Archive for the ‘Men Health’ Category

Experts at The University of Nottingham are to investigate the effect of nutrients on muscle maintenance in the hope of determining better ways of keeping up our strength as we get old.

The researchers, based at the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health in Derby, want to know what sort of exercise we can take and what food we should eat to slow down the natural loss of skeletal muscle with ageing.

The team from the Department of Clinical Physiology, which has over 20 years experience in carrying out this type of metabolic study, need to recruit 16 healthy male volunteers in two specific age groups to help in it’s research.

Skeletal muscles make up about half of our body weight and are responsible for controlling movement and maintaining posture. However, at around 50 years of age our muscles begin to waste at approximately 0.5 per cent to one per cent a year. It means that an 80 year old may only have 70 per cent of the muscle of a 50 year old.

Since the strength of skeletal muscle is proportional to muscle size, such wasting makes it harder to carry out daily activities requiring strength, such as climbing stairs and leads to a loss of independence and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

In order for skeletal muscles to maintain their size, the large reservoirs of muscle protein require constant replenishment in the way of amino acids from protein contained within the food we eat. In fact, amino acids from our food act not only as the building blocks of muscle proteins but also actually ‘tell’ our muscle cells to build proteins.

Recent research from the clinical physiology team has shown that the cause of muscle wasting with ageing appears to be an attenuation of muscle building in response to protein feeding. In other words, as we age we lose the ability to covert the protein in the food we eat in to muscle tissue. The proposed research will investigate the mechanisms responsible for this deficit.

Dr Philip Atherton, who is currently recruiting volunteers, said: “I am really excited to be involved in this project because if we can determine ways to better maintain muscle mass as we age it will greatly benefit us all.”

The researchers are looking for 16 healthy, non-smoking, male volunteers aged 18 to 25 and 65 to 75.

Initially, the volunteers will undergo a health screening and then on a different day, under the supervision of a doctor, will be infused with an amino acid mixture to simulate feeding along with a ‘tagged’ amino acid that allows them to assess muscle building. To make these measures, blood samples will be taken from the arm and muscle biopsies from the thigh muscle under local anaesthesia. Volunteers will receive an honorarium to cover their expenses.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Lindsay Brooke
University of Nottingham

 

The study will take place at The University of Nottingham’s Medical School which based at the City Hospital in Derby.

Investigators in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital have identified the role of a protein that could potentially lead to new clinical treatments to combat musculoskeletal diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Results of these studies appear in the March 11, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These studies, led by Brian Kaspar, PhD, a principal investigator in the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University, focus on a protein called follistatin (FS). Using a single injection, gene-delivery strategy involving FS, investigators treated the hind leg muscles of mice. Results showed increased muscle size and strength, quadruple that of mice treated with proteins other than FS. The muscle enhancements were shown to be well-tolerated for more than two years.

According to Dr. Kaspar, increased muscle mass and strength were also evident when this strategy was tested using a model of DMD. Apart from the injected hind leg muscles, strengthening effects were also shown in the triceps. In addition, fibrosis, abnormal formation of scar tissue and a hallmark of muscular dystrophy, was decreased in FS-treated animals.

“We believe this new FS strategy may be more powerful than other strategies due to its additional effects, including its ability to reduce inflammation,” said Dr. Kaspar.

The strategy showed no negative effects on the heart or reproductive ability of either males or females. The results were also replicated in older animals, suggesting that this strategy could be useful in developing clinical treatments for older DMD patients.

“This research provides evidence of multiple potential treatment applications for muscle diseases including, but not limited to, muscular dystrophy,” said Jerry Mendell, MD, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute, a co-author on the study, and professor of Pediatrics in Neurology and Pathology at The Ohio State University. “These results offer promise for treatment of potentially any muscle-wasting disease, including muscle weakness due to other illnesses, aging, and inflammatory diseases such as polymyositis. Our next step is to pursue clinical trials.”

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a patent pending on the FS technique due to the major role it may play for muscular dystrophy treatment and other muscle-wasting diseases.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Pam Barber/Mary Ellen Fiorino
Nationwide Children’s Hospital

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.

Molecular switch found in mice could lead to future obesity treatments, scientists say

A surprise discovery — that calorie-burning brown fat can be produced experimentally from muscle precursor cells in mice — raises the prospect of new ways to fight obesity and overweight, say scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Reporting in the Aug. 21 issue of the journal Nature, the researchers demonstrated that brown fat, which is known as the “good” form of fat — so called because it burns calories and releases energy, unlike “bad” white fat that simply stores extra calories — can be generated from unspecialized precursors that routinely spawn skeletal muscle.

The team led by Dana-Farber’s Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, showed that a previously known molecular switch, PRDM16, regulates the creation of brown fat from immature muscle cells. They also determined that the process is a two-way street: Knocking out PRDM16 in brown fat cells can convert them into muscle cells. However, Spiegelman called the latter an “experimental lab trick” for which he currently envisions no practical applications.

The “huge surprise” of the study results, he said, was that muscle precursor cells known as “satellite cells” are able to give birth to brown fat cells under the control of PRDM16.

Spiegelman said the finding confirms that PRDM16 is the “master regulator” of brown fat development. The confirmation will spur ongoing research in his laboratory, he said, to see if drugs that rev up PRDM16 in mice — and potentially, in people — could convert white fat into brown fat and thereby treat obesity. Another strategy, he said, might be to transplant brown fat cells into an overweight person to turn on the calorie-burning process.

“I think we now have very convincing evidence that PRDM16 can turn cells into brown fat cells, with the possibility of combating obesity,” said Spiegelman, the senior author of the paper. The lead author is Patrick Seale, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Spiegelman lab.

Another paper in the same issue of Nature described a different trigger of brown fat production, a molecule called BMP7. A commentary in the journal by Barbara Cannon, an internationally recognized researcher in the biology of fat cells at the University of Stockholm, said that the two reports “take us a step closer to the ultimate goal of promoting the brown fat lineage as a potential way of counteracting obesity.”

The Spiegelman group has long studied fat cells both as a model for normal and abnormal cell development, which relates to cancer, and also because fat cells play such a key role in the growing epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

There is much interest in brown fat’s role in regulating metabolism. Rodents and human infants have abundant brown fat that dissipates food energy as heat to protect against the cold. Though human adults have little brown fat, it apparently does have a metabolic function, including the potential to be amplified in some way to combat obesity.

In 2007, Spiegelman and colleagues reported they had inserted PRDM16 genes into white fat precursors, which they implanted under the skin of mice. The PRDM16 switch coaxed the white fat precursors to produce brown fat cells instead of white. To Spiegelman, this suggested the possibility of transplanting PRDM16-equipped white fat precursors into people who are at high risk of becoming obese, to shift their metabolism slightly into a calorie-burning mode.

The new research adds another potential source of brown fat — the muscle cell progenitors, or myoblasts, that exist in the body to replace mature muscle cells as needed. The progenitors, which can be thought of as “adult stem cells,” are committed to becoming specialized muscle cells when activated by appropriate signals, or, as the study revealed, brown fat cells when PDRM16 is turned on. The PRDM16 trigger “is very powerful at what it does,” said Spiegelman, who is also a professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Bill Schaller
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 

Other authors of the paper include Bryan Bjork, PhD, and David R. Beier, PhD, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Michael Rudnicki, PhD, of the Ottawa Health Research Institute; and Hediye Erdjument-Bromage, PhD, and Paul Tempst, PhD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

    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.

Recipe to recover more quickly from exercise: Finish workout, eat pasta, and wash down with five or six cups of strong coffee.

Glycogen, the muscle’s primary fuel source during exercise, is replenished more rapidly when athletes ingest both carbohydrate and caffeine following exhaustive exercise, new research from the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology shows. Athletes who ingested caffeine with carbohydrate had 66% more glycogen in their muscles four hours after finishing intense, glycogen-depleting exercise, compared to when they consumed carbohydrate alone, according to the study, published by The American Physiological Society.

The study, “High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is co-ingested with caffeine,” is by David J. Pedersen, Sarah J. Lessard, Vernon G. Coffey, Emmanuel G. Churchley, Andrew M. Wootton, They Ng, Matthew J. Watt and John A. Hawley. Dr. Pedersen is with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, Dr. Watt is from St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. All others are with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

A fuller audio interview with Dr. Hawley is available in Episode 11 of the APS podcast, Life Lines, at www.lifelines.tv. The show also includes an interview with Dr. Stanley Schultz, whose physiological discovery of how sugar is transported in the gut led to the development of oral rehydration therapy and sports drinks such as Gatorade and Hi-5.

Caffeine aids carbohydrate uptake  

It is already established that consuming carbohydrate and caffeine prior to and during exercise improves a variety of athletic performances. This is the first study to show that caffeine combined with carbohydrates following exercise can help refuel the muscle faster.

“If you have 66% more fuel for the next day’s training or competition, there is absolutely no question you will go farther or faster,” said Dr. Hawley, the study’s senior author. Caffeine is present in common foods and beverages, including coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks.

The study was conducted on seven well-trained endurance cyclists who participated in four sessions. The participants first rode a cycle ergometer until exhaustion, and then consumed a low-carbohydrate dinner before going home. This exercise bout was designed to reduce the athletes’ muscle glycogen stores prior to the experimental trial the next day.

The athletes did not eat again until they returned to the lab the next day for the second session when they again cycled until exhaustion. They then ingested a drink that contained carbohydrate alone or carbohydrate plus caffeine and rested in the laboratory for four hours. During this post-exercise rest time, the researchers took several muscle biopsies and multiple blood samples to measure the amount of glycogen being replenished in the muscle, along with the concentrations of glucose-regulating metabolites and hormones in the blood, including glucose and insulin.

The entire two-session process was repeated 7-10 days later. The only difference was that this time, the athletes drank the beverage that they had not consumed in the previous trial. (That is, if they drank the carbohydrate alone in the first trial, they drank the carbohydrate plus caffeine in the second trial, and vice versa.)

The drinks looked, smelled and tasted the same and both contained the same amount of carbohydrate. Neither the researchers nor the cyclists knew which regimen they were receiving, making it a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.

Glucose and insulin levels higher with caffeine ingestion
The researchers found the following:  
  • one hour after exercise, muscle glycogen levels had replenished to the same extent whether or not the athlete had the drink containing carbohydrate and caffeine or carbohydrate only
  • four hours after exercise, the drink containing caffeine resulted in 66% higher glycogen levels compared to the carbohydrate-only drink
  • throughout the four-hour recovery period, the caffeinated drink resulted in higher levels of blood glucose and plasma insulin
  • several signaling proteins believed to play a role in glucose transport into the muscle were elevated to a greater extent after the athletes ingested the carbohydrate-plus-caffeine drink, compared to the carbohydrate-only drink

 Dr. Hawley said it is not yet clear how caffeine aids in facilitating glucose uptake from the blood into the muscles. However, the higher circulating blood glucose and plasma insulin levels were likely to be a factor. In addition, caffeine may increase the activity of several signaling enzymes, including the calcium-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase B (also called Akt), which have roles in muscle glucose uptake during and after exercise.

Lower dose is next step  

In this study, the researchers used a high dose of caffeine to establish that it could help the muscles convert ingested carbohydrates to glycogen more rapidly. However, because caffeine can have potentially negative effects, such as disturbing sleep or causing jitteriness, the next step is to determine whether smaller doses could accomplish the same goal.

Hawley pointed out that the responses to caffeine ingestion vary widely between individuals. Indeed, while several of the athletes in the study said they had a difficult time sleeping the night after the trial in which they ingested caffeine (8 mg per kilogram of body weight, the equivalent of drinking 5-6 cups of strong coffee), several others fell asleep during the recovery period and reported no adverse effects.

Athletes who want to incorporate caffeine into their workouts should experiment during training sessions well in advance of an important competition to find out what works for them.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Christine Guilfoy
American Physiological Society

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function to create health or disease. The American Physiological Society (APS) has been an integral part of this scientific discovery process since it was established in 1887.

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

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

A strained muscle, sprained ankle or foot injury can make even the most motivated exerciser feel discouraged when it comes to working out.

But being injured doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t exercise, says Colleen Greene, wellness coordinator with MFit, the University of Michigan Health System’s health promotion division. By speaking with an expert and finding a plan that will work as you heal, you can still hit the gym while recovering.

“Exercise can definitely be beneficial for a person dealing with an injury. Depending on its type, the injured area should be moved and not left in place for a long period of time,” explains Greene. “Some people think they should just rest and not move at all with an injury. Doing that can actually be worse because—depending on the amount of time one does not move the appendage— the muscle might begin to atrophy.”

Greene notes that the general rule of thumb when initially handling an injury is to follow RICE—Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Once you have done this, consult a doctor to look at the injury as soon as possible. You may be referred to a physical therapist or specialist trainer if the injury is severe enough. These professionals can provide guidance for your recovery, as well as give you tips on how to maintain strength while recovering.  

Greene also notes that there are “dos and don’ts” when it comes to specific injuries. Because each condition is unique, there are certain things a person can do and other activities the injured person should avoid while healing. She offers these tips on three common injuries:

General advice for any injury: See a physician or physical therapist to learn what exercises are possible with your type of injury. Focus on the goal of maintaining strength, not gaining it, while you are recovering. And always be wary of pain as you explore different workouts.

“Pain is always the indicator; discomfort is OK, but pain tells you when you should stop what you are doing and do something else,” Greene says. “You always want to keep in mind that you should be doing something that doesn’t re-injure or further injure yourself.”

Sprained ankle. When seeking out cardiovascular exercises, Greene suggests sticking with low- impact workouts, such as swimming or riding a stationary bike. She notes that running or aerobics are generally activities that are too high in impact. A person with a sprained ankle can also do upper-body or core impact exercises for strength training.

Plantar faciitis. Plantar faciitis is an overuse injury normally caused by a lack of cross training. For example, a person may develop plantar faciitis by only running when training for a marathon, but not preparing through other exercises, such as swimming or biking. Greene notes that people dealing with this type of injury need to focus on resting in order to heal, but it is possible to explore low-impact core and upper-body exercises while recovering.

“There are not a lot of ways other than physical therapy to recover from plantar faciitis except for resting,” she says. “You want to do things that are low impact without a lot of pressure on the area.”

Grab an ice pack, get some rest and allow your injury to fully recover before trying to get stronger.

Strained and pulled muscle. “The first thing a person with a pulled or strained muscle should know is that they, like everyone, should warm up thoroughly before doing anything,” Greene notes.

She also says that people with this type of injury should stay in a pain-free range by focusing on conditioning the side of the body opposite of the strained or torn muscle. If you have pulled a hamstring, for example, then aim to work on your upper-body.

Greene also notes that there are preventative measures that a person can take to avoid pulling or training a muscle. First, Greene recommends a good warm-up for five to 10 minutes. Second, be sure to cool down at the end of your workout. And don’t forget to stretch.

“We find that as people age, they can actually pull muscles by doing everyday things such as bending over to grab a bag of groceries or leaning over to put something on a shelf,” she explains. “So the preventative measures that can be taken to avoid pulling or tearing a muscle with exercise are also measures that should be taken to avoid tearing or pulling a muscle in everyday life, not just on a basketball court.”

Overall, Greene believes the most important thing injured exercisers can do when hitting the gym is to pay attention to their body. She also advises to stop immediately if a workout becomes painful.  

“One of the basic exercise myths is ‘no pain, no gain.’ We used to think that a long time ago,” says Greene. “If you are actually in pain, you should stop immediately. Now we say, ‘no discomfort, no gain.’ There is a big difference.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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MFit, the Health Promotion Division of the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) provides medically-based personalized health and wellness programs and services to UMHS patients, UM employees, the greater Washtenaw County community, and employers in Michigan.

Source: Laura Drouillard
University of Michigan

Baseball team owners, players and fans seem to agree on the importance of drug testing for steroids, according to current reports, but the entire scope of performance-enhancing substances available for all athletes is vastly broader and many of the drugs employed by athletes are not easily detectable, says a Penn State researcher.”The use, misuse and abuse of drugs have long shaken the foundations of amateur and professional sports–baseball, football, track and field, gymnastics and cycling, to name just a few,” says Dr. Charles Yesalis, Penn State professor of exercise and sport science and health policy and administration. “The problem is not new. But like the rest of technology, doping in sport has grown in scientific and ethical complexity. In addition to drugs, we have natural hormones, blood doping, diuretics, nutritional supplements, social and recreational drugs, stimulants and miscellaneous substances, some of which may not even be on any list of banned substances.”

While drug testing technology struggles to keep up, an array of new and emerging technologies has arrived or is on the horizon with potential for abuse by athletes including gene transfer therapy, stem cell transplantation, muscle fiber phenotype transformation, red blood cell substitutes and new drug delivery systems, says Yesalis

“It is not too hard to imagine the day when muscles can be selectively enlarged or contoured,” according to the book. “Just imagine the consequences of a kinesiologist isolating specific muscles and selectively injecting designer genes into those muscles to maximize their function.”

The new book brings together the latest and most comprehensive scientific information about performance-enhancing substances, as well as discussion of drug testing, legal and social issues, and future directions by sports governing organizations.

“Sport has a responsibility to maintain a level playing field for the trial of skill,” Yesalis says. “The use of chemical and pharmacologist agents is cheating – just like using a corked baseball bat. But unlike the bat, doping is shrouded in mystery. Athletes and their advisors are constantly seeking ‘gray areas” surrounding the rules, and if something is not explicitly banned, then why not try it. This slippery slope of rationalization is treacherous and appealing to a player or team seeking glory and money rewards.”

In one chapter, “Drug Testing and Sport and Exercise,” author R. Craig Kammerer suggests that improvement in current tests and developments in new methods will assist future policymaking by athletic federations. However, effective testing must become more widespread and include unannounced testing outside of competition. Sanctions against athletes must be more fairly and uniformly applied, with thorough investigation to avoid false positive results and ruin an athlete’s career.

The difficulty of detecting and preventing the abuse of performance enhancing substances by adult athletes may seem futile but remains necessary as part of the effort to discourage abuse by youths who emulate professional athletes and also seek a winning advantage, Yesalis notes.

A recent government study of adolescent drug use shows an alarming increase in anabolic steroid use among middle school youths from 1998-1999 with an estimated 2.7 percent of eighth graders saying they have used the drugs. A larger survey by Blue Cross and Blue Shield estimates that one million U.S. children between the ages of 12 and 17 may have taken performance-enhancing substances including creatine, according to the book.

“Children and teens can seriously harm their future health by misusing these substances,” Yesalis says. “For example, steroids alone can cause scarring acne, hair loss and testicular atrophy, and may increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. It is just as important to note that little is known about the health consequences of many of the other substances used to enhance performance. Yet some coaches and parents look the other way and even actively encourage the use of performance-enhancing substances in pursuit of scholarships and winning.

“There is too much fame and fortune to be gained by being a winner in sports,” he notes. “It’s interesting to see that baseball fans being polled support drug testing and a ban on steroids, but it will take fans of all major sports to take a stand by turning off their TV sets or not buying a ticket to sports events before adult athletes, coaches and team owners stop trying to cheat. And, that’s probably not going to happen.”

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Article adapted by MD Sports Weblog from original press release.
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Contact: Vicki Fong
Penn State