Archive for the ‘aging’ Category

USC study finds combining resistance training and androgens gives more muscular bang for the buck

PHILADELPHIA (June 19, 2003)-Men who take supplemental androgens-the male hormone testosterone or similar medications-increase their strength by adding muscle mass, but androgens alone do not pack more might into the muscles, according to studies presented today by University of Southern California researchers.

Treatment with androgens increases lean body mass-which encompasses everything in the body but bone and fat-and strength increases proportionately with the amount of muscle added, says E. Todd Schroeder, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and adjunct assistant professor in the USC Department of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. Schroeder presented his findings at the Endocrine Society’s 85th Annual Meeting.

However, when men use androgen therapy combined with resistance training, such as weightlifting, their gains in strength may far outpace the amount of muscle that can be added with androgens alone. Each muscle cell packs a bigger punch, a concept known as improved muscle quality.

“The results of androgen therapy alone on muscle and strength are not necessarily bad, but they are not optimal,” Schroeder says. “The men did improve their strength, but it was proportional to the muscle mass they added.”

The findings wield health implications beyond the stereotypes of muscle-bound bodybuilders. Schroeder and his colleagues are studying the usefulness of androgens and exercise in helping maintain muscle strength, muscle power and physical function among seniors, for example. They also have studied androgen therapy’s effectiveness in battling wasting among HIV-positive patients.

In their recent study, Schroeder and USC colleagues Michael Terk, M.D., and Fred R. Sattler, M.D., looked at both young men and seniors. They followed two groups: 33 seniors ranging from their mid-60s to late 70s, and 23 HIV-positive men ranging from their early 30s to late 40s.

The younger men were randomly assigned to get 600 milligrams (mg) each week of nandrolone alone or in combination with resistance training. The older men were randomly assigned to receive 20 mg a day of oxandrolone or a placebo. These pharmacologic androgen doses were given over 12 weeks.

Researchers determined maximal strength-the most weight a participant could safely lift or push-using leg press, leg extension and leg flexion machines.

The researchers also measured the cross-sectional area of participants’ thighs and the lean body mass of their lower extremities by magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. They then determined the strength that participants exerted for each unit of muscle (muscle quality) and how muscle quality changed over time.

Androgens alone increased lean body mass and maximum strength in both groups of men, but “gains were modest,” Schroeder says, and muscle quality did not change, since the muscle size and strength both increased proportionately. However, among those using nandrolone and undergoing resistance training, muscle quality improved significantly: Gains in strength were much greater than the gains that could occur from muscle-mass increase alone.

“It is clear from our studies and others that resistance training is critical for increasing muscle quality, but the effects can probably be augmented with androgens,” Schroeder says. “In addition, not everyone can do resistance training, and a short course of androgens can help get people stronger and more functional.”

Finally, results provide researchers insight into how to better design future studies to test strategies to best preserve and even improve muscle strength and physical function among seniors. Similar studies will be important for other types of patients who experience muscle loss and frailty, such as those with cancer, chronic lung disease, chronic renal failure and other conditions.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California

Grants by the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases and the National Center for Research Resources (General Clinical Research Center) supported the research. Bio Technology General Corp., which makes Oxandrin (oxandrolone), also supported part of the research.

Edward T. Schroeder, Michael Terk and Fred R. Sattler, “Pharmacological Doses of Androgen Do Not Improve Muscle Quality in Young or Older Men: Results from Two Studies,” Endocrine Society’s 85th Annual Meeting, poster P3-212, presentation 11 a.m., June 21. Findings released at news conference 1:30 p.m., June 19.

It’s an inevitable truth: as we get older, our muscles deteriorate and we become weaker. Not only can this be an immensely frustrating change, but it can also have many other, more serious implications. We become clumsier and begin to have more falls, often resulting in broken bones or even more severe injuries. There is wide interest in this phenomenon, but to date, the majority of research has focussed on therapies for older patients with advanced symptoms. Now one study, led by Dr Alexandra Sänger from the University of Salzburg, is taking a new approach: scientists are examining the effects of different exercise regimes in menopausal women, with the aim of developing new strategies for delaying and reducing the initial onset of age related muscle deterioration. Results will be presented on Monday 7th July at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Marseille [Poster Session A5].

Dr Sänger’s research group has investigated two particular methods of physical training. Hypertrophy resistance training is a traditional approach designed to induce muscle growth whereas ‘SuperSlow®’ is a more recently devised system which involves much slower movement and fewer repetitions of exercises, and was originally introduced especially for beginners and for rehabilitation. “Our results indicate that both methods increase muscle mass at the expense of connective and fatty tissue, but contrary to expectations, the SuperSlow® method appears to have the greatest effect,” reveals Dr Sänger. “These findings will be used to design specific exercise programmes for everyday use to reduce the risk of injury and thus significantly contribute to a better quality of life in old age.”

The study focussed on groups of menopausal women aged 45-55 years, the age group in which muscle deterioration first starts to become apparent. Groups undertook supervised regimes over 12 weeks, based on each of the training methods. To see what effect the exercise had, thigh muscle biopsies were taken at the beginning and end of the regimes, and microscopically analysed to look for changes in the ratio of muscle to fatty and connective tissue, the blood supply to the muscle, and particularly for differences in the muscle cells themselves. “The results of our experiments have significantly improved our understanding of how muscles respond to different forms of exercise,” asserts Dr Sänger. “We believe that the changes that this new insight can bring to current training systems will have a considerable effect on the lives of both menopausal and older

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Notes to editors

  • Hypertrophy resistance training is a method of strength training that is designed to induce muscle growth, also known as hypertrophy.
  • SuperSlow® resistance training was developed by Ken Hutchins and is based on the same principle as hypertrophy resistance training, but involves slower movement and fewer repetitions of exercises, which is thought to improve the quality of muscle contraction and thereby strength.

Contact: Holly Astley
Society for Experimental Biology

    Creatine, a popular nutritional supplement used by weightlifters and sprinters to improve athletic performance, could lend muscle strength to people with muscular dystrophies.

    Muscle strength increased by an average of 8.5 percent among patients taking creatine, compared to those who did not use the supplement, according to a recent review of studies. Creatine users also gained an average of 1.4 pounds more lean body mass than nonusers.

    The evidence from the studies “shows that short- and medium-term creatine treatment improves muscle strength in people with muscular dystrophies and is well-tolerated,” said lead reviewer Dr. Rudolf Kley of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

    The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

    Creatine is found naturally in the body, where it helps supply energy to muscle cells. Athletes looking for short bursts of intense strength have used creatine in powders or pills for decades, but the supplement became more popular after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when sprinters, rowers and cyclists went public with their creatine regimens.

    Although creatine has been widely studied as a performance enhancer, it’s still not clear if the supplement makes a difference, according to Roger Fielding, Ph.D., of Tufts University, who has also recently written a review of creatine treatments for neuromuscular diseases.

    People with muscular dystrophies can have lower-than-normal levels of creatine, along with increasing muscle weakness as their disease progresses. Since some studies suggest that creatine improves muscle performance in healthy people, many researchers have reasoned that it might be helpful in treating muscle disease.

    The Cochrane researchers reviewed 12 studies that included 266 people with different types of muscular dystrophy. People in the studies who took creatine supplements used them for three weeks to six months.

    In muscular dystrophies, the proteins that make up the muscles themselves are either missing or damaged. In a related group of disorders called metabolic myopathies, the chemicals that help muscles operate go awry.

    Although creatine seemed to help many patients with muscular dystrophies, those with metabolic myopathies gained no more muscle strength or lean body mass than patients who did not use the supplement.

    The reason for the contrasting results — creatine’s “fairly consistent” effects in muscular dystrophy and lack of effectiveness in metabolic diseases — is “not entirely clear,” Kley said, calling for more research on treatment for metabolic disorders.

    The review was supported by the Neuromuscular Center Ruhrgebiet/Kliniken Bergmannsheil, at Ruhr-University Bochum and the Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, in Canada. Kley and colleagues have each participated in trials of creatine treatment for muscle disorders, although none of the studies was sponsored by a maker of creatine.

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    Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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    FOR MORE INFORMATION
    Health Behavior News Service: hbns-editor@cfah.org

    Kley RA, Vorgerd M, Tarnopolsky MA. Creatine for treating muscle disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 1.

    The Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit, independent organization that produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health care interventions and promotes the search for evidence in the form of clinical trials and other studies of interventions. Visit http://www.cochrane.org for more information.

A University of Colorado at Boulder study of a space-age, low-gravity training machine used by several 2008 Olympic runners showed it reduced impacts on muscles and joints by nearly half when subjects ran at the equivalent of 50 percent of their body weight.

The new study has implications for both competitive runners rehabilitating from injuries and for ordinary people returning from knee and hip surgeries, according to Associate Professor Rodger Kram of CU-Boulder’s integrative physiology department.

Known as the “G-Trainer,” the machine consists of a treadmill surrounded by an inflatable plastic chamber that encases the lower body of the runner, said Kram. Air pumped into the chamber increases the pressure and effectively reduces the weight of runners, who are sealed in the machine at the waist in a donut-shaped device with a special zipper and “literally lifted up by their padded neoprene shorts,” he said.

Published in the August issue of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, the study is the first to quantify the effects of running in the G-Trainer, built by Alter-G Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., using technology developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The paper was authored by Kram and former CU-Boulder doctoral student Alena Grabowski, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Although G-Trainers have been used in some sports clinics and college and professional sports training rooms since 2006, the new study is the first scientific analysis of the device as a training tool for running, said Grabowski.

“The idea was to measure which levels of weight support and speeds give us the best combination of aerobic workout while reducing the impact on joints,” said Kram. “We showed that a person can run faster in the G-Trainer at a lower weight and still get substantial aerobic benefits while maintaining good neuromuscular coordination.”

The results indicated a subject running at the equivalent of half their weight in the G-Trainer at about 10 feet per second, for example — the equivalent of a seven-minute mile — decreased the “peak” force resulting from heel impact by 44 percent, said Grabowski. That is important, she said, because each foot impact at high speed can jar the body with a force equal to twice a runner’s weight.

Several former CU track athletes participating in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing have used the machine, said Kram. Alumna Kara Goucher, who will be running the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races in Beijing, has used the one in Kram’s CU-Boulder lab and one in Eugene, Ore., for rehabilitation, and former CU All-American and Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein also uses a G-Trainer in his home in Oregon. Other current CU track athletes who have been injured have tried the machine in Kram’s lab and found it helpful to maintain their fitness as they recovered, Kram said.

For the study, the researchers retrofitted the G-Trainer with a force-measuring treadmill invented by Kram’s team that charts vertical and horizontal stress load on each foot during locomotion, measuring the variation of biomechanical forces on the legs during running. Ten subjects each ran at three different speeds at various reduced weights, with each run lasting seven minutes. The researchers also measured oxygen consumption during each test, Kram said.

Grabowski likened the effect of the G-Trainer on a runner to pressurized air pushing on the cork of a bottle. “If you can decrease the intensity of these peak forces during running, then you probably will decrease the risk of injury to the runner.”

The G-Trainer is a spinoff of technology originally developed by Rob Whalen, who conceived the idea while working at NASA Ames as a National Research Council fellow to help astronauts maintain fitness during prolonged space flight. While the NASA technology was designed to effectively increase the weight of the astronauts to stem muscle atrophy and bone loss in low-gravity conditions, the G-Trainer reverses the process, said Grabowski.

In the past, sports trainers and researchers have used climbing harnesses over treadmills or flotation devices in deep-water swimming pools to help support the weight of subjects, said Kram. Harnesses are cumbersome, while pool exercises don’t provide sufficient aerobic stimulation and biomechanical loading on the legs, he said.

Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain is currently using a G-Trainer in her high-altitude training base in Font-Remeu, France. Radcliffe is trying to stay in top running shape while recovering from a stress fracture in her femur in time for the 2008 Olympic women’s marathon on Aug. 17, according to the London Telegraph.

Kram and Grabowski have begun a follow-up study of walking using the G-Trainer. By studying subjects walking at various weights and speeds in the machine, the researchers should be able to quantify its effectiveness as a rehabilitation device for people recovering from surgeries, stress fractures and other lower body injuries, Kram said.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Rodger Kram
University of Colorado at Boulder

Neuroscience researchers at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore have shown for the first time what happens to the visual perceptions of healthy but sleep-deprived volunteers who fight to stay awake, like people who try to drive through the night.

The scientists found that even after sleep deprivation, people had periods of near-normal brain function in which they could finish tasks quickly. However, this normalcy mixed with periods of slow response and severe drops in visual processing and attention, according to their paper, published in the Journal of Neuroscience on May 21.

“Interestingly, the team found that a sleep-deprived brain can normally process simple visuals, like flashing checkerboards. But the ‘higher visual areas’ – those that are responsible for making sense of what we see – didn’t function well,” said Dr. Michael Chee, lead author and professor at the Neurobehavioral Disorders Program at Duke-NUS. “Herein lies the peril of sleep deprivation.”

The research team, including colleagues at the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania, used magnetic resonance imaging to measure blood flow in the brain during speedy normal responses and slow “lapse” responses. The study was funded by grants from the DSO National Laboratories in Singapore, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the NASA Commercialization Center, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Study subjects were asked to identify letters flashing briefly in front of them. They saw either a large H or S, and each was made up of smaller Hs or Ss. Sometimes the large letter matched the smaller letters; sometimes they didn’t. Scientists asked the volunteers to identify either the smaller or the larger letters by pushing one of two buttons.

During slow responses, sleep-deprived volunteers had dramatic decreases in their higher visual cortex activity. At the same time, as expected, their frontal and parietal ‘control regions’ were less able to make their usual corrections.

Scientists also could see brief failures in the control regions during the rare lapses that volunteers had after a normal night’s sleep. However, the failures in visual processing were specific only to lapses that occurred during sleep deprivation.

The scientists theorize that this sputtering along of cognition during sleep deprivation shows the competing effects of trying to stay awake while the brain is shutting things down for sleep. The brain ordinarily becomes less responsive to sensory stimuli during sleep, Chee said.

This study has implications for a whole range of people who have to struggle through night work, from truckers to on-call doctors. “The periods of apparently normal functioning could give a false sense of competency and security when in fact, the brain’s inconsistency could have dire consequences,” Chee said.

“The study task appeared simple, but as we showed in previous work, you can’t effectively memorize or process what you see if your brain isn’t capturing that information,” Chee said. “The next step in our work is to see what we might do to improve things, besides just offering coffee, now that we have a better idea where the weak links in the system are.”

 

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Mary Jane Gore
Duke University Medical Center

Other authors of the study include Jiat Chow Tan, Hui Zheng, and Sarayu Parimal of the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School; Daniel Weissman of the University of Michigan Psychology Department; David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Vitali Zagorodnov of the Computer Engineering Department of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Boosting an exercise-related gene in the brain works as a powerful anti-depressant in mice—a finding that could lead to a new anti-depressant drug target, according to a Yale School of Medicine report in Nature Medicine.

“The VGF exercise-related gene and target for drug development could be even better than chemical antidepressants because it is already present in the brain,” said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study.

Depression affects 16 percent of the population in the United States, at a related cost of $83 billion each year. Currently available anti-depressants help 65 percent of patients and require weeks to months before the patients experience relief.

Duman said it is known that exercise improves brain function and mental health, and provides protective benefits in the event of a brain injury or disease, but how this all happens in the brain is not well understood. He said the fact that existing medications take so long to work indicates that some neuronal adaptation or plasticity is needed.

He and his colleagues designed a custom microarray that was optimized to show small changes in gene expression, particularly in the brain’s hippocampus, a limbic structure highly sensitive to stress hormones, depression, and anti-depressants.

They then compared the brain activity of sedentary mice to those who were given running wheels. The researchers observed that the mice with wheels within one week were running more than six miles each night. Four independent array analyses of the mice turned up 33 hippocampal exercise-regulated genes—27 of which had never been identified before.

The action of one gene in particular—VGF—was greatly enhanced by exercise. Moreover, administering VGF functioned like a powerful anti-depressant, while blocking VGF inhibited the effects of exercise and induced depressive-like behavior in the mice.

“Identification of VGF provides a mechanism by which exercise produces antidepressant effects,” Duman said. “This information further supports the benefits of exercise and provides a novel target for the development of new antidepressants with a completely different mechanism of action than existing medications.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Jacqueline Weaver
Yale University
Nature Medicine

Lower muscle mass and an increase in body fat are common consequences of growing older.

While exercise is a proven way to prevent the loss of muscle mass, a new study led by McMaster researcher Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky shows that taking a combination of creatine monohydrate (CrM) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in addition to resistance exercise training provides even greater benefits.

The study to be published on Oct. 3 in PLoS One, an international, peer-reviewed online journal of the Public Library of Science, involved 19 men and 20 women who were 65 years or older and took part in a six-month program of regular resistance exercise training.

In the randomized double blind trial, some of the participants were given a daily supplement of creatine (a naturally produced compound that supplies energy to muscles) and linoleic acid (a naturally occurring fatty acid), while others were given a placebo. All participants took part in the same exercise program.

The exercise training resulted in improvements of functional ability and strength in all participants, but those taking the CrM and CLA showed even greater gains in muscle endurance, an increase in fat-free mass and a decrease in the percentage of body fat.

“This data confirms that supervised resistance exercise training is safe and effective for increasing strength and function in older adults and that a combination of CrM and CLA can enhance some of the beneficial effects of training over a six month period,” said Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine.

This study provides functional outcomes that build on an earlier mechanistic study co-led by Tarnopolsky and Dr. S. Melov at the Buck Institute of Age Research, published in PLoS One this year, which provided evidence that six months of resistance exercise reversed some of the muscle gene expression abnormalities associated with the aging process.
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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Veronica McGuire
McMaster University