Category Archives: the paleo diet

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

The Paleo Diet: Quinoa, protein, anti-oxidants and saponins.

What is Quinoa and is Quinoa Paleo (OK for the paleo diet?)

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Quinoa is (are?) seeds from a broad-leaf plant.  Grains are from grasses.  When cooked quinoa tastes mildly like toasted broccoli.  This is not as bad as it sounds.  Quinoa is grain-like and can be used in place of rice or pasta.  It is good for breakfast with nuts and cinnamon.   Quinoa does not contain Gluten.  So if you have celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity you should be fine with Quinoa.

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Kettlebell shirt for Crossfit women and other strong women

Is Quinoa Paleo?

If you are trying to follow the Paleo diet, quinoa should be fine too. Quinoa commonly contains many important minerals, including selenium.  Selenium is an important anti-oxidant and is protective against some cancers.  It is also important for synthesis of testosterone, among other things.
Quinoa has a number of other benefits. Quinoa provides more anti-oxidants and protein than wheat.  The anti-oxidants in quinoa appear to be more bio-available than anti-oxidants from wheat.  Bio-available simply means that the nutrients can be extracted by the digestive system and used.  Somethings are present in foods, but cannot be used.   Things that are not bio-available are dumped.   Other benefits of quinoa include an omega 6:Omega 3 ratio of about 6:1, and high vitamin E and protein content (~15%).  It also has a low glycemic index.

What about Saponins? Are Saponins Dangerous?

Some people in the CrossFit and the Paleo communities believe saponins are dangerous and will damage the intestines.   Quinoa does contain saponins. Followers of the paleo diet have placed quinoa on the forbidden list for this reason.  However, saponins are a class of chemical. There are many different saponins.  There are good ones and bad ones (Francis et al. 2002). Some saponins can damage cell membranes. However, others are beneficial.  Some saponins are protective and serve as anti-oxidants. The Saponin arjunolic acid is one of these.   This saponin has been proposed as a possible treatment for diabetes. P-coumaric acid, another saponin that is present in quinoa, may reduce risk of colon cancer. It is also an anti-oxidant. Like curcumin.  Saponins are also found in many other healthful foods such as vegetables and tea.

Some people think that increasing selenium intake will increase testosterone levels.  But, that is probably not true. You can read more about that here.

Francis G, Kerem Z, Makkar HPS, Becker K.  2002.  The biological action of saponins in animal systems: a review.  British Journal of Nutrition.  88(6): 587-605.

Laus MN, Gagliardi A, Soccio M, Flagella Z, Pastore D.  2012.  Antioxidant activity of free and bound compounds in Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa willd.) seeds in comparison with durum wheat and emmer.  2012.  Journal of Food Science. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2012.02923.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Alvarez-Jubete L, Arendt EK, & Gallagher E (2009). Nutritive value and chemical composition of pseudocereals as gluten-free ingredients. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 60 Suppl 4, 240-57 PMID: 19462323 Manna P, & Sil PC (2012). Arjunolic acid: beneficial role in type 1 diabetes and its associated organ pathophysiology. Free radical research, 46 (7), 815-30 PMID: 22486656

Manna P, & Sil PC (2012). Arjunolic acid: beneficial role in type 1 diabetes and its associated organ pathophysiology. Free radical research, 46 (7), 815-30 PMID: 22486656

Ferguson LR, Zhu ST, & Harris PJ (2005). Antioxidant and antigenotoxic effects of plant cell wall hydroxycinnamic acids in cultured HT-29 cells. Molecular nutrition & food research, 49 (6), 585-93 PMID: 15841493

CrossFit, The Paleo Diet, Alcohol and Vodka

CrossFit, Paleo Diet, alcohol and athletes.

Main points:

  1. alcohol slows recovery from training and exercise
  2. alcohol increases decline in muscle performance
  3. alcohol impairs nerve response to training and exercise.

About alcohol and athletes and the paleolthic diet (the paleo diet): a lot of athletes follow it.   Especially CrossFit athletes.  And I’ve been hearing a lot about alcohol in the CrossFit community.  Questions floating around have been:  Is Vodka the best drink for people following a paleo diet?  And Is Vodka best for CrossFit?  I’m not sure why these questions are coming up so often.  I would attribute it to geekery.  People with geeky tendencies spend a lot of energy tweeking and micro-adjusting.  You can see this a lot in the Paleo diet community and among CrossFit people as well.  This tendency seems to come with the drive for perfection.

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I was asked an interesting question by a teenager who has cut milk and juice out of his diet because they are “unhealthy”.  He follows the paleo diet.  You don’t need juice or milk to have a healthy diet.  But the question was not about that.  The young person asked if he should drink Vodka because he had read that it was “the healthiest drink.”

Is drinking alcohol good for athletes?

That was funny.  You might think “good try bud.”  But it wasn’t all funny because he is sincere in wanting to be healthy.  And sincere in following the paleo diet.  I mentioned the story to an adult friend who is also follows the paleo diet and received “funny” and authoritative response.  “That is actually true.”  Where is this idea about vodka coming from?  I thought “maybe Mark’s Daily Apple?”  But Mark is pretty good about outlining the good and the bad.  Alcohol can be quite dangerous when used recklessly.  It can also be dangerous when used in ignorance.  Are there other teens out there who think they should be downing vodka after weighlifting?  Other adults?  Is alcohol bad for athletes? Is alcohol Paleo?

A young boy rests between lifts at CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, TX.  This is not the kid who asked about Vodka

Looking at alcohol and athletics from current research: athletes should not drink alcohol after training.  Even moderate amounts slow recovery.  And even moderate mounts reduce strength (Barnes et al. 2010).  Alcohol also seems to impair activation of muscle contraction. (Barnes et al. 2012).  For a current (2010) review of what’s known and what still needs work the Vella paper is a good place to start.  You can read it free here.

Research so far, and a lot of anecdotal evidence, indicates that alcohol (ethanol) is not good for athletic performance.  And that alcohol is not good strength gain.  Feel free and comfortable telling this to any teens who ask about alcohol and health.  Or about alcohol and athletes.  As for the “is alcohol paleo?” question one could think about evolution and selective pressure.

Is Alcohol Paleo?

Since the Paleo Diet is an attempt to follow a pre-agricultural diet we’ll have to use our imaginations to answer that question.  Were paleolithic people (or monkeys or australopithecus) who drank alcohol more likely to reproduce and pass along their genes?  Let’s guess yes on reproduction.  Survival of offspring  . . . might depend on how drunk, how often.  Let’s guess the occasional handful of fermented berries would have given best odds.

Barnes MJ, Mündel T, & Stannard SR (2010). Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia, 13 (1), 189-93 PMID: 19230764

Barnes MJ, Mündel T, & Stannard SR (2012). The effects of acute alcohol consumption and eccentric muscle damage on neuromuscular function. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (1), 63-71 PMID: 22185621

Vella LD, & Cameron-Smith D (2010). Alcohol, athletic performance and recovery. Nutrients, 2 (8), 781-9 PMID: 22254055 Barnes MJ, Mündel T, & Stannard SR (2010). Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia, 13 (1), 189-93 PMID: 19230764

CrossFit and Paleo: Do high fat diets increase the risk of diabetes?

I’d written a while back about a relationship between eating a high fat diet and risk of diabetes.   This is an interesting topic and one might wonder why the two should be linked together.  There has been some work on this, notably  Chiang et al. 2010) who investigated two different types of high fat diet along with a low fat diet using mice. cause by experimenting with mice.  The one of the high fat diets contained fresh soybean oil while the other used oil that had been subjected to high heat and was heavily oxidized (think deep-fried food oil).  

Map by the CDC

The mice fed high oxidized frying oil exhibited reduced insulin secretion and high blood glucose levels. Very important here: their islets of Langerhans (the tissue that produces insulin, as well as glucagon) showed evidence of oxidative damage. Glucagon and insulin work together to keep blood sugar stable. It seems likely that oxidative damage would occur throughout the body, so its probably best to avoid fried food.  Interestingly, regions in the US where frying in oil is common practice are also regions with high prevalence of diabetes.  This area (the Southeastern US) has been referred to as “the diabetes belt.”

It was also interesting that mice fed the high fat diet made with fresh soybean oil did not show such changes. This implies that a diet high in fried food may put people at risk of diabetes or metabolic disorder by interfering with production of hormones regulating blood sugar, while a high fat diet of unoxidized oil might be just fine. Vitamin E is an important anti-oxidant and is protective against the effects of High Oxidized Frying Oil. Chiang et al. found that adding Vitamin E to the diet reduced the effects of the Oxidized Fat diet.

Chiang YF, Shaw HM, Yang MF, Huang CY, Hsieh CH, & Chao PM (2011). Dietary oxidised frying oil causes oxidative damage of pancreatic islets and impairment of insulin secretion, effects associated with vitamin E deficiency. The British journal of nutrition, 105 (9), 1311-9 PMID: 21205372

CrossFit Nutrition: Should men increase selenium intake to increase testosterone?

What is Selenium and Will Increasing Selenium intake increase Testosterone?

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Stiff, Inflexible, Invincible WODMasters shirt for the Masters CrossFit Athlete. And for other people who may also be stiff and inflexible.

What is selenium?  Selenium is an essential nutrient that is needed create essential enzymes.  That includes enzymes needed for testosterone and thyroid hormone.  It is also plays an important role an anti-oxidant production.  There seems to be a lot out in the popular press or online material that increasing selenium will increase a healthy man’s testosterone.  However, there is little, if anything, in the scientific literature to support the idea.

There has also been recent emphasis on consumption of Brazil nuts as a natural source of selenium that will boost testosterone and increase virility. You may have heard advocates of the paleo diet talking about this. (if you want to know more about the paleo diet here is a link.  It tells you what is the paleo diet and includes criticisms and controversies rather than telling you the paleo diet is the answer to all life’s problems).

Increasing selenium to increase testosterone is also promoted for athletes hoping to improve CrossFit training.  Or sports performance in general.  So far there is no evidence that increasing selenium will increase testosterone levels in healthy men.

Are there any problems with taking selenium to increase testosterone?

Yes.  There are a lot of good things about selenium, but as with a lot of other things, you can damage yourself by overdoing it.  Selenium is protective against prostate cancer, and some other cancers and is important for testicular development (during the fetal period) and possibly protective against other oxidative-stress-induced ailments, testicular or not. On the other hand, selenium, at high concentrations can cause DNA damage, and thus increase risk of cancer. The problem with supplementing, either through tablets, or through consumption of a natural product high in selenium, is that we do not know where the lines of good and evil cross. No one knows yet how much is ideal or at what point intake becomes more of a liability than a help.

Are Brazil Nuts good for testosterone?

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Low T? Feeling awesome increases Testosterone. Wear WODMASTERS and feel it rise.

The upper limit for selenium intake for a healthy adult is 400 mcg. You can easily get twice this much from a handful of Brazil nuts. Selenium concentrations in any plant should be dependent on the concentration of selenium in the soil in which it grows, therefore, the concentration of selenium in Brazil nuts will vary. Nuts grown in Manaus-Belem region of Brazil have more than ten times higher selenium content than those grown in the Acre-Rondia region. I’m guessing packaging doesn’t tell you where the nuts you might buy are grown.

Bottom Line:  If you eat a lot of Brazil nuts and take selenium supplements you might want to lay off or do one or the other. Don’t assume that more is better.  References are listed below.  For a better way to increase testosterone see this earlier post.

 

 

Chang, J. (1995). Selenium content of Brazil nuts from two geographic locations in Brazil Chemosphere, 30 (4), 801-802 DOI: 10.1016/0045-6535(94)00409-N

ATIF, F., YOUSUF, S., & AGRAWAL, S. (2008). Restraint stress-induced oxidative damage and its amelioration with selenium. European Journal of Pharmacology, 600 (1-3), 59-63 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2008.09.029

Brozmanová J, Mániková D, Vlčková V, & Chovanec M (2010). Selenium: a double-edged sword for defense and offence in cancer. Archives of toxicology, 84 (12), 919-38 PMID: 20871980 

Henderson, B. (2000). Hormonal carcinogenesis Carcinogenesis, 21 (3), 427-433 DOI: 10.1093/carcin/21.3.427

Shafiei Neek L, Gaeini AA, & Choobineh S (2011). Effect of zinc and selenium supplementation on serum testosterone and plasma lactate in cyclist after an exhaustive exercise bout. Biological trace element research, 144 (1-3), 454-62 PMID: 21744023

Are Low-Carb High-Protein Diets Good for Masters Athletes?

This will be making headlines shortly: Atkins-Like Diets May Put Heart at Risk.
Post-Workout at CrossFit Seven in Fort Worth, TX.

The answer to the post headline is: low-carb high protein diets are probably not good for Masters.  Or for younger athletes either.  The news is that a major study found increased cardiovascular disease in women who consumed a lot of protein relative to carbohydrate.  The more carbohydrate intake was restricted the greater the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, embolism or vascular disease.  This supports findings from several other human studies (Fung et al. 2010, Lagiou et al. 2007, Trichopoulou et al. 2007).  Several of our posts have shown benefits from protein intake for masters athletes.  The messages to take away here are that excessively restrictive diets are not good and that carbohydrates are not bad.  You can harm yourself in being carbophobic.  Get enough protein to protect muscle strength but don’t go off the deep end. If you are following a Paleolithic Diet (The Paleo Diet, which is promoted by a lot of Cross Fit Boxes) you should still be able to eat a very reasonable amount of carbohydrates.  This is a Cross Fit Cross Fit matter.   A lot of CrossFitters are very detailed and committed to their training, diet and health in general.  Its good to be committed.  Just not good to be committed to, or go overboard on, something that’s not in your best interest. 

More study would be needed to see how protein source plays into cardiovascular disease.  High intake of vegetable protein is associated with smaller waist circumference and lower BMI.  People who eat a lot of animal protein tend to have a thicker waist circumference and higher BMI.

There are a lot of questions to raise with this including the possibility that people who eat less animal protein consume less animal fat.  Animal fat can be a rich source of bioactive, lipophilic contaminants.  It has recently been reported that exposure to “Persistent Organic Pollutants” which accumulate in fat  cause insulin resistance (Ruzzin et al. 2010). The problem may not be high protein intake.  It might be exposure to contaminated animal fat.  Or it might be low carbohydrate intake.  We don’t know yet.

BMI, blood lipid profiles and incidence of cardiovascular disease in matched cohorts of grass-fed/organic animal protein eaters vs. regular grocery store consumers have not been studied.  It will be interesting to see what comes up over the next few years.  In the meantime, remember that 22-year-olds who have been to a workshop are not necessarily the best sources of dietary information.  Go Masters!

Ruzzin J, Petersen R, Meugnier E, Madsen L, Lock EJ, Lillefosse H, Ma T, Pesenti S, Sonne SB, Marstrand TT, Malde MK, Du ZY, Chavey C, Fajas L, Lundebye AK, Brand CL, Vidal H, Kristiansen K, & Frøyland L (2010). Persistent organic pollutant exposure leads to insulin resistance syndrome. Environmental health perspectives, 118 (4), 465-71 PMID: 20064776

 Lin, Y., Bolca, S., Vandevijvere, S., De Vriese, S., Mouratidou, T., De Neve, M., Polet, A., Van Oyen, H., Van Camp, J., De Backer, G., De Henauw, S., & Huybrechts, I. (2010). Plant and animal protein intake and its association with overweight and obesity among the Belgian population British Journal of Nutrition, 1-11 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114510004642

Fung TT, van Dam RM, Hankinson SE, Stampfer M, Willett WC, & Hu FB (2010). Low-carbohydrate diets and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: two cohort studies. Annals of internal medicine, 153 (5), 289-98 PMID: 20820038

Trichopoulou A, Psaltopoulou T, Orfanos P, Hsieh CC, & Trichopoulos D (2007). Low-carbohydrate-high-protein diet and long-term survival in a general population cohort. European journal of clinical nutrition, 61 (5), 575-81 PMID: 17136037

Lagiou P, Sandin S, Weiderpass E, Lagiou A, Mucci L, Trichopoulos D, & Adami HO (2007). Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and mortality in a cohort of Swedish women. Journal of internal medicine, 261 (4), 366-74 PMID: 17391111