Tag Archives: cancer

Quinoa is high in Protein and Stimulates Protein Synthesis from WODMASTERS

Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis
Phytoecdysteroids in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis

I’m not sure where Quinoa falls on the dietary good-evil spectrum these days.  Many value it for its high protein and mineral content.  It can be a staple food for the health-minded vegetarian.  On the other side of the spectrum, Quinoa has been on the do-not-eat list for followers of the Paleo diet because advocates consider it to be a grain.  Paleo dieters have also been concerned that Quinoa contains saponins. Some have proposed that saponins may damage the intestines.  However saponins are beneficial anti-oxidants and some are health-protective.  For a more general discussion of Quinoa and why it should be an excellent addition to the paleo diet click here.

Quinoa is high in protein, flavonoids and phytoecdysteroids

Analysis of quinoa extract shows that quinoa contains:

  • 20% protein
  • 11% oil
  • 2.6% flavonoid glycosides
  • 1% phytoecdysteroids (this is very high compared to other plants)
Crossfit trainer amie taylor crossfit seven with phytoecdysteroids
Crossfit Trainer Amie Taylor of CrossFit Seven gets ready for the snatch

Protein, as we all know, is important for building strength and muscle mass.  Protein is also important in preserving muscle mass and functionality in older people.  Protein intake may be important to long-term health.  Its not just an issue for athletes and body-builders. Flavonoid glycosides are health protective anti-oxidants.   Quinoa contains high amounts of phytoecdysteroids.   These are thought to be part of a plants phytoecdysteroids.  However, they may be good for people.  There are many different phytoecdysteroids. The dominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa is 20HE.

Beneficial effects of phytoecdysteroids

There have been a number of studies showing different positive effects of phytoecdysteroids or of qunoia extract.

  • Quinoa extract lowered blood glucose in obese, hyperglycemic mice
  • Phytoecdysteroids increased protein synthesis in animals with and without exercise
  • 20HE (the predominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa) has anabolic-like properties that promote protein synthesis
  • 20HE Increased muscle fiber size
  • Phytoecdysteroids Inhibited tumor growth
  • Quinoa extract increased metabolic rate and may be an anti-obesogen
Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis
Crossfit masters athlete Angie Bender at CrossFit Seven supports WODMASTERS. Join us! Wear the shirt!

How phytoecdysteroids work is not completely understood.  They do not seem to act in the same way as anabolic steroids.  So far, phytoecdysteroids show very low toxicity in mammals but limited (if any) testing has been done in humans.

Dinan L (2009). The Karlson Lecture. Phytoecdysteroids: what use are they? Archives of insect biochemistry and physiology, 72 (3), 126-41 PMID: 19771554

Báthori M, Tóth N, Hunyadi A, Márki A, & Zádor E (2008). Phytoecdysteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids–structure and effects on humans. Current medicinal chemistry, 15 (1), 75-91 PMID: 18220764

Foucault AS, Even P, Lafont R, Dioh W, Veillet S, Tomé D, Huneau JF, Hermier D, & Quignard-Boulangé A (2014). Quinoa extract enriched in 20-hydroxyecdysone affects energy homeostasis and intestinal fat absorption in mice fed a high-fat diet. Physiology & behavior, 128, 226-31 PMID: 24534167

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

Eye Pood Kettlebell Crossfit shirt
Low T? Feeling awesome increases Testosterone. Wear WODMASTERS and feel it rise.

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?

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

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

Arsenic in Rice and Long-Term Health Risks

Arsenic in rice has been reported as being of no immediate health risk.  But the major concern with arsenic is that it is a long-term health risk.  Arsenic may be best known as a tool of poisoners.  But arsenic poses greater risk as a slow, quiet inducer of cancer.  In that way, arsenic is like most carcinogens.  The problem is not that someone would eat a bite of rice and then fall face first into his or her plate.  The problem is that arsenic causes skin and bladder cancer.  It also does other unpleasant things to people who are exposed to relatively low levels over long periods of time.

Arsenic in Rice and Arsenic in Drinking Water

Arsenic in rice and drinking water
Arsenic in rice may add to cancer risk.  Photo by Reuters

The current limit for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts arsenic for every billion parts of water.  If you are an average adult drinking two liters of water you could get about 20 micrograms of arsenic.  As long as your drinking water meets federal standards.  If you drink more than two liters of water your will probably be just fine.  If you get more than 20 micrograms of arsenic every day you will probably be fine too.  Federal standards have built in safety factors.  These protect people who are not average 160 pound adults. Who drink two liters of water a day.  If people are exposed to additional arsenic in rice on a regular basis in addition to arsenic in water they may face increased risk of cancer.  The man in the photo on the right lives in an area where arsenic in drinking water greatly exceeds World Health Organization standards.

Should I worry about Arsenic in Rice?

Maybe.  Arsenic in rice may increase your risk of cancer.  Especially if you live in an area where arsenic levels in drinking water are high.   Or if you are feeding rice to infants or very young children.   Infants and young children tend to rely on only a few types of food.  If you are a heavy rice eater you should add some other grains to your diet.  The best way to protect yourself from contaminants in food is to eat a varied diet.  And not depend too heavily on any one food type.  To find out if you live in an area where arsenic in drinking water is a high take a look at the map below.  Keep in mind that if you live in a high-arsenic area your community drinking water may be less if it is treated.   If you live outside the US you can probably find a map for your country online.  Keep in mind too that arsenic levels in rice will vary.  The amount of arsenic in rice will depend on how much arsenic was in the ground and water at the growing site.

Arsenic in Rice Arsenic in Drinking water
USGS Map of Arsenic Concentrations in drinking water.

 

Hormones: Exercise changes estrogens and reduces risk of breast cancer

Hormones and Research for Women’s Health. Hormones are powerful molecules. They are chemical messengers. And they exert powerful effects in many different ways. Changes in hormones effect athletic ability. They also effect flexibility and endurance. But exercise seems to changes hormones as well. There is some interesting news on exercise and estrogen. Estrogens are female sex hormones. If you are a woman, someone who cares about or works with women, you should know why sex hormones like estrogen matter.

The basics of why hormones and exercise matter for breast cancer.

There is a lot of interesting stuff coming out about estrogen. Especially about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for masters women. We will follow up with additional articles.  There is a lot to cover.  For now, sex hormones (estrogen in this case) matter for maintaining muscle, skin, connective tissue, and brain function.  The way hormones are metabolized may matter for cancer.

Fit women are less likely to get breast cancer.  Among other things.  We have long known that exercise is good for people.  But we generally know little about why. Estrogen breaks down as part of normal metabolism.  An estrogen molecule that is metabolized is transformed into different molecules.  These estrogen metabolites have actions of their own.  Who knew?  One of the estrogen metabolites decreases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Exercise, Hormones and Breast Cancer.

A new paper (Kurzer et al. 2013) compared the breakdown of estrogen in women who exercise with those who were sedentary.    Women who exercise moderately to vigorously for about 30 minutes a day, produced more of the metabolite that decreases risk of breast cancer.  While this study does not prove these changes reduce the risk of breast cancer it is very interesting. The study opens doors for new studies.  This study was done with young women.  And they were walking, using an elipitical machine, or a stairmaster.   Would the change in estrogen handling be seen in CrossFit Women?  In High Intensity Interval Training (HIT)? With weights?  Would the same results be seen with older women?  With women on estrogen replacement therapy?  Hopefully we will soon be seeing more work done on hormones, exercise and cancer risk.   In the meanwhile, keep working out.  And keep encouraging the people you care about.  Details of the study are available in the link below.

Smith AJ, Phipps WR, Thomas W, Schmitz KH, & Kurzer MS (2013). The effects of aerobic exercise on estrogen metabolism in healthy premenopausal women. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 22 (5), 756-64 PMID: 23652373

 

Masters CrossFit: Does type of workout matter? Is CrossFit, endurance or weight training best?

There are many benefits from fitness.  And many reasons why people enjoy (or subject themselves to) CrossFit Workouts.   Staying in shape.  Looking good.  Masochistic tendencies.  However, on a deeper level regular exercise reduces risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Current research indicates Fitness may protect us from free radicals.   Free-radicals are major factors in development of disease.  Diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are all conditions where free-radicals are thought to be involved.  Free radicals are oxidizers.  They are molecules that have lost an electron.  These pose problems because they are very reactive.  They grab electrons from other molecules.  Thus “oxidizing” them. They stress cells.  Throw wrenches in the works.  This includes wrench throwing into your DNA.  Imagine a CrossFit workout where someone loses a plate in the middle of a crowded box.   Full of people doing Fran without collars.

Damaged DNA can result in cancer.  Or birth defects.  Free radicals also  damage tissues and organs by damaging cells and increasing inflammation. For example, they can damage pancreatic beta cells and increase risk of diabetes.

What are anti-oxidants?  How do fitness and risk come into play?

Anti-oxidants are agents that protect us from free-radicals.  They neutralize them.  Having enough anti-oxidants reduces risk of chronic disease  Normally we think of anti-oxidants as something we get from vegetables.  Or fruit.  Or supplements.  However, exercise seems to be involved too.

Exercise, anti-Oxidants, Fitness and Risk

Exercise causes a number of changes.    These changes play into the free-radical game.   They are adaptions to the stress of exercise.  When people are getting in shape free radical production increases.   Your body suffers inflammation.  And aches and pains.   This is often seen after a CrossFit Workout.  And in the days following a CrossFit workout.   Especially when people are first getting started.  This is very much like what happens when you get sick with a fever.  This may be why getting in shape sucks so much.   When you are getting in shape (or pushing yourself to a higher level) your body produces more free-radicals.  But is not ready to handle them.  Adaptation to exercise includes increasing production of anti-oxidants.  Once you have adapted you will be producing enough anti-oxidants to protect from free radicals from increased exercise.  You will also have increased protection from other sources of free-radicals.

Does type of workout matter? Is CrossFit, endurance or weight training best?

Animal testing indicates that endurance exercise works best for protection from inflammation and free radicals.  The animals tested were rats.  They were subjected to endurance training, resistance training and combination training.  Hard to visualize. Hopefully more research will be done in this area.   And we will get a better picture of what is optimal for humans.  Weight training (resistance exercise) remains important.  And CrossFit exercises (and high intensity interval training) show very promising results on other aspects of health and fitness.  It seems likely that adaptation to these forms of exercise will produce results similar to endurance training.

References for further reading.

de Lemos ET, Oliveira J, Pinheiro JP, & Reis F (2012). Regular physical exercise as a strategy to improve antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status: benefits in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2012 PMID: 22928086

de Oliveira VN, Bessa A, Jorge ML, Oliveira RJ, de Mello MT, De Agostini GG, Jorge PT, & Espindola FS (2012). The effect of different training programs on antioxidant status, oxidative stress, and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 37 (2), 334-44 PMID: 22458821