Category Archives: Health

High protein diet is protective for older people, but may be unhealthy for others

We’ve written several articles on the apparent benefits of a higher protein diet for the older athlete.  Loss of muscle mass starts fairly early and loss of strength is often apparent by middle age.  We do not know how much protein intake is ideal for humans.  High protein diets for older people have been geared towards controlling sarcopenia.  Sarcopenia is the term used to describe the muscle loss that happens as people age.  Sarcopenia is a major cause of frailty.  Osteoporosis, where loss of calcium from bones leads to brittleness and fractures, is the other big problem.   Sarcopenia and osteoporosis can be worse for women who have less bone mass and less muscle mass to start with.  A number of studies have shown that older people preserve more muscle if their protein intake is increased.  If older people can preserve more muscle that should mean fewer people needing assisted-living.  Exercise, including resistance exercise also helps preserve muscle.  Exercise also strengthens bone and protects against osteoporosis.  As for the older athlete, preservation of muscle mass may provide a competitive edge.  For more easy-going people, preservation of muscle mass may mean:

  • less of the sinking feeling you get when you realize you know exactly where your body should have been when you took that flying leap for a frisbee.
  • fewer pained expressions on the faces of children when you fail a back flip
  • less aggravation opening jars
woman masters crossfit athlete high protein diet
Masters Crossfit Athlete competes in the Crossfit Games Open 14.1 in the 50-54 age category.

A new study by a team of researchers from the US and Italy examined protein intake in adults over age 50 compared with rates of Cancer, Diabetes, Mortality in general and IGF-1 (a growth hormone) levels.  Study subjects were divided into two groups: ages 50 to 65 and those over 65.  For people ages 50 to 65 a high protein diet increased risk of cancer, diabetes and death in general.  IGF-1 levels were also higher in these adults.  IGF-1is a growth hormone that may preserve muscle mass, but may also increase risk of cancer.  Middle-age users of deer antler velvet, which contains IGF-1, beware.  Researchers also found that people who ate more plant protein had lower death rates than people who ate more animal protein.  In bullet points:

High protein diet for people age 50 to 65

  • High animal protein diet increased risk of cancer by 400% in adults 50-65
  • High animal protein diet Increased risk of death by 75%
  • High animal protein diet increased risk of death from diabetes-related causes by 500%
  • High plant-based protein diet showed little to no increase in death or cancer risk

High protein diet for people over age 65

  • high protein diet reduced risk of cancer and death in people over age 65
  • Risk of death from diabetes-related causes was the same as it was for adults 50-65

Conclusions for dietary protein intake:

The researchers in this case also compared epidemiological findings with data derived from mice, which is unusual.  One of their conclusions was that a low protein intake diet during middle age followed by a high protein intake in later age may “optimize healthspan and longevity.”  I would add some considerations to that:

  1. It didn’t seem to be protein in itself thatwas the main culprit in the study, although there was some interesting data on ifg-1 levels and protein intake.  One of the problems with some forms of animal protein (meat) is that carcinogents (cancer causers) may form during high heat cooking. 
  2. Animal fat will contain more lipophilic chemicals than vegetable fats.  Some lipophilic chemicals build up in humans over time. 
  3. It seems likely that something besides protein is causing the problem. 
  4. There may be other considerations for post-menopausal women, who seem to weather aging (functionally) better when protein intake is higher.
  5. People age 50-65 are different than people 65 and older.  The 65 and older group may already have weeded out people who were vulnerable to heart disease.  (This would probably not hold for cancer).

High protein diets have been popular for a number of years now.  High protein diets, especially meat based high protein diets, have been especially popular in the Crossfit Community.  Unless you are a middle aged adult, a high animal protein diet may be bad for your long-term health.    It would be nice to know what the results would be if high-fat/high protein/poor lifestyle/obesity was separated from high protein/healthy lifestyle/healthy weight.  Hopefully the researchers will continue this line of inquiry. 

 

Levine, M., Suarez, J., Brandhorst, S., Balasubramanian, P., Cheng, C., Madia, F., Fontana, L., Mirisola, M., Guevara-Aguirre, J., Wan, J., Passarino, G., Kennedy, B., Wei, M., Cohen, P., Crimmins, E., & Longo, V. (2014). Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population Cell Metabolism, 19 (3), 407-417 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2014.02.006

Gregorio L, Brindisi J, Kleppinger A, Sullivan R, Mangano KM, Bihuniak JD, Kenny AM, Kerstetter JE, & Insogna KL (2014). Adequate Dietary Protein is Associated with Better Physical Performance among Post-Menopausal Women 60-90 Years. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 18 (2), 155-60 PMID: 24522467

Beasley JM, Wertheim BC, LaCroix AZ, Prentice RL, Neuhouser ML, Tinker LF, Kritchevsky S, Shikany JM, Eaton C, Chen Z, & Thomson CA (2013). Biomarker-calibrated protein intake and physical function in the Women’s Health Initiative. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 61 (11), 1863-71 PMID: 24219187

Protein intake throughout the day increases muscle protein synthesis by 25%

New research on protein intake: protein each meal results in more muscle protein synthesis than the same amount of protein eaten in one meal

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Protein synthesis is a high-interest topic of athletes and many male recreational athletes. Well-developed muscles are signs of health, strength and virility in men. Well-developed muscles are also important for women. Muscles as well as bone are lost as we get older. Much attention has been given to avoiding osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures, spine malformation, pain and loss of independence. Sarcopenia is the muscle equivalent of osteoporosis. Muscle mass is lost a bit each year. That can accelerate in menopausal women. Loss of muscle can lead to weakness, frailty and loss of independence too. Sarcopenia also happens to men. It is important to take care of “muscle health,” even if you’re not interested in looking jacked.

Timing of protein intake

There are some advantages to late protein intake. Protein intake before bed increases muscle synthesis. But what about the rest of the day? Many people get most of their protein at dinner. Many get most of their carbs at breakfast. Is there an advantage to spreading protein intake out over the course of your day? It looks like the answer is Yes.

The Research:

Researchers looked at 24 hour muscle protein synthesis in a group of healthy adults (men and women). The subjects were first given a diet with most of the protein consumed at night (about 10 grams at breakfast, 16 grams at lunch and 63 grams at dinner). This was followed by a second diet where protein was consumed evenly at three meals (average about 31 grams per meal). Subjects stayed on each diet for seven days.

The results:

Protein synthesis was 25% higher when subjects consumed protein evenly at each meal.

Take away:

Its better to have protein with breakfast, lunch and dinner than having a big high protein meal at night. This runs counter to some current diet practices among the health conscious such as intermittent fasting or eating one meal a day. For more information on intermittent fasting see this article by Dr. Jose Antonio of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.  Those practices may not be beneficial for prevention of muscle loss although they may be beneficial for other reasons.  The paper is written more with an eye towards preventing sarcopenia in the ill and the elderly. The authors do suggest that the amount of protein in the RDA is low for optimal health.  I don’t know of any research that’s been done on protein timing and performance for athletes.  If anyone does, please send a link.

“There is broad agreement among many protein researchers
that the RDA for protein [0.8 g protein/(kgd)], although
sufficient to prevent deficiency, is insufficient to promote optimal
health, particularly in populations exposed to catabolic stressors
such as illness, physical inactivity, injury, or advanced age (4,22–
25). Several recent consensus statements have suggested that a
protein intake between 1.0 and 1.5 g/(kgd) may confer health
benefits beyond those afforded by simply meeting the current
RDA (4,26,27). In the current study we provided diets that
exceeded the RDA for protein by 50% but were consistent with
the average daily protein intake of the U.S. adult population [i.e.,
1.2 g protein/(kgd)]”

 Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults J. Nutr. jn.113.185280;

 

Resistance and Aerobic Training: New research says both together is better for heart health

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in older adults.  Heart disease kills about 600,000 Americans annually.  Heart disease is the most common cause of death for women.  It is more common than breast cancer, which tends to get more attention.  Many women who suffer heart attacks do not have previous signs of symptoms (approximately 2/3rds will have a sudden heart attack).  Major risk factors for heart disease are:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Obesity
  3. Poor blood lipid profile (dyslipidemia)
  4. Inactivity
Coconut oil and CrossFit Masters
CrossFit Masters Athletes combine aerobic and resistance training all the time.

An obese individual can expect to lose 6-7 years of life.  This can matter a lot to the individual, but also to his or her family, who may lose that person’s love, support and companionship.  Exercise reduces all four of the major risk factors for heart disease.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association all recommend 20-30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day for adults.

Resistance training is also recommended, but with an eye to improving functional fitness into old age.   Little research has been done on the benefits of resistance training as a means of improving cardiovascular health.

Exercise:  resistance training and aerobic training reduced risk of heart disease

A new study from the Research Center in Sports Science, Health Sciences and Human Development and the Research Center in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, Faculty of Sport and the University Porto, in Porto, Portugal examined the effects of aerobic training alone vs. aerobic and resistance training together and got some interesting results.  Here are some of the study details:

  • Subjects were 59 older men
  • Men were divided into three groups: Aerobic training, aerobic and resistance training or no training.
  • None of the men had cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or was severely overweight
  • Men had no previous history of exercise training or recreational sports

The Training Programs lasted 32 weeks:

  • Aerobic Training Group: ran or did brisk walks two days a week and swimming training 1 day a week at levels that were perceived by participants as “moderate intensity”.  Each training session included a 10 minute warm up, 3 sets of 15-20 rep body weight exercises and a five minute cool down with stretching.  Subjects did agility exercises in the pool for 10 minutes each session.  Agility exercises included water volley-ball and water polo.  Sounds like a fun program.
  • Resistance and Aerobic Training Group:  did the same exercises as the Aerobic Training group except that one of the dry-land aerobic sessions was replaced with resistance training.  Resistance training consisted of 65% of one rep max with three sets of 8-10 reps of bench press, leg press, lateral pull-down, leg exension, military press, leg curl and arm curl.  Subjects also worked on their abs and backs.
  • Control Group: carried on with normal life

Results:

No improvements in hypertension , obesity or dyslipidemia were seen in the Aerobic Training Group.  Disappointing.   Maybe a longer training period was needed.  Hard to say.  Improvements were observed in the Resistance and Aerobic Training Group.  Improvements were seen in:

  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia

Discussion:

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Why didn’t the aerobic training group show improvements?  Perhaps the exercise program wasn’t intense enough.  Maybe improvements would have been seen if the exercise program had lasted longer.  Maybe it is important to increase the intensity beyond moderate, especially over time.   Perhaps the resistance training program provided more aerobic training.  8-10 reps may be like short sprints for the cardio-vascular system. Short bouts of intense exercise can be very effective (See High Intensity Impact Training).  More research is needed, but for what we have so far it looks like combining both is better than just aerobic training alone.  If you do crossfit you are doing this already.

 

Sousa N, Mendes R, Abrantes C, Sampaio J, & Oliveira J (2013). Long-term effects of aerobic training versus combined aerobic and resistance training in modifying cardiovascular disease risk factors in healthy elderly men. Geriatrics & gerontology international, 13 (4), 928-35 PMID: 23441809

Polyunsaturated fats may protect against loss of muscle mass

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Our previous post (see below or click here) discussed the impact exercise on long-term strength.  In a nutshell, exercise has long term effects, even after the program has been halted.  This week we will talk about new research that shows that dietary fats may also be important for muscle mass.  Who’d have thought?  Researchers are unsure how it works, but . . . dietary fat may influence protein turnover through its effects on inflammation and insulin.  This may be important for long term health.   Preserving muscle mass may be important for athletes and for maintaining a competitive edge.  Loss of muscle mass occurs with age and is one of the leading contributors to frailty in the elderly.  Preserving muscle mass may also allow people to enjoy active lives longer.

A study just published in the Journal of Nutrition  looked at what types of fats were eaten by 2,689 women who are part of the UK study of twins.  The women were between the ages of 18 and 79.  Researchers also looked at ratios of the different types of fats (polyunsaturated /saturated fats), the percent of calories obtained from fat and the womens’ fat free mass.   “Fat Free Mass” is used as an indicator for muscle mass.  Its imperfect.  Bone, of course, has mass.  But people with higher fat free mass usually have more muscle mass.

Women who ate more polyunsaturated fats had the most fat free mass.  Women who ate more transfats, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats had less fat free mass.  The researchers also noted that the difference in fat free mass between women who ate mostly unsaturated fatty acids and those who ate mostly saturated fatty acids was about the same amount of fat free mass loss that occurs over the course of a decade.  Interesting.   These are, of course, correlations.  More research will be needed to find out if it is certain that unsaturated fats can protect people from age-related loss of muscle mass.

Good sources of unsaturated fatty acids include:

Olive oil
Avocado
Flax
Nuts
Etc.

Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary Fat and Fatty Acid Profile Are Associated with Indices of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women Aged 18-79 Years. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24401817

Running and Arthritis? It looks like running protects joints instead.

running and arthritis?  Doesn't look like it.
Running and arthritis? Neither of these turds has needed a hip or knee replacement yet. Shoulders are a completely different matter. At Crossfit Seven in Fort Worth, TX.

Arthritis can be crippling and painful.  We can safely say that no one wants arthritis, however, many of us will get it anyway.   Research in this area has been confusing.  There has been a fair amount of research on exercise and arthritis with many finding an increased risk with exercise and other finding decreased risk.  There are probably many factors involved and many reasons why one study produces on result and similar study does not.  The type of exercise may be key.  Common belief has been that running would lead to arthritis in the knees or hips. That particular belief seems to be incorrect.  Running may in fact protect the knees and hips and prevent arthritis in these areas.  There are a number of ways be which exercise may protect joints:

  • Strengthening of cartilage and connective tissue
  • Increased production of elasticity protective factors like cartilage proteoglycans
  • Helping people maintain a healthy weight so that joints are less stressed on a daily basis.

The first two factors are important because thinned, inelastic tendons go hand in hand with osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis is usually caused by injury or wear and tear rather and not an auto-immune process.

The National Runners Health Study Results

The National Runners Health Study is a study of about 60,000 runners and 40,000 walkers that began in 1998.  50,000 or these original volunteers completed a survey in 2006.  A recent report using data from the National Runners Health Study found no increased risk of osteoarthritis or hip replacement among recreational runners.  This included runners who completed multiple marathons and regularly exceeded recommended guidelines for exercise.   In fact, the number of marathons run did not seem to have much to do with arthritis risk.   Risk of arthritis and hip replacement was lowest in subjects that ran more than 8 miles a week.

People who walked also had less arthritis and hip replacements, but the benefit seemed to be greater for runners.  The researchers calculated that about 1/3 to 1/2 of the decreased risk of arthritis was simply reduced body mass index (BMI) in people who run or walk.
Williams PT (2013). Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 45 (7), 1292-7 PMID: 23377837

Timing of protein intake: 20 grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise builds muscle with max efficiency

Timing of Protein intake builds muscles after resistance training.

Timing of protein intake matters.
Timing of protein intake can matter. Before or shortly after exercise seems to work best.

Today’s topic is an overview of dietary protein and amino acids and how these help build muscle and prevent muscle loss.  First, just a tiny bit about proteins and amino acids.  Proteins are made of amino acids.  Proteins are (for the most part) broken down into amino acids during digestion.  Once that happens they can be reassembled into whatever proteins your body needs.  Amino acids are hugely important to physiology.  They are needed for enzymes, hormones, hair and other things.  For most people, the first thoughts of protein and amino acids are muscle.

There is good evidence that consuming protein directly before or after resistance training reduces muscle breakdown and increases muscle mass accumulation.  The fine points of how much, which amino acids and exactly when they should be taken are under investigation.  Here are a few highlights.  Bear in mind that these may change as research continues:

  • Timing of intake: so far it looks like protein has its best protective effect when taken just before or soon after resistance training.  Consuming protein as late as two hours after exercise doesn’t seem to work as well as consuming proteins within five minutes of an exercise session.  Keep in mind that this timing difference may not matter functionally.  Even without extra protein, muscles are in active building mode for about 48 hours after exercise.
  • Which amino acids: How different amino acids stack up against each other is unknown to date.  Studies conflict.  One study is not necessarily wrong.  Two studies can conflict and still provide valuable information.  Results that seem to contradict one another may be caused by differences in how the study was done.  How old were the subjects; were they all men, or men and women?  What was the timing?  What training protocol was followed?   How much protein was given?  What else were the subjects eating or doing in their real lives?
  • How much: 20 grams of amino acids (or protein in a meal) seems to induce maximal results for young adults.  Older adults and elderly people may need more to get the same benefit.  This is probably because they (we) aren’t as efficient as we used to be.  Bummer.  But there you go.  Elderly people taking 35 grams of amino acids after exercise have had better results than elderly people taking 20 grams of amino acids. Elderly people in one study needed 40 grams of protein to reach maximal rate of muscle protein synthesis.

Timing of Protein Intake and Amino Acids can help prevent muscle loss during dieting.

Protein intake is important body builders and hyper-jacked crossfit nuts.  But it is also important to people on weight loss programs.  Increasing protein while dieting can help preserve muscle mass.  Preserving muscle mass matters to many people for aesthetic reasons.  Muscle gives form and definition.  Having well-developed muscle may also help people keep weight off.  That is pretty well accepted.  Less attention is given to the importance of preserving muscle mass during aging.  People who are constantly dieting and losing muscle mass may end up with even less when they are older.  Loss of muscle with aging is a major cause of frailty and loss of independence.   People with no interest in sporting huge muscles should still pay attention to this aspect of health.

Protein after exercise

If you are a young adult you can get your 20 grams of protein by using a protein bar or shake.  Powerbar makes a bar containing 20 grams of protein at a cost of about $2.00.  You could also have a glass of milk and a whole wheat peanut butter sandwich at a cost of about $0.60.  The milk and peanut butter sandwich would have about 23 grams of protein.  You could save $1.40 each time.  Please consider donating that money to research.  Many of our Paleo Diet readers will consider milk, bread and peanuts as horrors of the dark.  Its OK to eat these things.  Especially if the alternative is refined snacks, processed food or junk food.

If you are a masters athlete or older adult you may need to think about the extra calories you might get from two glasses of milk and two peanut butter sandwiches.  Timing meals with exercise may help.

Take away:

Twenty grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise helps build muscles with maximal efficiency.  Older adults may need 35 to 40 grams to get the same effect.

ResearchBlogging.org

Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland TM, & Phillips SM (2013). Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Amino acids, 45 (2), 231-40 PMID: 23645387

Crossfit Paleo Diet: Low-carb high-fat diets may impair glucose tolerance

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Low carb diets are very popular now.  This post is about a new research finding on the effects of low carb diets on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.  The finding is that Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets may impair glucose tolerance (Biehohuby et al. 2013).  This was unexpected.  While, low carb/ high fat diets are used by many people for weight loss programs, some diet books and health advocates have been promoting low carb/high fat diets as a means of  improving insulin sensitvity.  And protecting people from developing diabetes.  In fact, improvement of insulin sensitivity is often listed as one of the reasons why the general public should follow low carb/high fat diets.

Crossfit Paleo Diet: Benefits of low-carb high-fat diets?

So far research has been inconclusive.  Some studies support the hypothesis that low carb/high fat diets help improve insulin sensitivity but others don’t.  Some have found that low carb/high fat diets make insulin sensitivity worse.  The study by Biehohuby et al. (2013) was undertaken to see how low carb/high fat diets change glucose and insulin handling.  Subjects were male rats.

Study Synopsis:

Four groups of rats were fed one of four different diets:

  • a low carb/high fat with normal amount of calories for a rat or
  • a low calorie low carb/high fat diet or
  • a high protein low carb/high fat diet, or
  • a low protein ketogenic low carb high/fat diet.

Sensitivity to glucose and insulin was tested.  Results were as follows:

  • Animals had lower fasting glucose and insulin levels (generally thought to be good)
  • the low carb/high fat diets impaired glucose tolerance (generally thought to be bad)
  • low carb/high fat diets impaired insulin sensitivity (generally thought to be bad)

Research Conclusions

Here are the scientists conclusion about their study in their own words:

“Taken together, these data show that lack of dietary carbohydrates leads to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance in rats despite causing a reduction in fasting glucose and insulin concentrations. Our results argue against a beneficial effect of LC-HF diets on glucose and insulin metabolism, at least under physiological conditions. Therefore, use of LC-HF diets for weight loss or other therapeutic purposes should be balanced against potentially harmful metabolic side effects.”

Many, if not most, people have heard or been told that a low carb diet is health protective. It may be a good strategy for weight loss.  Diabetics may also do well or better on a low carb diet.  However, it may not be good for otherwise healthy people to stay on low carb/high fat diets for long periods of time.

Many diet trends have roots in science and research. The Paleo diet is just one.  However, of these roots get tangled with dogma, loyalties, financial interests and personal reputations. It is not uncommon to hear disdain or contempt for people who do not follow low carb diets, as well as concern for the health of people who continue to eat carbohydrates.  At least among my crossfit paleo diet associates.  I As a scientist, I often wonder where dogmatic thinking comes from.  As a professor I wonder how best to teach people to use other approaches to figuring out the order of the universe.  Its not always easy.  It may be simply part of human nature to

  1. build little compartments
  2. stick things in the compartments
  3. put them back in the compartments if they get out
The WODMASTERS Rhino Design ruminates on Vitamin K
WODMASTERS Rhino thinks about low carb diets

The problem with taking this approach to health and nutrition information is that we are learning so much, so fast and more is pouring in every day.  Its awesomely incredible.  Really.  But with all these little bits floating around and new bits being added to the pile its hard to find permanent homes for everything.  A high fat diet may not belong in the “avoid” pile.  Maybe it should be taken out and placed into the “go for it” pile.  Better yet, keep it on the table and see what it fits into.

For Medical and Research People:

Might glucose challenge test results from people on low-carb/high fat diets lead to their classification as pre-diabetic?  What is the clinical significance of low-carb diet induced changes in glucose and insulin handling anyway?

ResearchBlogging.org

Bielohuby M, Sisley S, Sandoval D, Herbach N, Zengin A, Fischereder M, Menhofer D, Stoehr BJ, Stemmer K, Wanke R, Tschöp MH, Seeley RJ, & Bidlingmaier M (2013). Impaired glucose tolerance in rats fed low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets. American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism, 305 (9) PMID: 23982154

Vitamin K may keep your brain from falling apart

Keeping your brain from falling apart is serious business.  Tape and twine have their places, but we are writing to report on some other . . . . “stuff.”   Today’s stuff is Vitamin K.

Vitamin K, Health and Research

Research is indicating that Vitamin K may be important in protecting brain function. Researchers recently measured vitamin K levels in blood (as serum phylloquinone) and compared them with how well people did on several tests of cognitive function. People with higher levels of Vitamin K did better on tests of verbal memory and recall.   320 men and women between the ages of 70 and 85 participated in the study. This is good news because we do have some control over our vitamin K intake. The study has its limitations of course.  A blood test measures only what is currently in a person’s system.    The blood test used in this study was not able to measure people’s Vitamin K intake over a long period of time.

What is Vitamin K?

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Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin.  There are two common forms K1 and K2.  K1 comes from plants.   K1 was the form of vitamin K evaluated on the study of cognitive function.

Animals (like us) use K1 to make K2.  K2 is also synthesized by bacteria in the gut.   People may have many different kinds of gut bacteria.  Your gut bacteria will be influenced by your diet and medical history.

Vitamin K is best known as the vitamin the helps blood clot.  Good dietary sources of Vitamin K include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli
  • Grains (minor sources)
  • Liver, eggs, meat, fish

Vitamin K may be important for maintaining bone health as well as brain health.  Vitamin K is being evaluated as a possible treatment for osteoporosis.  Until we hear more on that it is probably best to eat real food and plenty of vegetables rather rely on supplements.  Vitamins in vegetables come “packaged” with many other biologically important molecules.  You may need the entire package (by which we mean vegetable not multivitamin).  A dose of one particular molecule may not be particularly helpful.

Presse N, Belleville S, Gaudreau P, Greenwood CE, Kergoat MJ, Morais JA, Payette H, Shatenstein B, & Ferland G (2013). Vitamin K status and cognitive function in healthy older adults. Neurobiology of aging, 34 (12), 2777-83 PMID: 23850343

Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, & Theuwissen E (2013). Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA, 24 (9), 2499-507 PMID: 23525894

Can drinking out of plastic bottles cause migraines?

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Migraine headaches.  That word should not be typed, let alone published.  Even seeing the word “migraine” in print can bring waves of nausea to some headache sufferers.  A migraine is not like other headaches.  Some can be worse than others.  Generally having a migraine feels like the pressure one might experience while vomiting through a crushing head injury.  Its awful.  And trying to support and comfort someone through one is awful too.

Estrogen and Migraine Triggers

Its difficult to say what trigger migraines.  For some people it seems to be one type of food or another.   Repetitive changes in light and shadow are what seem to get me.   For many women, migraines seem to be worse during times of the month when estrogen levels shift.  Other common triggers are thought to be:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • red wine
  • chocolate
  • nuts

We’ll focus on estrogen today but I wanted to tell people about a new bit of research on estrogen-mimics and migraine headaches.

Estrogen-mimics

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Estrogen-mimics are sometimes called XenoEstrogens.  Bascially they are molecules that resemble estrogen.  Molecules have shapes, just like most things.  The shape of natural estrogen fits nicely into estrogen receptors.  Once the two come together (estrogen and receptor) a series of events may proceed.  What happens after the union depends on the type of receptor and the type of cell the receptor sits on.

There are many chemicals that are shaped like estrogen.  These chemicals can unlock estrogen receptors and start chains of biochemical reactions just like natural estrogen.  Well, there are some differences.  Some don’t fit as well as real estrogen.  Some only fit some of the estrogen receptors and not others.   That means that many are not as powerful as real estrogen either.   That is probably a very good thing.  Estrogen mimics are everywhere.  Men and children, as well as women are exposed.   Still, a little hormone goes a long way.  Less powerful estrogens can still have an impact.

Plastics, Estrogen-mimics and Migraines

Many of the molecules that make up plastics have estrogen-like behaviors.  They can interact with estrogen receptors and make things happen.  There is growing evidence that estrogen mimics in the environment, food packaging and medical devices are having an impact on human health and function.  BPA is an example of an estrogen-mimic from plastics.  There are others, but BPA has gotten the bulk of attention.  There’s been a lot of research on BPA.  Here is a bit more from Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center:

BPA makes Migraines worse

In rats.  Rats are used for these kinds of studies because it would be unconscionable to do them with people.  Migraine sufferers probably know it is unconscionable to induce migraines in any living thing.  Animals used in this study were induced with what researchers call “inflammatory soup.”  They were not given a BPA Migraine.  Control animals and BPA-dosed animals both got what appeared to be nasty nasty headaches.  Rats dosed with BPA showed more migraine-like behaviors than undosed rats.  The BPA migraine appeared to be worse.

What this means is that BPA interacts with estrogen receptors (probably in the brain) and increases the intensity of migraine.   The amount of BPA the rats were given was based on levels of BPA commonly found in people.   This is a very interesting study.  And it is “just out” and not widely available.  Leave a comment if you’d like to learn more about the study.

Takeaway:

wodmasters crossfit shirtsIf you are migraine-prone and want to do everything you can to avoid them stay away from Xeno-estrogens like BPA.  That means

  • use fresh or frozen instead of canned when possible
  • Drink out of metal or glass instead of plastic bottles
  • Be aware of plastics in food packaging

Take care of yourself.  Migraines suck.

A moment of silence, please, for all the animals who participated in this research.

 

Here is the reference:

Vermeer LM, Gregory E, Winter MK, McCarson KE, Berman NE.  2013.  Exposure to Bisphenol A exacerbates migraine-like behaviors in a multibehavior model of rat migraine.  Toxicological Sciences.  E-published ahead of print. November 4, 2013.http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/10/31/toxsci.kft245.full.pdf+html

 

Christensen KL, Lorber M, Ye X, & Calafat AM (2013). Reconstruction of bisphenol A intake using a simple pharmacokinetic model. Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology PMID: 24252884

Anti-Inflammatories and Anti-Oxidants in Licorice: Is Licorice good before a workout?

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This article started in response to a question: “what is the best supplement to take before a workout.”  Licorice seems as good a choice as several other products.  So I looked into it.  First of all Licorice has a lot of interesting chemicals in it.  Many of these seem to be good for you.   As long as its used in moderation.  Every silver lining has a cloud.  Licorice contains several different pretty powerful anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are important because they protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage increases risk of cancer and shortens cell life.   A research team in China, isolated six different compounds from licorice extract.  The licorice compounds were then tested for anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.   Inflammation can also lead to oxidative damage and can increase risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and etc.  Anti-inflammatory agents may protect long-term health.   The compounds are listed below in case anyone wants to look into them a little more deeply.  Interested in making the switch from booze and cigarettes to licorice and tea? New research indicates licorice may be the better choice.

omega-6 fatty acids and health discussion with licorice
CrossFit Trainer talks about nutrition and omega-6 fatty acids and licorice.

 

All of the compounds had health protective qualities.  Many shared the same properties.  Here are a few of the things licorice extract can do:

  • Anti-Oxidant Power.  Three of the compounds in licorice extract were strong anti-oxidants.  The three were better at scavenging free radicals than Vitamin C.
  • Inhibit Lipid Peroxidation.  A number of the compounds were able to inhibit lipid peroxidation.  Lipid peroxidation damages cell membranes.  Stopping lipid peroxidation is generally considered a good thing.  Licorice compounds also inhibited production of reactive oxygen species.  Reactive oxygen species are compounds that cause oxidative damage including lipid peroxidation.
  • Inhibited prostaglandin E2.  Inhibition of prostaglandin E2 may or may not be a good thing.  Prostaglandin E2 is important in pregnancy and birth.  But it also stimulates tumor growth possibly by increasing inflammation.   It is possible that licorice extracts may be anti-carcinogens.  It is possible that pregnant women should stay away from licorice.
  • Inhibited production of interleukin-6.  Interleukin-6 inhibitors are under study as anti-arthritis drugs.  Interleukin-6 also activates inflammation.  Elevated interleukin-6 is associated with atherosclerosis, depression, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, among other things.  Interleukin-6 is important in good ways too.  Inhibiting the hell out of it may create other problems.  Such as maybe suppressing the immune system.

Should I eat tons of Licorice to protect my health?

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No.  Don’t eat tons of it.  Licorice has a down side.  Too much of most things is not good and there is not enough research to support going overboard.  There are also compounds in licorice that are harmful.  Licorice has been shown to raise blood pressure, for example.   And there is a case report of a woman who overindulged in licorice (about 1.5 pounds) and became extremely ill.    Her body underwent a series of changes unfavorable to a long life.  To quote from the paper:  Creatine kinase, hypokalemia, hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia with low aldosterone and plasma renin levels and high intact PTH.  So go light.  She also got rhabdomyelesis.

Should I eat Twizzlers before working out or doing a CrossFit WOD?

You should avoid black licorice if you have high blood pressure.   Otherwise a twizzler or two is probably fine once in a while.  One or two red twizzlers will help you get pumped without the risks posed by black licorice.  And exercise stimulates the body to produce its own anti-oxidants.  Adding anti-oxidants before a workout may blunt your body’s response.  In this case red Twizzlers may be better than black twizzlers as a pre-workout stimulant.  Only black twizzlers are made with real licorice extract.  If you check the package you will see that it contains “less than 3% licorice extract.”  With good quality control you could eat a pound of black twizzler licorice and consume less than 3.6 grams of extract.  The University of Maryland posts that licorice can be used at about 1.2 grams per day.  A pound of twizzlers may contain three times that limit.    Hard to say when the content might be anywhere between 3.6 grams and nothing.  There is a lot of information and a lot of research being done on licorice as a medicinal plant.  Much more than I expected.  More than I can chew right now.   There does not seem to be any research on the benefits or dangers of red twizzlers.

Licorice compounds with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties:

  • 5′-(1,1-dimethylallyl)-3,4,4′-trihydroxy-2-methoxychalcone
  • licochalcone B
  • licochalcone A
  • echinatin
  • glycycoumarin
  • glyurallin B

Fu Y, Chen J, Li YJ, Zheng YF, & Li P (2013). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of six flavonoids separated from licorice. Food chemistry, 141 (2), 1063-71 PMID: 23790887

Sigurjónsdóttir HA, Franzson L, Manhem K, Ragnarsson J, Sigurdsson G, & Wallerstedt S (2001). Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship. Journal of human hypertension, 15 (8), 549-52 PMID: 11494093

Shah M, Williams C, Aggarwal A, & Choudhry WM (2012). Licorice-related rhabdomyolysis: a big price for a sweet tooth. Clinical nephrology, 77 (6), 491-5 PMID: 22595392