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Athletes have fewer Advanced Glycation End Products

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Most of us have probably heard at some point from someone that those of us who have been life long athletes will suffer for it later.  But this may not be true.  An important factor thought to influence aging is accumulation of “advanced glycation end products.”  Athletes have less of it.

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are caused by sugars in the blood that get stuck on proteins.  AGEs are higher in diabetics.  AGEs might be a cause of poor aging in uncontrolled diabetics. AGEs form crosslinks in connective tissue.  There is evidence that accumulation of crosslinks makes tendons stiffer and more fragile.  But what about masters athletes?  Could reduced advanced glycation end products be one of the reasons masters athletes seem to age better and look younger than sedentary people?

Advanced Glycation End Products in Life Long Endurance Runners

The question of advanced glycation end products in older athletes was recently investigated by Couppe et al. (2014).  They compared AGEs in four groups of men.  One group was made of life long masters athletes with an average age of 64.  The second group was a similar number of men who were not masters athletes (average age 66).  The third was of trained athletes, average age 26.  They were matched to a fourth group of untrained young men, average age 24.  The researchers looked at AGEs in the patellar tendon (the one holding the kneecap down) as well as AGEs in skin.  All of the men in the athletic categories were trained runners.

Findings: Advanced glycation end products and tendon strength and skin in endurance athletes.

  • Advanced glycation end products were 21% lower in tendons trained masters athletes than in their matched sedentary peers.
  • Advanced glycation end products were 11% lower in skin of trained masters athletes than their sedentary peers. (This may be part of why masters athletes look so good.)  It is also indicates endurance exercise reduces AGEs throughout the body, and not just in the muscles being used.
  • Masters Athletes had the thickest tendons out of everyone.   This is good because strong tendons can take more stress before suffering damage.
  • Masters Athletes had lowest insulin levels among all groups
  • Young athletes however had the lowest fasting and non-fasting glucose levels.  Masters athletes did better than sedentary peers, but not as good as either group of young men

Conclusions

The most important findings in this study is that life-long endurance training produces a masters athlete with stronger, thicker tendons, less accumulation of advanced glycation end productss in tendon and skin.  The increase in AGEs in skin is thought to be responsible for wrinkling and loss of resilience in older skin. Exercise can give you a better body, but it can also make you look better.  Limitations of the study:  The researchers who did this study only looked at one AGE,Pentosidine.   There are many.  In all likelihood if Pentosidine is elevated other AGEs are too. But we don’t know for sure  How do lifelong masters athletes compare to people who have been exercising for a couple of years or months?  What is the optimal level of exercise?

Take away: exercise can reduce Advanced Glycation End Products

Other studies have shown that exercise other than running can reduce circulation of Advanced Glycation End Products.   Short-term human studies have include studies of walking and resistance training.  If you are a masters athlete . . . keep it up.  If you are not, or have fallen off the wagon, . . . its time to join in.

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Couppé C, Svensson RB, Grosset JF, Kovanen V, Nielsen RH, Olsen MR, Larsen JO, Praet SF, Skovgaard D, Hansen M, Aagaard P, Kjaer M, & Magnusson SP (2014). Life-long endurance running is associated with reduced glycation and mechanical stress in connective tissue. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 36 (4) PMID: 24997017

Gkogkolou P, & Böhm M (2012). Advanced glycation end products: Key players in skin aging? Dermato-endocrinology, 4 (3), 259-70 PMID: 23467327

Masters Crossfit Woman Training

Dietary Fat Preserves Muscle?

Preservation of lean muscle mass matters for long term health and function.  It is also important to those who want to gain muscle mass so they can look hot and/or awesome.   it is also important for strength and for athletic performance. Whatever your interests, here is a report of a recent study on dietary fats and muscle mass.

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Dietary fat may help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.

Dietary Fat and Protein Turnover

Dietary fat may regulate protein turnover.  The thought is that dietary fats influence both inflammation and insulin.  This study was published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition.   Study subjects were 2,689 women who are part of a study of twins in the UK.  Data was collected on:

  • Percent of Calories obtained from Fat
  • Fatty acid profile
  • Fat -free mass in kilograms (an indicator of muscle mass)
  • Fat-free mass measured by X-Ray absorptiometry

Results of the Dietary Fat and Muscle Study

  • Women whose diets were higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids had higher fat-free mass (more muscle).
  • Women who got more of their calories from fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who ate more saturated fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who ate more unsaturated fatty acids had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who are more transfats had less fat free mass (less muscle)

Women who were in the top 20% for energy intake from polyunsaturated fatty acids had about a pound more muscle mass than women who were at the bottom 20% for polyunsaturated fatty acid.  This is about the same difference in muscle mass that would be seen in a 10 year aging period.  You could look at this and say that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids saves 10 years of muscle aging.  And you might be right.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammation and seem to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer as well.  We don’t know what drives age-related muscle loss.  It might be related to the same factors that drive cell-aging in general.  

The Simple Takeaway for Dietary Fat and Muscle Mass

ResearchBlogging.orgThis is the first study of its kind and more research is needed to figure out what is going on.  However, this study supports the idea that a diet higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids is protective against loss of muscle mass.  As many are sure to proclaim: correlation is not causation.  That claim does not end arguments, although it is often used that way.  It simply means that we need to know more.   This is an interesting study that should lead to further investigation.  Thanks to the team (Alisa Welch, Alex MacGregor, Anne-Marie Minihane, Jane Skinner, Anna Valdes, Tim Spector and Aedin Cassidy) for your hard work.

 

Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary fat and Fatty Acid profile are associated with indices of skeletal muscle mass in women aged 18-79 years. The Journal of nutrition, 144 (3), 327-34 PMID: 24401817

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Breakthrough of the Year: Sleep cleanses the brain.

From the Editors at Science:
Science 20 December 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6165 pp. 1440-1441
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6165.1440-a
  • NEWS

To Sleep, Perchance to Clean

In work that Science‘s editors named a runner-up for Breakthrough of the Year, researchers studying mice have found experimental evidence that sleep helps to restore and repair the brain.

 Why do we sleep?

Questions of biology don’t get much more fundamental than that. This year, neuroscientists took what looks like a major stride toward an answer.

Most researchers agree that sleep serves many purposes, such as bolstering the immune system and consolidating memories, but they have long sought a “core” function common to species that sleep. By tracking colored dye through the brains of sleeping mice, scientists got what they think is a direct view of sleep’s basic purpose: cleaning the brain. When mice slumber, they found, a network of transport channels through the brain expands by 60%, increasing the flow of cerebral spinal fluid. The surge of fluid clears away metabolic waste products such as β amyloid proteins, which can plaster neurons with plaques and are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Until this discovery, researchers thought the brain’s only way to dispose of cellular trash was to break it down and recycle it inside cells. If future research finds that many other species undergo this cerebral housekeeping, it would suggest that cleaning is indeed a core function of sleep. The new findings also suggest that sleep deprivation may play a role in the development of neurological diseases. But with a causal role far from certain, it’s too early for anyone to stay awake worrying.

References and Web Sites

E. Underwood, “Sleep: The Brain’s Housekeeper?” Science 342, 6156 (18 October 2013).

L. Xie et al., “Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance From the Adult Brain,”Science 342, 6156 (18 October 2013).

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Exercise Diet and Recovery: High Protein Intake Before Bed Increases Rate of Muscle Synthesis.

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Over the last few years a number of studies have looked at the importance of timing for nutrient intake.  A number of studies have looked at the timing of carbohydrate intake and recovery from intense exercise.  Others have looked at timing of carbohydrate intake and performance.   And of carbohydrate intake and recovery.  At least two research groups are now working on the effect of protein intake on protein synthesis while people are asleep.  This is important because:

A group of researchers from the UK and the Netherlands investigated the effect of protein consumption just before sleep and the rate of protein synthesis.

Protein intake and exercise study protocol (very brief)

  • Two groups of eight recreational athletes (All young men.  Total = 16)
  • Subjects did leg extensions and leg presses at weights close to each individual’s limit of ability
  • All subjects received same diet during the study
  • 8 were given 40 grams of protein just before bed.  Eight were not.
  • Muscle biopsies were taken at the time of protein intake, and 7.5 hours later.  After sleeping.

Protein intake and exercise study results

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Rate of protein synthesis was higher in subjects who received protein just before sleeping.  This is an important finding because:

  • It confirms that protein ingested just before sleep is digested and used to make muscle in humans.
  • Throws doubt on that old adage that you shouldn’t eat for several hours before bed
  • Protein intake before bed may may mean faster recovery for athletes
  • Protein intake before bed may help slow or prevent natural loss of strength and muscle mass in middle aged adults.
  • Protein intake before bed may help the elderly avoid muscle wasting.  This is a major factor limiting quality of life for the elderly.

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The second research group (Groen et al. 2012) also looked at the effect of night time protein intake on muscle synthesis.  The gave a group of elderly men protein at night, directly to the stomach, while they were actually asleep.  Protein synthesis increased in this group too.   Few athletes, even devoted CrossFit men (or CrossFit women) will want to go to this extreme.  You never know.  It may be a very good news for elderly people with muscle wasting.

Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen AP, Senden JM, & VAN Loon LJ (2012). Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44 (8), 1560-9 PMID: 22330017

Groen BB, Res PT, Pennings B, Hertle E, Senden JM, Saris WH, & van Loon LJ (2012). Intragastric protein administration stimulates overnight muscle protein synthesis in elderly men. American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism, 302 (1) PMID: 21917635

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Nutrition: Could Coconut Oil Speed Cell Aging?

Nutrition: Cell Health and Telomeres.

You can only be as healthy as your cells.  A major marker of cell health is telomere length.  Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes.  They protect DNA from deteriorating.  They also protect DNA from accidental fusion with other chromosomes.  You need the caps.  Caps, however, tend to wear out (they get shorter) with repeated cell divisions.  Once a telomere suffers enough wear the cell can no longer divide.  Other things can wear out telomeres too.   Things like oxidative stress and inflammation.  Telomere shortening and wear is thought to play a major role in aging.  Preserving telomere length may be a way to prolong life.  Speeding telomere wear may cause faster aging.
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Short to Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids

A diet rich in short to medium chain saturated fatty acids may damage telomeres.  A new paper published in the Journal of Nutrition reports on diet, fat intake and telomere length.  Subjects were part of the Women’s Health Initiative study.  Women who ate a lot of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had shorter telomeres.  Women with the lowest intake of short and medium chain saturated fatty acids had the longest telomeres.  Long-chain saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats had no effect on telomeres.

Nutrition take away.

A diet high in short to medium chain fatty acids may speed aging.  A lot of people in CrossFit follow the Paleo Diet.  Or The Paleolithic Diet.  The Paleo diet and a lot of its followers advocate consumption of coconut oil.  Medium chain fatty acids do have some nice qualities.  Medium chain fatty acids have been associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.  Medium chain fatty acids are easy to digest.  They may reduce appetite and feelings of hunger.  And they pack a lot of calories.  Having a source of calories is important.   The research reported here shows you are probably better off sticking to long chain, and unsaturated fats.  Drink olive oil.  Eat walnuts.  Future research may report something different.  Few people, after all, eat lots of coconut oil.  And there may have been other factors involved with the women in the Women’s Health Initiative study that might also have caused their telomeres to shorten.

Foods High in Short or Medium Chain Saturated Fatty Acids

  • Coconut oil: 66% medium chain saturated fatty acids
  • Palm Kernal Oil
  • Butter
  • Whole Milk
  • Cheese

 

Song Y, You NC, Song Y, Kang MK, Hou L, Wallace R, Eaton CB, Tinker LF, & Liu S (2013). Intake of Small-to-Medium-Chain Saturated Fatty Acids Is Associated with Peripheral Leukocyte Telomere Length in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 23616516

Nagao K, & Yanagita T (2010). Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacological research : the official journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society, 61 (3), 208-12 PMID: 19931617