and maybe as a digestive aid (Milan. 2008) - not as a fat burner, glucose sensitizer, lipid drug and, if you dig somewhat further in the archives of peer-reviewed scientific journals, even as a nootropic (Bin Sayeed. 2013), right?

Table 1: Cumin seed oil will deliver most of the cholesterol controlling agents in a concentrated form (Ramadan. 2007)
Well, if you take a look at the literature you will learn that Cumin contains more than 100 different chemicals, including essential fatty acids and volatile oils, which have been shown to induce significant decreases in glucose, cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels and a significant increase in serum HDL levelsin previous rodent studies (Mohiti. 2011). In that, the lipid reducing effects of cumin could be attributed to (a) its glycoside saponins which inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol and increase its fecal excretion by interfering with its enterohepatic circulation and (b) its phytosterol content which will displace cholesterol from intestinal micelles and will thus further reduce the amount of absorbable cholesterol (Hayes. 2002; Ramadan. 2002 & 2007; ). The mechanism by which cumin reduces the blood glucose levels, however, is still not fully understood.

As Zare et al. point out, "the majority of these studies have been done on animals and the published human studies have been conducted on patients suffering from diabetes or hypercholesterolemia," which makes the study at hand that was conducted with healthy (albeit overweight) female subjects all the more important.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

3 Servings of Milk a Day Linked to Higher Mortality in Women

By Anne Harding,.

Drinking three or more glasses of milk per day may be harmful to women's health, a new study suggests.
Women in the study who downed at least three glasses of milk a day were nearly twice as likely to die over the next 20 years compared with their peers who drank less than a glass daily, researchers in Sweden found. In addition, the study found that women's risk of bone fracture climbed steadily as their milk intake increased.
The culprit could be galactose, a simple sugar found in milk, said Karl Michaelsson, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden and one of the study's authors. "That compound might induce oxidative stress and low-grade inflammation, and that type of inflammation can affect mortality and fractures," Michaelsson told Live Science. "The funny thing is that if you provide galactose to experimental animals, they will die faster by induction of oxidative stress and inflammation. Read More

Saturday, November 1, 2014