Monday, September 19, 2016

Meal frequency and timing: impact on metabolic disease risk


Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2016 Oct;23(5):379-83. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000280.
Meal frequency and timing: impact on metabolic disease risk.
Varady KA1.
Author information
1Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the most recent human intervention trials that have examined the impact of meal frequency or meal timing on metabolic disease risk factors.
Findings from intervention studies published over the past 12 months indicate that weight loss may be more pronounced with decreased meal frequency (two meals per day) versus increased meal frequency (six meals per day) under hypocaloric conditions. However, under isocaloric conditions, no effect on body weight was noted. Plasma lipid concentrations and glucoregulatory factors (fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin sensitivity) were not affected by alterations in meal frequency. As for meal timing, delaying the lunchtime meal by 3.5 h (from 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.) has no impact on body weight, but may impair glucose tolerance in young healthy adults.
In sum, altering meal frequency has little impact on body weight, plasma lipids, or glucoregulatory factors, whereas eating the majority of calories later in the day may be detrimental for glycemic control. These preliminary findings, however, still require confirmation by longer term, larger scale controlled trials.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Eating Your Greens Could Enhance Sport Performance


Newswise — Nitrate supplementation in conjunction with Sprint Interval Training in low oxygen conditions could enhance sport performance a study has found.

Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium carried out a study with twenty-seven moderately trained participants. These were given nitrate supplements ahead of Sprint Interval Training (SIT), which took the form of short but intense cycling sessions three times a week.

Nitrate is commonly found in diets rich in leafy green foods, like spinach and is important for the functioning of the human body, especially during exercising.

To assess differences in performance in different conditions, the study included workouts in normal oxygen conditions and in hypoxia conditions, which are low oxygen levels such as those found in high altitudes.
The observations published in Frontiers in Physiology were unexpected: after only five weeks, the muscle fiber composition changed with the enhanced nitrate intake when training in low oxygen conditions.

“This is probably the first study to demonstrate that a simple nutritional supplementation strategy, i.e. oral nitrate intake, can impact on training-induced changes in muscle fiber composition;” stated Professor Peter Hespel from the Athletic Performance Center at the University of Leuven.

For athletes participating in sports competitions which require energy production in conditions with limited amounts of oxygen, this study is particularly interesting. In fact, exercising at high altitudes has become a training strategy for many athletes, albeit the uncertainties about such methods.

In these conditions, performing intense workouts requires high input of fast-oxidative muscle fibers to sustain the power. Enhancing these muscle fiber types through nutritional intake could very well boost the performance in this type of events.

However, this remains a question mark for the time being. “Whether this increase in fast-oxidative muscle fibers eventually can also enhance exercise performance remains to be established;” said Professor Hespel.

He cautioned: “consistent nitrate intake in conjunction with training must not be recommended until the safety of chronic high-dose nitrate intake in humans has been clearly demonstrated”.

In times where athletes push the limits of their bodies and thrive for ever greater performances, this is clearly only the beginning of the research into how athletes can improve their competitive edge through dietary supplements. Looking to the future, Professor Hespel suggested: “it would now be interesting to investigate whether addition of nitrate-rich vegetables to the normal daily sports diet of athletes could facilitate training-induced muscle fiber type transitions and maybe in the long term also exercise performance”.

Healthy diet boosts children’s reading skills


A heathy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the study constitutes part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä.

The study involved 161 children aged 6-8 years old, and followed up on them from the first grade to the third grade in school. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries, and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests. The closer the diet followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations – i.e. high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain, and unsaturated fats and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat – the healthier it was considered.

Nutrition & Diet Learning Charts

The study showed that children whose diet was rich in vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain, fish and unsaturated fats, and low in sugary products, did better in tests measuring reading skills than their peers with a poorer diet quality.

The study also found that the positive associations of diet quality with reading skills in Grades 2 and 3 were independent of reading skills in Grade 1. These results indicate that children with healthier diets improved more in their reading skills from Grade 1 to Grades 2-3 than children with poorer diet quality.

“Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness,” says Researcher Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.

Parents, schools, governments and companies can improve the availability of healthy foods
A healthy diet seems to be an important factor in supporting learning and academic performance in children. By making healthy choices every meal, it is possible to promote a healthy diet and enhance diet quality. Parents and schools have an important role in making healthy foods available to children. Furthermore, governments and companies play a key role in promoting the availability and production of healthy foods.
The study was funded by the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Clues Into How Meditation May Boost The Immune System



Most people are aware of the fact that meditation, in its many forms, can tweak the brain and body in a number of beneficial ways. It’s been shown to increase volume in certain brain regions, to reduce anxiety and depression, and even to improve immunity. Of course, exactly how meditation is doing all these things isn’t totally understood. But a new study, in the journal Translational Psychiatry, helps suss out the molecular mechanisms behind meditation’s effects on the immune system. And it turns out that the effects are more than from just the relaxation element – there seems to be something intrinsic about meditation itself that can shift gene expression and even boost mood over time.

In the new study, the team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, University of California at San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School had 94 women come to the Chopra Center for Well Being in California. Half of the women went in for a six-day vacation retreat, the half for a six-day meditation retreat. Neither of these groups of women had any experience with meditation – but a third group, made up of 30 experienced meditators also visiting the Center, were also studied. The team took blood samples from the participants, so they could analyze what genes were expressed, before the retreat, directly after it, one month, and 10 months later.


Men’s hidden body fat fears fueling gym attendance


Men’s hidden fears about body fat are fuelling gym attendance motivated by feelings of guilt and shame rather than a desire to build muscle, new research has shown.

Psychology researchers from the UK and Australia discovered that while male attitudes towards muscle or body mass index (BMI) did not predict how frequently they would attend the gym, their perceptions of body fat did.

The researchers found that men worried about body fat were more likely than others to undertake spontaneous, unplanned work-outs – and warned that these ‘sporadic’ exercise patterns tend to be difficult to sustain over time.

The findings raise questions over the effect portrayals of the ‘ideal body’ online and in the media have on healthy exercise behaviours in an era of ‘selfies’. This has important real-life implications for health and exercise professionals and their intervention programmes, the researchers suggest.

The study is the first of its kind to examine men’s body attitudes alongside both their conscious (explicit) and non-conscious (implicit) motivations for attending the gym. The findings could help health and fitness professionals improve gym attendance in the long-term by focusing on pro-active goal-setting and personal autonomy, rather than body image.

The study was carried out by Dr David Keatley from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Kim Caudwell from Curtin University, Australia.

Dr Keatley, a specialist in the study of complex patterns of behaviour and motivation, said: “Coaches, trainers, and even ‘gym buddies’ need to be aware of individuals’ motivations and reasons for attending a gym. Spontaneous gym goers are more likely to be motivated by guilt, shame or pressure, so it’s important to turn this around and place a focus on positive feelings of achievement and pride, fostering a long-term healthier behaviour change.

“Anyone can be affected by what they see online, the social cues images can give, and the popular conceptions of an ‘ideal body image’. With the recent growth of ‘selfies’ and the return of muscle-bound Hollywood hero icons like Vin Diesel and Hugh Jackman, there’s a real risk that males may be more influenced to attend the gym more regularly and workout to a point where it becomes dangerous or detracts from their wellbeing.

“This study is important in showing that whilst they may be more unlikely to admit it, body dissatisfaction and dysmorphia can and do affect males as well as females, and therefore should be investigated fully.”

To assess their motivations for exercising, 100 men completed a self-report questionnaire and a second test which evaluated their non-conscious motivation by measuring how long it took them to associate particular words with themselves.

All participants had a slightly elevated BMI and said they work out for around an hour, two or three times a week. Nearly 60 per cent of the men listed health and fitness as their primary reason for attending a gym or fitness activity. Just 16 per cent labelled appearance or amateur body building as their motivation, and eight per cent said training or competing was their main focus.

Participants responded to a series of statements about body image, for example “seeing my reflection makes me feel bad about my body fat and muscularity”. They also evaluated a series of statements about their motivation, such as “I feel under pressure to exercise or work out regularly from people I know well”. These were scored on a scale from one to four, with one being not very true and four being very true.

To examine hidden, non-conscious motivations, the researchers also asked participants to complete an Implicit Association Test (IAT), a task designed to assess automatic associations. It paired positive and negative feelings about exercising, such as ‘spontaneous’ and ‘willing’ or ‘restricted’ and ‘forced’, with words relating to the self and others, such as ‘me’ and ‘mine’ or ‘they’ and ‘theirs’.
The study is published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

In COPD patients, physical activity reduces anxiety and depression: European Lung Foundation



A study presented today (5 September, 2016) at this year’s European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in London shows that increased physical activity among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) reduces their risk of anxiety or depression. The study is by Drs Milo Puhan, Anja Frei, and Tsung Yu, University of Zurich, Switzerland, and Dr Gerben ter Riet, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Comorbidities (other health conditions) are highly prevalent in patients with COPD. Low physical activity (PA), a critical feature of COPD, is believed to be an important risk factor for comorbidities. In this new study, the authors assessed the association of PA with incidence of 7 categories of comorbidities in COPD.

The study included 409 patients from primary care practice in the Netherlands and Switzerland. The researchers assessed PA using the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam Physical Activity Questionnaire at baseline and followed patients for up to 5 years. During follow-up, patients reported their comorbidities (cardiovascular, neurological, hormonal, musculoskeletal, cancer, and infectious diseases) and completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire for mental health assessment.

The results suggested that higher levels of PA at baseline were associated with an 11% reduced risk of developing anxiety over the next 5 years, and a 15% reduced risk of becoming depressed. The researchers did not observe statistically significant associations of PA with the other categories of comorbidities.

The authors conclude: “In COPD patients, those with high PA are less likely to develop depression or anxiety over time. PA promotion programs may be considered to lower the burden of mental disorders in COPD patients.”

They add: “These findings have particular significance since mental disorders are common in patients with COPD. The prevalence of depression and anxiety is approximately 40% in COPD patients while the corresponding figure is less than 10% in the general population.”


Basic pushup technique gets fine-tuned


BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2015 Feb 10;16:23. doi: 10.1186/s12891-015-0486-5.

The effects of exercise type and elbow angle on vertical ground reaction force and muscle activity during a push-up plus exercise.
San Juan JG1, Suprak DN2, Roach SM3, Lyda M4.

Author information

1Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA.
2Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, USA.
3Western Institute of Neuromechanics, Eugene, OR, USA.
4Western Institute of Neuromechanics, Eugene, OR, USA.



Proper alignment of the scapula during upper extremity motion is important in maintaining shoulder joint function and health. Push-up plus exercise is considered as one of the best exercise to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the scapula. The purpose of the study is to examine the effects of push-up plus variants and elbow position on vertical ground reaction force and electromyographical activity of four shoulder muscles during concentric contraction.


A total of 22 healthy subjects volunteered for the study. Each of the subjects performed both modified and traditional push-up plus. Modified push-up plus was performed with both knees and hands touching the ground while the traditional push-up plus was executed with hands and feet contacting the ground. Electromyography (EMG) of the upper trapezius (UT), lower trapezius (LT), infraspinatus (INFRA), and serratus anterior (SA), and vertical ground reaction forces (vGRF) were collected.


The traditional push-up plus exhibited higher EMG activity in all muscles tested (P < .05) and vertical ground reaction force (P < .001) compared to modified push-up plus. The highest difference in EMG activity between the two exercises was observed with the Serratus Anterior muscle (22%). Additionally, the traditional push-up plus presented a higher vGRF compared to the modified push-up plus (P < .001) by 17%. The SA had the greatest EMG activity compared to the other muscles tested during the concentric phase of the traditional push-up plus, and this did not occur during the plus phase of the exercise.


The highest activity of the serratus anterior occurred at 55° of elbow extension during the concentric phase of the traditional PUP and not at the plus phase of the exercise. This suggests that when prescribing an exercise to target the serratus anterior, a traditional push-up is adequate and the plus-phase is not necessary. However, for patients that cannot perform a traditional push-up, the modified push-up plus would be a great alternative to strengthen their serratus anterior.