Category Archives: aging

Coffee Study: Its not just the caffeine that makes you smart and athletic

workout shirts crossfit shirts
For best performance wear the entire shirt. Check out our top quality performance workout shirts.

Caffeine and Coffee have been used by athletes to improve athletic performance and to make training easier.  Research is also indicating that coffee may also reduce risk of cognitive decline that comes with age.  A recent study sought to determine which is responsible for the positive effects of coffee on function:  Coffee itself or caffeine?  Aged (or Masters as we prefer to call them) Rats who drink the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee a day do better at cognitively and physically challenging tasks than rats who were given only caffeine supplements.

The Rat Coffee Study Design

All rats were male.  And aged.  Which for rats means about 18 months old.  Rats were given divided into groups and given either

  • Rat chow spiked with powdered coffee
  • Rat chow spiked with the equivalent of plain caffeine

for 8 weeks.  Rats were then subjected to a battery of psychological and neurological tests:

  1. Rod walking:  requiring the animal to balance on a stationary, horizontal rod
  2. Wire suspension: measures muscle strength and ability to grasp a horizontal wire and remain suspended
  3. Inclined screen: measures muscle tone, strength, stamina, and balance by placing the animal on a wire mesh screen tilted 60° to the horizontal plane of the floor
  4. Accelerating rotarod: measures fine motor coordination, balance, and resistance to fatigue by assessing the duration that the animal can remain standing/walking on a rotating, slowly accelerating rod.
  5. Keel hauling.  Rats were immersed in water at one of four random start locations. Each rat was allowed 120 s to escape onto the platform
  6. Plank walking, which measures balance and coordination making the animal walk a plank set out over the starboard bow at a height of approximately 20 feet above shark infested waters.

Now that is a workout.  Performances were recorded with video for submission to the CrossFit Games 2014.

Coffee Performance vs. Caffeine Only Performance

Summer Mona Lisa Grey white ground
Mona Lisa Hoists her Kettlebells on a soft, quick-drying tri-blend WODMASTERS workout shirt

The rats who got the powdered coffee did better than the rats who received caffeine supplements.   What does this mean for us?  Coffee, like most foods, is a complex mixture containing hundreds if not thousands of different chemicals.  These chemicals include vitamins and minerals, but there are also many many others whose actions we don’t yet understand.

We also understand very little about how different nutrients interact.  We also know little about the effects of taking too much.   This is why it is better to eat a healthy diet of real food than to rely on supplements or No-Doze Monster drinks or whatever that stuff in the tiny bottles is called.  College students take note.  Masters athletes: Hold off on massive anti-oxidant supplements.  Anti-oxidants at high levels can damage DNA.

Coffee Study: Its not just the caffeine that makes you smarter and more athletic

 

Last note on coffee:

10 cups is probably too much.  No note was made on how jittery and neurotic the rats felt.  High coffee consumption is associated with other problems.

 

Cropley V, Croft R, Silber B, Neale C, Scholey A, Stough C, & Schmitt J (2012). Does coffee enriched with chlorogenic acids improve mood and cognition after acute administration in healthy elderly? A pilot study. Psychopharmacology, 219 (3), 737-49 PMID: 21773723

Cho ES, Jang YJ, Hwang MK, Kang NJ, Lee KW, & Lee HJ (2009). Attenuation of oxidative neuronal cell death by coffee phenolic phytochemicals. Mutation research, 661 (1-2), 18-24 PMID: 19028509

Shukitt-Hale B, Miller MG, Chu YF, Lyle BJ, & Joseph JA (2013). Coffee, but not caffeine, has positive effects on cognition and psychomotor behavior in aging. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 35 (6), 2183-92 PMID: 23344884

Telomeres may shorten with depression but there are things you can do to protect them.

Telomere Depression and Aging

CrossFit WOD with social support to protect against depression and telomere shortening
Social support matters. Maybe this kid is protecting his father from depression and telomere shortening.

If you read the news you may have noticed articles on depression and telomere length.  There is no reason to think you are screwed and get more depressed. Or get depressed if you weren’t already. Improving your diet seems to increase telomere length.  So does exercise and stress management.

Telomeres protect DNA by capping the ends of chromosomes and preventing them from unraveling or tangling with one another. Telomeres shorten with each cell division. They shorten until they become too short to serve their protective function. At this point the cell will cease to divide and it becomes senescent. Telomere length is a marker of biological age. Shortened telomeres are also associated with inflammation and oxidative stress. Many diseases and maladies of advancing age are associated with short telomeres. Shortened telomeres have been noted in cancers, cardiovascular disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Telomere depression: Does depression shorten telomeres?

Most recently, telomere shortening has been found in people suffering from depression. This may be one of the reasons why people who suffer from depression have poorer health and do not live as long as people who have not.  There is a lot of interesting research coming out on the biochemistry of depression. Click here for articles on folate deficiency and depression, mthfr variants and depression, and exercise and telomere length.

This is depressing.  Is there anything I can do to?

 

American Mona Lisa shirt with kettleblls
You might be able to protect your telomeres with the right shirt. Mona Lisa and her Kettlebells at the WODMasters shop packs a powerful punch.

So far research indicates that a healthy diet may protect telomeres. People who follow a Mediteranean Diet with lots of vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, legumes and fruit have longer telomeres than people who follow a diet high in saturated fat, refined grains, sugar, junk food, fried food etc. (Paleo diet followers: there is no research yet on how the paleo diet might protect telomeres. Best guess is that if you include lots of vegetables and use olive oil you will be better off than most.)

Exercise also seems to protect telomeres. Studies show that Masters Athletes have longer telomeres than their sedentary peers. This is good news for Masters Athletes.  A study of men with prostate cancer who underwent a lifestyle intervention program to increase fitness, diet, stress management and social support experienced an increase in telomere length five years later. The control group that did not receive lifestyle intervention showed decreased telomere length. Good news if you eat well and take care of yourself.  Bad news if you don’t.

Social support may protect telomeres and protect against depression and biological aging
Social support may protect telomeres and protect against depression and biological aging

Teleomere takeaway.

Depression is bad for your life. It is a serious disorder with potentially serious repercussions. Get it treated. Eat well, exercise and care for your social relationships. It may protect you from depression and protect your telomeres too.

Sometimes the right shirt will put you in a great mood.  WODMASTERS shirts are available on our website.  Support us with a purchase.
Phillips AC, Robertson T, Carroll D, Der G, Shiels PG, McGlynn L, & Benzeval M (2013). Do symptoms of depression predict telomere length? Evidence from the west of Scotland twenty-07 study. Psychosomatic medicine, 75 (3), 288-96 PMID: 23513237

Boccardi V, Esposito A, Rizzo MR, Marfella R, Barbieri M, & Paolisso G (2013). Mediterranean diet, telomere maintenance and health status among elderly. PloS one, 8 (4) PMID: 23646142

Ornish D, Lin J, Chan JM, Epel E, Kemp C, Weidner G, Marlin R, Frenda SJ, Magbanua MJ, Daubenmier J, Estay I, Hills NK, Chainani-Wu N, Carroll PR, & Blackburn EH (2013). Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. The lancet oncology, 14 (11), 1112-20 PMID: 24051140

Kim JH, Ko JH, Lee DC, Lim I, & Bang H (2012). Habitual physical exercise has beneficial effects on telomere length in postmenopausal women. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 19 (10), 1109-15 PMID: 22668817

Masters Women's Health: Does low estrogen make women unresponsive to anti-depressants?

Depression may be caused by poor Serotonin handling

Don't let the blues get you down.  Get a womens power shirt instead.  This beautiful shirt features Botticelli's birth of spring expressing herself effortlessly with a set of 50 pound kettlebells.
Don’t let the blues get you down. Get a womens power shirt instead. This beautiful shirt features Botticelli’s birth of spring expressing herself effortlessly with a set of 50 pound kettlebells.

Depression stinks.  It hurts.  And it hurts others too. Taking care of yourself, and your moods, is important.  A positive outlook and sense of optimism can carry you a long way.  And it will help you bring along those you care about.  This article reports on some very interesting research on depression and hormones.  It is especially interesting for women whose hormones are shifting.  (in peri-menopause or menopause.)  Estrogen may be important for serotonin signalling.  Low estrogen may make it difficult for some women to respond to anti-depressants.

First, a little background:

  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter
  • Serotonin allows neurons to communicate with each other.  And sometimes help produce emotions.
  • Depression in some people may be caused by too little serotonin
  • Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)  work by keeping serotonin active and keeping nerves functioning well.
  • Prozac, Zoloft, and Citalopram are examples of SSRIs.

There are differences in Serotonin Receptors

WODMASTERS Power Woman shirt with kettlebells.  Great shirt for crossfit
To hell with anxiety. Who cares when you’re wearing a WODMASTERS power woman shirt.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers.  They travel from one neuron to another by docking at a receptor.  The receptor is a molecule that is designed especially for its transmitter.  Serotonin needs a serotonin receptor if it is going to work.   The shape of the receptor is very important.  But not every person has the same receptor shape.  There are some people whose receptors don’t seem to fit as well.  And they are more likely to suffer from depression.  And anxiety.

Estrogen and Progesterone may be needed for SSRIs to work

 

Womens crossfit shirt with kettlebells feminine
Our lady of the Kettlebells with a touch of pink. Our Lady Hoists.

Estrogen and progesterone influence the serotonin system including serotonin receptors.  One of the genes responsible for the serotonin receptor is called 5HTT.  So far it looks like you can have either a “short”  version or a “long” version.  The short version (s-5HTT) looks like the problem version.  Monkey have similar systems.  Like Crossfit women.  Researchers used monkeys to see how important estrogen and progesterone are the response to SSRIs.   Monkeys with the shorter gene for the serotonin receptors did not have as strong a response to SSRIs.  Monkeys with low estrogen and low progesterone were the least responsive.  Crossfit women too?

Take away for CrossFit Masters Women and all Women

CrossFit Shirts for women with low and high estrogen
CrossFit Women are strong, resilient and beautiful Sometimes they have large shoulders.

If you are post-menopausal or hovering around that neighborhood you may not respond well to SSRIs.  Especially if you have the short version of the serotonin receptor gene.   This is one reason why hormone replacement therapy might make some women less depressed.  If you are on SSRIs and they are not working go see a doctor who knows his or her stuff.  A psychiatrist will know more than a family doctor.  Don’t be embarrassed.  CrossFit Women shouldn’t get embarrassed.  Embarrassment stinks.

Michopoulos V, Berga SL, & Wilson ME (2011). Estradiol and progesterone modify the effects of the serotonin reuptake transporter polymorphism on serotonergic responsivity to citalopram. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 19 (6), 401-8 PMID: 21843009

CrossFit Calorie Restriction Diet and Longevity.

Crossfit calorie restriction . . . Maureen Dowd, the famous political columnist, predicts a dystopian future, with few survivors . . .

“The year is 2084, in the capital of the land formerly called North America . . . The Navy-Air Force game goes on, somehow, and there are annual CrossFit games on the Mall, led by flesh-eating Dark Seeker Paul Ryan, now 114 years old. CrossFit is still fighting the Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid, even though there’s no Department of Agriculture and no food.”

CrossFit HQ is currently advocating a fairly high protein diet.  But at the same time they recommend 30% of calories come from protein, 40% from carbohydrates and 30% from fat.  If you search for CrossFit calorie nutrition on the CrossFit website you will see that they also suggest that people look into calorie restriction to prolong life and preserve health.

Calorie restriction diet

A calorie restriction diet is a term used to describe a diet that is low in calories, but sufficient in nutrients.  The calorie restriction diet that is associated with life extension research is more tightly defined.   Laboratory animals (usually rats) are often kept on an ad libitum diet.  This means that food is available and the animal may eat whenever it feels like it.   A lab animal on a calorie restricted diet receives a percentage of what an average rat eats ad libitum.   For example, an animal may be fed 60% or 80% of an ad libitum diet.

Longevity and a Calorie Restriction Diet

Research using a number of different species shows that calorie restriction seems to prolong life.  Nematodes are remarkable in this respect.   Why animals on calorie restriction diets live longer is still uncertain.   Scientists continue to investigate the reasons.   Many believe that life extension is a reproductive strategy.  If times are bad a nematode (or other organism) may shift into low gear and  conserve resources in the hope that things will get better in the future.  If things get better the animal would then shift back into normal gear and get on with the business of reproduction.

Calorie restriction produces some interesting physiological and behavioral changes. In animals, calorie restriction

  • Increases activity levels (possibly because food seeking behavior increases)
  • Improves blood lipid profile
  • Results in fewer tumors
  • Improves memory and cognitive function (Ha!  I know exactly where to find that sunflower seed I hid last week!)

Short-term Calorie Restriction.

Short term calorie restriction produces a lot of the same effects.  This might be good.  Calorie restriction for life is probably unappealing to most.   Short term or intermittent calorie restriction also up-regulate certain biochemical pathways.  Or down-regulate others.  So far, it looks like short term calorie restriction does a number of interesting things:

  • Decreases inflammatory response (may help with healing and reduce coronary artery disease)
  • Increasing apoptosis (cell death) in tumors (Mukherjee et al. 2004)
  • Slowing growth of blood vessels (which slows tumor growth)
  • Lowering production of growth hormones (which would also slow tumor growth).

These things would extend life.  People who practice intermittent fasting tend to have lower risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes (Horne et al. 2008).  Maybe restricting calories sometimes might be a good idea.  Before surgery, for example.  People who fast before surgery seem to have fewer complications.

Calorie Restriction Diet and Longevity

Would calorie restriction extend life in humans?  That question has not been answered.  The idea that a person could permanently follow the kind of restrictive diet needed to to induce life-prolonging effects without sacrificing quality of life seems unlikely.  It also seems unlikely that, as CrossFit HQ maintains, a person could follow this type of diet and still have all the energy they need to live a healthy active life.    Once of the things observed in animals is that they appear to be “more energetic” than control animals on normal diets. However, it is possible that the “youthful  vigor” exhibited by animals on highly restrictive diets is not youthful vigor, but agitation, anxiety and restlessness.  These are the kinds of behaviors we expect in starving people.  Calorie restriction may be an adaptive change to stress.

Calorie restriction can have some undesirable side effects

  • Reduced Growth Hormone levels
  • Ovarian atrophy
  • Reduced Thyroid hormone levels
  • Loss of Muscle mass
  • Loss of Bone Mass

And some other probably unwanted effects as well:

  • Increased Aggression
  • Hoarding behavior
  • Voracious eating patterns
  • Throwing feces at researchers
  • Throwing whatever else you can get your little paws on at researchers

An important thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between following an ad libitum diet when you are locked alone in a small cage with nothing but a pile of kibble and living a free life.    Animals in the wild live through good times and bad.  Having 20 – 40% less calories than you would eat if you were stuck in your room with a big bag of chips is a far cry from leading an active life.  Restricting calories in an otherwise free-living wild animal who works for a living may have very different effects.  Don’t be in a huge hurry to do this to your self.

A probably well-meaning lunatic  talked about putting his infant daughter on a calorie restriction diet so she would live a very long, healthy life.  (I must be a nut magnet.)  To all who are considering doing this to their children remember those news stories about kids found starving in locked closets.  The kids did not do well in there.   If you are considering doing it to yourself, understand that the point to reach is not starvation.  Calorie restriction may result in beneficial changes in physiology by causing mild stress.  That might mean just enough stress to increase activity levels, and alter physiology to produce some health benefits.  Huge food stress may not give the same results.  Huge stress in general has little going for it.

 

Robertson LT, & Mitchell JR (2013). Benefits of short-term dietary restriction in mammals. Experimental gerontology, 48 (10), 1043-8 PMID: 23376627

Mukherjee P, Abate LE, & Seyfried TN (2004). Antiangiogenic and proapoptotic effects of dietary restriction on experimental mouse and human brain tumors. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 10 (16), 5622-9 PMID: 15328205

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: Lutein Supplements Improve Night Vision even in people who do not have Macular Degeneration.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition and Vision. Our vision changes with age.  Much of that change may be due to exposure to ultra-violet light (uv-radiation).  Ultra-violet light is the same range of light that causes sunburns.  Eyes are naturally protected from ultra-violet light by anti-oxidants.

crossfit womens shirt Kettlebell
Help us provide a CrossFit membership for a needy kid. Inspired CrossFit Shirt Available through us or through Amazon. Search for WODMasters

There are three anti-oxidants that protect the eye.  These are lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.    Lutein accumulates in the retina.  These macular pigments are powerful anti-oxidants.   As we get a bit older (wiser, smarter, cooler) these macular pigments tend to change.  And not for the better.  They get depleted and vision gets worse.    There are a number of things that can cause Lutein levels to drop off:

  • Diet low in Lutein
  • Smoking
  • Oxidative Stress from many different sources such as air pollution, arsenic and other bad stuff.
  • Maybe age

Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect our vision.

  • Don’t engage in nasty habits
  • Eat well to protect your vision and keep your vision strong over time.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition:  The Eyes Have It.

Most of us will notice vision changes in our forties and fifties.  Its not just a need for reading glasses.   Eyeball pigments (macular pigments) are needed for more than reading.  The loss of pigment makes us lose some of our capacity for clear, central color vision.   We may have a harder time with glare and with contrast.  These things can make depth perception and driving a problem.

Researchers been investigating the role of lutein supplements as a means to counter these changes in vision.  While we may not notice vision changes until we are in middle age changes and damage may occur decades before.  If Lutein is depleted it cannot protect your eyes from day to day stress.  This may cause damage to accumulate over time.   People who spend a lot of time outdoors seem to lose macular pigments like Lutein.  Loss of macular pigments is associated with increased risk of macular degeneration.  Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: The study in brief.

The new study (Yao and Yuan 2013) looked at healthy, relatively young people.  Ages ranged from 25 to 47.   This study is especially interesting because the subjects did not have macular degeneration or other vision problems.  Subjects were given a thorough eye exam and given Lutein supplements for a year.  There were significant improvements in sharpness of vision, contrast sensitivity and sensitivity to glare.  Nice to know that improving your diet and help your driving and night basketball skills.  More studies are needed to see if increasing other macular pigments will also improve vision.  Lutein must be obtained from the diet.  The same is true for zeaxanthin.  Its possible that increasing intake of zeaxanthin would also improve vision.  Or that taking both would produce better results.  More studies will tell.

CrossFit Masters Nutrition: Supplements or Real Food?

You can get Lutein supplements if you want to go that route, but the best choice is probably to get lutein from real food.  Lutein is a carotenoid.  Like Vitamin A.  There are about 600 different carotinoids identified so far.  Most vegetables will contain many different carotenoids.  Some of these are also important for health.  Good sources of Lutein include:

    • Kale and other leafy greens
    • Peas
    • Egg Yolks
    • Carrots (Lutein in cooked carrots is more accessible)
    • Other Yellow vegetables

If you are following the Paleo diet and eating lots of vegetables you are probably doing well in this department.  If you are a vegetarian and eating lots of different vegetables you are probably doing well too.

Yao Y, Qiu GH, Wu XW, Cai ZY, Xu S, Liang XQ.  Lutein supplementation improves visual performance in Chinese drivers: 1-year randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.  Nutrition.  29 (7-8): 958-964.

Loughman J, Akkali MC, Beatty S, Scanlon G, Davison PA, O’Dwyer V, Cantwell T, Major P, Stack J, & Nolan JM (2010). The relationship between macular pigment and visual performance. Vision research, 50 (13), 1249-56 PMID: 20394766

 

Feeney J, Finucane C, Savva GM, Cronin H, Beatty S, Nolan JM, & Kenny RA (2013). Low macular pigment optical density is associated with lower cognitive performance in a large, population-based sample of older adults. Neurobiology of aging, 34 (11), 2449-56 PMID: 23769396

Bone Health and Osteoporosis: Ups and Downs of Bisphosphonates.

Bone Health and Osteoporosis Risks

CrossFit Bone Health and Osteoporosis.
A CrossFit Masters Athlete from CrossFit Bare Cove in Hingham, MA. takes care of her Bone Health.

If you are young you should eat well, not smoke, and get plenty of weight bearing exercise. Preferably starting from birth (which would be moving your little arms and legs.) There is a lot of research going on in Bone Health. We are learning about it at a rapid rate. This is exciting, but it also means there is a lot that is unknown. And our understanding may change. So far, the agreed Major risk factors for Osteoporosis include:

  • Being female (women lose bone at faster rates than men, and have less to start with)
  • Being white
  • Being small-boned
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Losing weight
  • Menopause

Bone Health Protection

  • Being black
  • Having a larger frame
  • Gaining weight (but can cause other health problems)
  • Good diet, not smoking, minimal alcohol intake
  • Weight bearing exercise
  • Being on hormone replacement therapy for menopause (but this increases risk of heart disease and breast cancer)
  • Sufficient vitamin D
  • Sufficient calcium intake

Some things are within our control.  Others are not.  If you are having bone loss you should consider taking bisphosphonates.

 

Bone Health and Bisphosphonates

Bisphosphonates are drugs used to prevent osteoporosis (excessive bone loss). Bone is living tissue. It is constantly replenishing and remodeling itself. Visualize a busy sculptor with modelling clay. If your body (sculptor) senses that bone is not under much stress it will stop paying so much attention to it and focus its energies somewhere else. Bisphosphonates block the cells that break down bone. Cells that produce bone are not bothered by bisphosphonates. This leads to thicker bones.

Bisphosphonates can make bone thicker, reducing hip fractures. They can also make bone more brittle. Some people who have been on bisphosphonates have suffered peculiar shattering of bones. Hip fractures are very dangerous, whether you have osteoporosis. Especially for older people who do not heal as quickly as young people. If you are over age 50 there is a 25% chance that a hip fracture will kill. The odds are worse for the elderly and frail. If you are thinking of taking a bisphosphonate drug to prevent osteoporosis you should probably think about the odds of getting a “traditional” hip fracture vs. a bisphosphonate fracture. The odds of getting a bisphosphonate-type fracture are quite small compared to the risk of getting a traditional hip fracture. Easy choice?  Not yet.

Bisphosphonates and other health risks and benefits.

Bisphophonates may improve “bone health”. They are also associated with

  • Cancer of the Esophogus
  • Atrial Fibrillation (this seems to be more of a risk with intravenous administration)
  • Decreased risk of colorectal cancer (Yea!)
  • Decreased risk of stroke. (Yea)
  • Disintegration of the jaw and tooth problems.
  • Making you feel crappy.   If you take bisphosphonates you should sit quietly for 30-60 minutes afterward.  This will reduce the risk of damage to the esophogus.

Bone Health, Bisphosphonates and Duration of Treatment

Your doctor may recommend that you take bisphosphonates for several years (maybe 5) and then stop for a year or two.  You would be monitored during your “vacation” time to see if your bone has stabilized.  If you start to lose bone again, your doctor may put you back on bisphosphonates.

Meanwhile, continue to eat well and exercise.  Think about giving CrossFit a try too.

I hope this helps.

Here are a few references.  There are many more.

Thosani, N., Thosani, S., Kumar, S., Nugent, Z., Jimenez, C., Singh, H., & Guha, S. (2012). Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer With Use of Oral Bisphosphonates: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31 (5), 623-630 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2012.42.9530

Kang JH, Keller JJ, & Lin HC (2012). A population-based 2-year follow-up study on the relationship between bisphosphonates and the risk of stroke. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 23 (10), 2551-7 PMID: 22270858

Kang JH, Keller JJ, & Lin HC (2013). Bisphosphonates reduced the risk of acute myocardial infarction: a 2-year follow-up study. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (1), 271-7 PMID: 23152093

Watts, N., & Diab, D. (2010). Long-Term Use of Bisphosphonates in Osteoporosis Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 95 (4), 1555-1565 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2009-1947

Nutrition: Could Coconut Oil Speed Cell Aging?

Nutrition: Cell Health and Telomeres.

You can only be as healthy as your cells.  A major marker of cell health is telomere length.  Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes.  They protect DNA from deteriorating.  They also protect DNA from accidental fusion with other chromosomes.  You need the caps.  Caps, however, tend to wear out (they get shorter) with repeated cell divisions.  Once a telomere suffers enough wear the cell can no longer divide.  Other things can wear out telomeres too.   Things like oxidative stress and inflammation.  Telomere shortening and wear is thought to play a major role in aging.  Preserving telomere length may be a way to prolong life.  Speeding telomere wear may cause faster aging.
[embedplusvideo height=”298″ width=”480″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/8_bNfQd7Smc?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=8_bNfQd7Smc&width=480&height=298&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep7933″ /]

Short to Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids

A diet rich in short to medium chain saturated fatty acids may damage telomeres.  A new paper published in the Journal of Nutrition reports on diet, fat intake and telomere length.  Subjects were part of the Women’s Health Initiative study.  Women who ate a lot of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had shorter telomeres.  Women with the lowest intake of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had the longest telomeres.  Long-chain saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats had no effect on telomeres.

Nutrition take away.

A diet high in short to medium chain fatty acids may speed aging.  A lot of people in CrossFit follow the Paleo Diet.  Or The Paleolithic Diet.  The Paleo diet and a lot of its followers advocate consumption of coconut oil.  Medium chain fatty acids do have some nice qualities.  Medium chain fatty acids have been associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.  Medium chain fatty acids are easy to digest.  They may reduce appetite and feelings of hunger.  And they pack a lot of calories.  Having a source of calories is important.   The research reported here shows you are probably better off sticking to long chain, and unsaturated fats.  Drink olive oil.  Eat walnuts.  Future research may report something different.  Few people, after all, eat lots of coconut oil.  And there may have been other factors involved with the women in the Women’s Health Initiative study that might also have caused their telomeres to shorten.

Foods High in Short or Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids

  • Coconut oil: 66% medium chain saturated fatty acids
  • Palm Kernal Oil
  • Butter
  • Whole Milk
  • Cheese

 

Song Y, You NC, Song Y, Kang MK, Hou L, Wallace R, Eaton CB, Tinker LF, & Liu S (2013). Intake of Small-to-Medium-Chain Saturated Fatty Acids Is Associated with Peripheral Leukocyte Telomere Length in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 23616516

Nagao K, & Yanagita T (2010). Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological research : the official journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society, 61 (3), 208-12 PMID: 19931617

What is Creatine. CrossFit Training Post: On Creatine Supplements

What is Creatine?

In terms of athletics, Creatine is a molecule needed for muscle function.  It helps keep you from running out of ATP during short, intense bursts of activity.  Energy in ATP (high school biology refresher) ultimately fuels most life processes.  Skeletal muscle uses a lot of ATP during intense exercise.  Creatine helps recycle used ATP so it continues to be available.  Creatine supplements increase muscle force and power.  At least in the short term.  And that’s the very short of it.  Creatine also interacts with other cellular processes.  It appears to increase production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF). IGF works with Growth Hormone and Insulin to increase cell division and growth.  Creatine supplements may cause this Creatine/Growth Hormone system to step up growth.

Will being on Creatine Supplements help me gain muscle mass?

Probably yes.   This may be especially the case for vegetarians.  In average Westerners your body produces half its own creatine.  Diet (meat) supplies the other half.  Vegetarians have lower levels of creatine than meat eaters. Masters Athletes may also benefit.  Creatine may help preserve muscle mass as well.

Can Creatine Supplements help me during CrossFit Competition?

CrossFit involves intense burst of energy from many different muscle groups.  So CrossFit might be the poster child for creatine supplements.

Can being on Creatine Supplements help me with endurance sports?

Creatine probably won’t help with endurance.  And it might slow you down if you have to carry more weight.  That can be muscle mass or it might simply be retained water.

What else can Creatine Supplements do?

Creatine supplements are being studied as treatments for people with muscle disorders.  They are also being studied for use in treating major depression.  Creatine seems to increase the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

What are side effects or dangers?

One potential problem with Creatine Supplements is the increased activity of the IGF/Growth Hormone axis.  While this might help with muscle growth, increased IGF and Growth Hormone can increase risk of cancer.  Most studies of creatine supplementation have involved small numbers of subjects.  And have been for short periods of time.  This means that the effects of taking creatine for a long time are not known.

Another possible problem with creatine supplements is that they can reduce flexibility.  This might be because of increased muscle mass.  Or it might be because of fluid build-up in muscle tissue.

Venus with her Kettlebells CrossFit Shirt.

Should I be on Creatine Supplements all the time?

There is concern that taking creatine for a long time or in great amounts can cause kidney damage.  “More” is often not “better.”  Another thing to keep in mind is that the body tends to seek balance.  If you give it more of something it may respond by producing less of it itself.  This happens, for example, with testosterone.  Testosterone will increase muscle growth, but the testes will figure out that there is enough testosterone in circulation.  And it will stop making so much.  Hence the shrinking testes and reduced fertility in men who take testosterone supplements.   It is possible that taking creatine supplements will eventually result in less creatine synthesis.  If you are going to take creatine you should take it for short periods of time.  And take breaks.  Until more research is done.

Safdar A, Yardley NJ, Snow R, Melov S, & Tarnopolsky MA (2008). Global and targeted gene expression and protein content in skeletal muscle of young men following short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation. Physiological genomics, 32 (2), 219-28 PMID: 17957000

Candow DG, Forbes SC, Little JP, Cornish SM, Pinkoski C, & Chilibeck PD (2012). Effect of nutritional interventions and resistance exercise on aging muscle mass and strength. Biogerontology, 13 (4), 345-58 PMID: 22684187

Lyoo IK, Yoon S, Kim TS, Hwang J, Kim JE, Won W, Bae S, & Renshaw PF (2012). A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oral creatine monohydrate augmentation for enhanced response to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor in women with major depressive disorder. The American journal of psychiatry, 169 (9), 937-45 PMID: 22864465