Adding extra weight doesn’t just lead to a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes… it also can lead to unwanted consequences in the bedroom. A new study in the British medical Journal showed that obese women tend to have a much higher incidence of unintended pregnancy. The indication is obese women tend more often not to seek birth control measures from their doctor as a result of body issues. Additionally, those who were obese had partners who were obese, which may perpetuate a further unhealthy lifestyle.

UK researchers believe that eating watercress may alleviate the oxidative stress that comes with heavy bouts of exercise.   Watercress contains an array of nutritional compounds such as β-carotene and α-tocopherol which may increase protection against exercise-induced oxidative stress. The leafy green vegetable was the focus of a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Ten healthy males were assigned to eight weeks of watercress consumption followed by eight weeks of control (no watercress). Blood samples were analyzed for DNA damage and lipid peroxidation at baseline (before supplementation), at rest (before exercise), and following exercise.

Exercise resulted in an increase in DNA damage and lipid peroxidation when subjects took part in the control phase of the study, but when watercress was added to the diet, markers of DNA damage and lipid peroxidation were significantly reduced. Even acute supplementation improved DNA and lipid protection, suggesting that only small amounts of the leafy green were needed to reduce oxidative stress in the body.

Blood analysis revealed notable increases of xanthophylls, alpha-tocopherol, and gamma-tocopherol with watercress consumption. The researchers proposed that these compounds might have a role in increased protection against oxidative stress.

The main findings show an exercise-induced increase in DNA damage and lipid peroxidation over both acute and chronic control supplementation phases (< 0·05 v. supplementation), while acute and chronic watercress attenuated DNA damage and lipid peroxidation and decreased H2O2 accumulation following exhaustive exercise (P < 0·05 v. supplementation), while acute and chronic watercress attenuated DNA damage and lipid peroxidation and decreased H2O2 accumulation following exhaustive exercise (P < 0·05 v. control). A marked increase in the main lipid-soluble antioxidants (α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol and xanthophyll) was observed following watercress supplementation (P < 0·05 v. control) in both experimental phases. These findings suggest that short- and long-term watercress ingestion has potential antioxidant effects against exercise-induced DNA damage and lipid peroxidation.

Researchers at The University of Auckland have shown for the first time that the mere presence of carbohydrate solution in the mouth immediately boosts muscle strength, even before it is swallowed.

The results suggest that a previously unknown neural pathway is activated when receptors in the mouth detect carbohydrate, stimulating parts of the brain that control muscle activity and producing an increase in muscle strength.

Previous research had shown that the presence of carbohydrate in the mouth can improve physical performance during prolonged activity, but the mechanism involved was not known and it was unclear whether a person must be fatigued for the effect to be seen.

“There appears to be a pathway in the brain that tells our muscles when energy is on the way,” says lead researcher Dr Nicholas Gant from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

“We have shown that carbohydrate in the mouth produces an immediate increase in neural drive to both fresh and fatigued muscle and that the size of the effect is unrelated to the amount of glucose in the blood or the extent of fatigue.”

The current research has been published in the journal Brain Research and has also captured the attention of New Scientist magazine.

In the first of two experiments, 16 healthy young men who had been doing biceps exercises for 11 minutes were given a carbohydrate solution to drink or an identically flavored energy-free placebo. Their biceps strength was measured before and immediately afterward, as was the activity of the brain pathway known to supply the biceps.

Around one second after swallowing the drink, neural activity increased by 30 percent and muscle strength two percent, with the effect lasting for around three minutes. The response was not related to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream or how fatigued the participants were.

“It might not sound like much, but a two percent increase in muscle strength is enormous, especially at the elite level. It’s the difference between winning an Olympic medal or not,” says co-author Dr Cathy Stinear.

As might be expected, a second boost in muscle strength was observed after 10 minutes when carbohydrate reached the bloodstream and muscles through digestion, but no additional boost in neural activity was seen at that time.

“Two quite distinct mechanisms are involved,” says Dr Stinear. “The first is the signal from the mouth via the brain that energy is about to be available and the second is when the carbohydrate actually reaches the muscles and provides that energy,” says Dr Stinear.

“The carbohydrate and placebo solutions used in the experiment were of identical flavor and sweetness, confirming that receptors in the mouth can process other sensory information aside from the basic taste qualities of food. The results suggest that detecting energy may be a sixth taste sense in humans,” says Dr Gant.

In the second experiment, 17 participants who had not been doing exercise and were not fatigued simply held one of the solutions in their mouths without swallowing. Measurements of the muscle between the thumb and index finger were taken while the muscle was either relaxed or active.

A similar, though smaller effect was observed as in the first experiment, with a nine percent increase in neural activity produced by the carbohydrate solution compared with placebo. This showed that the response is seen in both large powerful muscles and in smaller muscles responsible for fine hand movements.

“Together the results show that carbohydrate in the mouth activates the neural pathway whether or not muscles are fatigued. We were surprised by this, because we had expected that the response would be part of the brain’s sophisticated system for monitoring energy levels during exercise,” says Dr Stinear.

“Seeing the same effect in fresh muscle suggests that it’s more of a simple reflex – part of our basic wiring – and it appears that very ancient parts of the brain such as the brainstem are involved. Reflexive movements in response to touch, vision and hearing are well known but this is the first time that a reflex linking taste and muscle activity has been described,” she says.

Further research is required to determine the precise mechanisms involved and to learn more about the size of the effect on fresh versus fatigued muscle.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Pauline Curtis
The University of Auckland

Researchers at The University of Auckland have shown for the first time that the mere presence of carbohydrate solution in the mouth immediately boosts muscle strength, even before it is swallowed.

The results suggest that a previously unknown neural pathway is activated when receptors in the mouth detect carbohydrate, stimulating parts of the brain that control muscle activity and producing an increase in muscle strength.

Previous research had shown that the presence of carbohydrate in the mouth can improve physical performance during prolonged activity, but the mechanism involved was not known and it was unclear whether a person must be fatigued for the effect to be seen.

“There appears to be a pathway in the brain that tells our muscles when energy is on the way,” says lead researcher Dr Nicholas Gant from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

“We have shown that carbohydrate in the mouth produces an immediate increase in neural drive to both fresh and fatigued muscle and that the size of the effect is unrelated to the amount of glucose in the blood or the extent of fatigue.”

The current research has been published in the journal Brain Research and has also captured the attention of New Scientist magazine.

In the first of two experiments, 16 healthy young men who had been doing biceps exercises for 11 minutes were given a carbohydrate solution to drink or an identically flavored energy-free placebo. Their biceps strength was measured before and immediately afterward, as was the activity of the brain pathway known to supply the biceps.

Around one second after swallowing the drink, neural activity increased by 30 percent and muscle strength two percent, with the effect lasting for around three minutes. The response was not related to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream or how fatigued the participants were.

“It might not sound like much, but a two percent increase in muscle strength is enormous, especially at the elite level. It’s the difference between winning an Olympic medal or not,” says co-author Dr Cathy Stinear.

As might be expected, a second boost in muscle strength was observed after 10 minutes when carbohydrate reached the bloodstream and muscles through digestion, but no additional boost in neural activity was seen at that time.

“Two quite distinct mechanisms are involved,” says Dr Stinear. “The first is the signal from the mouth via the brain that energy is about to be available and the second is when the carbohydrate actually reaches the muscles and provides that energy,” says Dr Stinear.

“The carbohydrate and placebo solutions used in the experiment were of identical flavor and sweetness, confirming that receptors in the mouth can process other sensory information aside from the basic taste qualities of food. The results suggest that detecting energy may be a sixth taste sense in humans,” says Dr Gant.

In the second experiment, 17 participants who had not been doing exercise and were not fatigued simply held one of the solutions in their mouths without swallowing. Measurements of the muscle between the thumb and index finger were taken while the muscle was either relaxed or active.

A similar, though smaller effect was observed as in the first experiment, with a nine percent increase in neural activity produced by the carbohydrate solution compared with placebo. This showed that the response is seen in both large powerful muscles and in smaller muscles responsible for fine hand movements.

“Together the results show that carbohydrate in the mouth activates the neural pathway whether or not muscles are fatigued. We were surprised by this, because we had expected that the response would be part of the brain’s sophisticated system for monitoring energy levels during exercise,” says Dr Stinear.

“Seeing the same effect in fresh muscle suggests that it’s more of a simple reflex – part of our basic wiring – and it appears that very ancient parts of the brain such as the brainstem are involved. Reflexive movements in response to touch, vision and hearing are well known but this is the first time that a reflex linking taste and muscle activity has been described,” she says.

Further research is required to determine the precise mechanisms involved and to learn more about the size of the effect on fresh versus fatigued muscle.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Pauline Curtis
The University of Auckland

Women who walked two or more hours a week or who usually walked at a brisk pace (3 miles per hour or faster) had a significantly lower risk of stroke than women who didn’t walk, according to a large, long-term study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The risks were lower for total stroke, clot-related (ischemic) stroke and bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke, researchers said.

Compared to women who didn’t walk:

  • Women who usually walked at a brisk pace had a 37 percent lower risk of any type of stroke and those who walked two or more hours a week had a 30 percent lower risk of any type of stroke.
  • Women who typically walked at a brisk pace had a 68 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke and those who walked two or more hours a week had a 57 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Women who usually walked at a brisk pace had a 25 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke and those who usually walked more than two hours a week had a 21 percent lower risk of ischemic stroke — both “borderline significant,” according to researchers.

“Physical activity, including regular walking, is an important modifiable behavior for stroke prevention,” said Jacob R. Sattelmair, M.Sc., lead author and doctoral candidate in epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. “Physical activity is essential to promoting cardiovascular health and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, and walking is one way of achieving physical activity.”

More physically active people generally have a lower risk of stroke than the least active, with more-active persons having a 25 percent to 30 percent lower risk for all strokes, according to previous studies.

“Though the exact relationship among different types of physical activity and different stroke
subtypes remains unclear, the results of this specific study indicate that walking, in particular, is associated with lower risk of stroke,” Sattelmair said.

Researchers followed 39,315 U.S. female health professionals (average age 54, predominantly white) participating in the Women’s Health Study. Every two to three years, participants reported their leisure-time physical activity during the past year — specifically time spent walking or hiking, jogging, running, biking, doing aerobic exercise/aerobic dance, using exercise machines, playing tennis/squash/racquetball, swimming, doing yoga and stretching/toning. No household, occupational activity or sedentary behaviors were assessed.

They also reported their usual walking pace as no walking, casual (about 2 mph), normal (2.9 mph), brisk (3.9 mph) or very brisk (4 mph).

Sattelmair noted that walking pace can be assessed objectively or in terms of the level of exertion, using a heart rate monitor, self-perceived exertion, “or a crude estimate such as the ‘talk test’ – wherein, for a brisk pace, you should be able to talk but not able to sing. If you cannot talk, slow down a bit. If you can sing, walk a bit faster.”

During 11.9 years of follow-up, 579 women had a stroke (473 were ischemic, 102 were hemorrhagic and four were of unknown type).

The women who were most active in their leisure time activities were 17 percent less likely to have any type of stroke compared to the least-active women.

Researchers didn’t find a link between vigorous activity and reduced stroke risk. The reason is unclear, but they suspect that too few women reported vigorous activity in the study to get an accurate picture and/or that moderate-intensity activity may be more effective at lowering blood pressure as suggested by some previous research.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious disability in the United States, so it’s important to identify modifiable risk factors for primary prevention, Sattelmair said.

An inverse association between physical activity and stroke risk is consistent across genders. But there tend to be differences between men and women regarding stroke risk and physical activity patterns.

“The exact relation between walking and stroke risk identified in this study is not directly generalizable to men,” Sattelmair said. “In previous studies, the relation between walking and stroke risk among men has been inconsistent.”

The study is limited because it was observational and physical activity was self-reported. But strengths are that it was large and long-term with detailed information on physical activity, he said.

Further study is needed on more hemorrhagic strokes and with more ethnically diverse women, Sattelmair said.

The American Heart Association recommends for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity or a combination.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Birdgette McNeill
American Heart Association

A Temple University researcher seeking physiological evidence of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has found a link between creatine and metabolic energy. The findings, which hold promise for future CFS treatments, were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

“We found that creatine affects mitochondria – the parts of the cells that produce energy for all biological functioning – in normal human subjects. Now that we have established this baseline evidence, we are looking at the link between creatine and energy production in CFS patients,” said lead author Sinclair Smith, Sc.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy in Temple’s College of Health Professions.

Creatine, thought to build muscle and improve performance, is a popular over-the-counter supplement used by athletes. Smith and his colleagues wondered if creatine could also be used to help relieve the extreme physical and mental fatigue that strikes CFS sufferers. “Many physicians still don’t believe that CFS exists, making it important to investigate possible physiologic differences and to determine if we can impact metabolic function in CFS patients,” explained Smith.

“In addition to improving muscle metabolic function, recent studies show that creatine supplementation may improve nervous system function as well. Given that cognitive fatigue is a frequent symptom of CFS, we thought that creatine may enhance both muscle and neural metabolic status in people with CFS,” said Smith.

In the study, “Use of phosphocreatine kinetics to determine the influence of creatine on muscle mitochondrial respiration: an in vivo 31P-MRS study of oral creatine ingestion,” the researchers analyzed the effect of naturally -produced and supplemental creatine on the rate of muscle metabolism using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques during exercise and rest.

While previous studies have evaluated the link between creatine and mitochondria in animals and human muscle samples, Smith’s was the first lab to test in people.

Smith collaborated in this research with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston University and Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

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    Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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“No pain, no gain.” So say those working out to build up their muscles, and on a cellular level it is a pretty accurate description of how muscle mass increases. Exercise causes tears in muscle membrane and the healing process produces an increased amount of healthy muscle. Implicit in this scenario is the notion that muscle repair is an efficient and ongoing process in healthy individuals. However, the repair process is not well understood. New University of Iowa research into two types of muscular dystrophy now has opened the door on a muscle repair process and identified a protein that plays a critical role.

The protein, called dysferlin, is mutated in two distinct muscular dystrophies known as Miyoshi Myopathy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2b. The UI study suggests that in these diseases, the characteristic, progressive muscle degeneration is due to a faulty muscle-repair mechanism rather than an inherent weakness in the muscle’s structural integrity. The research findings reveal a totally new cellular cause of muscular dystrophy and may lead to many discoveries about normal muscle function and to therapies for muscle disorders.

The research team led by Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair of Physiology and Biophysics and interim head of the department, UI professor of neurology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, studied the molecular consequences of losing dysferlin and discovered that without dysferlin muscles were unable to heal themselves.

The UI team genetically engineered mice to lack the dysferlin gene. Just like humans with Miyoshi Myopathy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2b, the mice developed a muscular dystrophy, which gets progressively worse with age. However, treadmill tests revealed that the muscles of mice that lack dysferlin were not much more susceptible to damage than the muscles of normal mice. This contrasts with most muscular dystrophies of known cause where genetic mutations weaken muscle membranes and make muscles more prone to damage.

“This told us that the dystrophies caused by dysferlin loss were very different in terms of how the disease process works compared to other dystrophies we have studied,” Campbell said. “We were gradually picking up clues that showed we had a different type of muscular dystrophy here.”

Most muscular dystrophy causing genetic mutations have been linked to disruption of a large protein complex that controls the structural integrity of muscle cells. The researchers found that dysferlin was not associated with this large protein complex. Rather, dysferlin is normally found throughout muscle plasma membrane and also in vesicles, which are small membrane bubbles that encapsulate important cellular substances and ferry them around cells. Vesicles also are important for moving membrane around in cells.

Previous studies have shown that resealing cell membranes requires the accumulation and fusing of vesicles to repair the damaged site.

Using an electron microscope to examine muscles lacking dysferlin, the UI team found that although vesicles gathered at damaged membrane sites, the membrane was not resealed. In contrast, the team discovered that when normal muscle is injured, visible “patches” form at the damaged sites, which seal the holes in the membrane. Chemicals that tag dysferlin proved that these “patches” were enriched with dysferlin and the patches appeared to be formed by the fusion of dysferlin-containing vesicles that traveled though the cell to the site of membrane damage.

The researchers then used a high-powered laser and a special dye to visualize the repair process in real time.

Under normal conditions, the dye is unable to penetrate muscle membrane. However, if the membrane is broken the dye can enter the muscle fiber where it fluoresces. Using the laser to damage a specific area of muscle membrane, the researchers could watch the fluorescence increase as the dye flowed into the muscle fiber.

“The more dye that entered, the more fluorescence we saw,” Campbell explained. “However, once the membrane was repaired, no more dye could enter and the level of fluorescence remained steady. Measuring the increase in fluorescence let us measure the amount of time that the membrane stayed open before repair sealed the membrane and prevented any more dye from entering.”

In the presence of calcium, normal membrane repaired itself in about a minute. In the absence of calcium, vesicles gathered at the damaged muscle membrane, but they did not fuse with each other or with the membrane and the membrane was not repaired. In muscle that lacked dysferlin, even in the presence of calcium, the damaged site was not repaired.

Campbell speculated that dysferlin, which contains calcium-binding regions, may be acting as a calcium sensor and that the repair system needs to sense the calcium in order to initiate the fusion and patching of the hole. Campbell added that purifying the protein and testing its properties should help pin down its role in the repair process.

The discovery of a muscle repair process and of dysferlin’s role raises many new questions. In particular, Campbell wonders what other proteins might be involved and whether defects in those components could be the cause of other muscular dystrophies.

“This work has described a new physiological mechanism in muscle and identified a component of this repair process,” Campbell said. “What is really exciting for me is the feeling that this is just a little hint of a much bigger picture.”

In addition to Campbell, the UI researchers included Dimple Bansal, a graduate student in Campbell’s laboratory and the lead author of the paper, Severine Groh, Ph.D., and Chien-Chang Chen, Ph.D., both UI post-doctoral researchers in physiology and biophysics and neurology, and Roger Williamson, M.D., UI professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Also part of the research team were Katsuya Miyake, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher, and Paul McNeil, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology and anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga., and Steven Vogel, Ph.D., at the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, Md.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Jennifer Brown
University of Iowa 

The study was funded by a grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.