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Mercury in Rice. What it means for you and for children.

Key points for Mercury in Rice:

Mercury from air pollution accumulates in rice

Mercury in rice may be high enough to harm brain development

Relying on rice as a staple food may be bad idea.

We know mercury is bad for you. It harms brain development and increases risk of heart disease. There is also evidence that it may increase risk of diabetes (Jeppesen et al. 2015).  It is especially bad for pregnant women, young infants and women who may become pregnant because of the harm it may do to their future children. Women and children (as well as men) are advised to limit the amount of mercury they eat by limiting intake of some kinds of fish.  Older, larger predators (swordfish, tuna) that eat high on the food chain are likely to have the most mercury. Younger, smaller fish have less time to build up mercury in their tissues.  They are thus less likely to pass it on to human consumers.   Fish, especially oily fish, has a lot of health benefits though.  Fish, or oil from fish, has been associated with reduced cardiovascular disease, less depression, and higher IQ. Regulators have tried to balance risk from mercury against some of the health benefits of fish.  That’s a tough one.  The best strategy seems to be to limit high-risk fish, and enjoy lower risk fish.

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Mercury in Rice: how it gets there

Mercury in rice starts with burning of coal, trash, and forest fires.  Mercury is released to air.  Mercury can travel the globe and is widely distributed.  The most dangerous form of mercury is methyl-mercury. This is mercury that has entered the environment and been transformed from elemental mercury to mercury with a methyl group on it.  The methyl group lets mercury lodge in fatty tissue, including the brain and other nervous tissue.  Methylation is done by bacteria in low-oxygen conditions.  The bacteria transform the mercury, small mud-dwellers pick it up.  The mud-dwellers get eaten by fish.  Which get eaten by larger fish. Which get eaten by us . . . where the mercury stays.  The bacteria that transform mercury are found on lake, river and ocean bottoms.  But these same bacteria are also found in rice paddies.  This mercury starts with air pollution, which settles in agricultural areas.  Sometimes far-away agricultural areas, but ends up in rice.   Scientists at the University of South Carolina and in China have been studying mercury in rice and its effects on children who do not eat fish (Rothenberg et al. 2016).  These are important studies because they show how mercury impacts children without the beneficial effects of fish confusing the picture. A strategy to reduce mercury exposure may be to reduce the amount of rice you eat.

Babies, Children and Mercury in Rice

So far the effects observed have been small, but measureable, declines in cognition. Or IQ to simplify things. It is important to note that the people studied live in China, and eat more rice than most Americans.  I asked the lead researcher, Susan Rothenberg, if American rice had less mercury than rice in China.  “unfortunately, American rice has similar levels of Mercury.”  So . . . it looks like buying local, or American rice, will not help.  Something that may be important is that rice is a staple food for babies. It is often the first solid food we feed our children.  One of the reasons we are advised to eat a varied diet is so that we will get a wide range of nutrients.  It can also be important to eat a varied diet so that you do not get too much of a particular contaminant like mercury.  I would not know what to suggest to parents, other than to talk to your baby’s pediatrician or dietary specialist for questions about child nutrition.  Varying a young child’s diet can be challenging.  Sorry there.  More research is coming out and we may reinvestigate mercury exposures in children.  Till then, less rice, perhaps.  Oh.  And clean air is important.

Genchi G, Sinicropi MS, Carocci A, Lauria G, Catalano A. 2017.  Mercury exposure and heart diseases.  Int. J Environ Res Public Health. 14(1): pii: E74. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14010074

Jeppesen C, Valera B, Nielsen NO, Bjerregaard P, Jorgensen ME. 2015.  Association between whole blood mercury and glucose tolerance among adult Inuit in Greenland.  Environ Res. 142(PtA): 192-7.

Rothenberg SE, Yu X, Liu J, Biasini FJ, Hong C, Jiang X, Nong Y, Cheng Y, Korrick SA. 2016.  Maternal methylmercury exposure through rice ingestion and offspring neurodevelopment: a prospective cohort study.  Internaional Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.  (In Press).

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Can BPA make you gain weight? It might change your activitystat.

Activitystat is a setpoint for a person’s general activity level.

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Have you ever wondered why some people are very active while others prefer to conserve their energy?  People tend to keep preferred levels of activity, almost as part of their personalities.  Those who are highly active may prefer lots of sports or just lots of fidgeting.  They get antsy when confined. Others relax whenever possible.  The ActivityStat is a term for a person’s general level of activity.  “The ActivityStat hypothesis” suggests that when physical activity is increased or decreased in one domain, there will be a compensatory change in another domain, in order to maintain an overall stable level of physical activity or energy expenditure over time.”  The ActivityStat leads people to maintain a certain level of activity.  A person whose ActivityStat is high would probably fidget more or get up 20 times to get coffee when confined.   Person whose ActivityStat is low might reduce activity for the rest of the day after a workout or play session.  What determines a person’s activitystat is unknown.  It might be genetic.  But it may also be influenced by the environment.

The obesity epidemic is disturbing and fascinating as well.  And while many have been quick to blame parents, the internet, schools and “moral failings,” there is growing evidence that unseen and poorly understood factors are involved, at least in part.  These factors include current or early exposure to chemicals that have entered the environment or otherwise found their way to our food and water supplies.  BPA, found in some plastics, has been a hot-button chemical.  It was one of the first identified as an “endocrine disruptor” (a chemical that interacts with hormones or their receptors).  While there has been a ton of research on BPA, new things keep turning up:  male rats exposed to BPA very early in life, don’t move around as much as unexposed rats.

Can BPA make you gain weight?  BPA also increases fat cells.

While BPA may decrease your activity stat, it also increases fat cells.  At least in vitro (this is cells in a dish, rather than in a living animal).  When a person is exposed to BPA, the body gets rid of it pretty quickly.  It converts it to something called BPA-G.  Until recently it was thought the BPA-G was harmless and could be urinated away.  BPA-G added to a cell culture of potential fat cells caused the not-yet-fat cells to turn into fat cells.  It also caused them to start making more fat.  There may be no need to fear the occasional drink from a plastic water bottle.  But people should probably stay away when possible.  Especially pregnant women.  Even if it says BPA-free on the label.  We are just learning about BPA-free plastics, and it looks like they are much like BPA.  A last word . . . these studies were of cells (or rats) eposed to BPA or BPA-G early on.  The same effect may not be seen in adults.  Or even humans for that matter.  My apologies if this is too technical or not technical enough.  For you geeks, links to the original articles are below.

Andrea B. Kirk

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NOTE:  This is a disclaimer.  I am not a medical doctor, I am a scientist. If you have questions about your health, talk to your medical doctor

Boucher JG, Boudreau A, Ahmed S, Atlas E. In Vitro Effects of Bisphenol A β-D-Glucuronide (BPA-G) on Adipogenesis in Human and Murine Preadipocytes.Environmental Health Perspectives. 2015;123(12):1287-1293. doi:10.1289/ehp.1409143.

Volberg V, Harley K, Calafat AM, et al. Maternal bisphenol A exposure during pregnancy and its association with adipokines in Mexican-American children.Environmental and molecular mutagenesis. 2013;54(8):621-628. doi:10.1002/em.21803.

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Obesity Genetics and Bacteria: Another Piece of a Strange Puzzle

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Obesity genetics and bacteria are strange bedfellows.  The causes of obesity are far more complicated than we thought just a few short years ago.  Diet and exercise are important, for sure.  But scientists are discovering that genetics and the gut microbiome are be key factors too.  The gut microbiome, if you didn’t know, are the trillions of bacteria that reside in our digestive tracts.  New research has uncovered a piece of how genetics and bacteria interact to increase the chances that someone will become obese, or develop diabetes.

Obesity Genetics and Bacteria Nutshell

Most of us will remember that people can’t digest plant fiber.  That is why we don’t bother to eat grass.  Or leaves.  Or at least most leaves . . . the kind on trees.  Or shrubberies.  Cows and other hoofed animals can eat these things because their stomachs are designed differently.  Bacteria in a cow’s stomach have time to ferment grass and such and break down all those long cellulose chains into useable starch for the cow.  It turns out, however, that some gut bacteria in humans can break down plant fiber into short chain fatty acids.   Humans can then take these fatty acids and convert them into fat.

Obesity and Genetics.

Here comes the genetics part:  While we host trillions of bacteria, we also control their populations.   Overgrowth of bacteria is controlled by a gene called TLR5.  People whose TLR5 doesn’t work that well cannot control gut bacteria as well.  About 10% of our population has a mutated TLR5 that just doesn’t work.  At all.   Having this mutation increases your risk of metabolic syndrome: obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Having this mutation also increases fat deposits in the liver.  If you are incredibly geeky (happy emoticom) you can read this “just out” article on genetics and obesity and bacteria here.  If you are less technically oriented, hopefully this information will of help as it is.  If you are struggling with your weight and trying to stay healthy, keep up the good work.   It actually is harder for some people than it is for others.   Different people can actually eat the same thing, and get different amounts of calories out of it.

Back in the old days having this mutation might have been beneficial.  You would have been able to extract more energy from food, which would have been great in times of famine.  But we now live in a time of excess.

Cassava Flour: Ins and Outs for the Health Conscious

Cassava flour is gaining popularity among the gluten-free, but there are health concerns to consider, especially for pregnant women and children.

What is Cassava Flour?  Is Cassava Flour Safe?

Cassava Paleo in a nutshell

Key points.

Cassava flour is flour made from the ground roots of the cassava plant.  It is also sometimes called “Yucca flour.”  Yucca, as we know it in the Southwest is not the same plant that is used to make cassava flour.  Cassava is a major food in parts of Africa and in tropical regions.  It grows well in poor soil and difficult conditions that would kill other crops.  It seems to be growing in popularity (or at least marketing) among followers of the paleo diet, which excludes grains.  Diets high in cassava are problematic for several reasons. Consumption of cassava releases cyanide.  Cyanide can cause a lot of oxidative damage.  This includes damage to neurons.  Eating a lot of cassava can lead to a neurological disease called Konzo.   The body has defense mechanisms against cyanide.  It metabolizes it to thiocyanate, which is much less toxic, but can still cause problems.   Thiocyanate can contribute to hypothyroidism. Thiocyanate interferes with the body’s ability to use iodine.  Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are important for controlling metabolic rate and for brain development.  Not having enough thyroid hormone is dangerous during pregnancy and infancy because it can lead to low IQ, reading disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) types of behavioral problems.

Tell me more about Konzo and Cassava Flour.

Konzo is a debilitating disease that occurs when people eat high in poorly processed cassava.  Signs of Konzo include spastic gait, need for support while walking, or complete inability to walk.   They may also show exaggerated knee and ankle jerk reflexes.  These are, of course, signs of nerve damage.Konzo usually shows up in people who have had nothing to eat but cassava.  The amount of cyanide in cassava varies according to the variety.  There are different varieties of cassava, like there are different varieties of apple.  Plant scientists have been working to develop less toxic cassava varieties.  Cyanide levels can also be reduced by processing and cooking.   Having nothing to eat but cassava is most likely to happen to people who are living in crisis and turmoil, conditions where processing and cooking cassava may be less than ideal.  While konzo is extremely unlikely to show up in someone living under reasonable conditions, the possibility of lesser forms of nerve injury should be considered.  This would be especially true for pregnant women and infants.  Nerve insult that occurs early in development can have life-long impact in the form of reduced IQ and/or behavioral issues. Consider something like lead, the metal.  Even tiny exposures during fetal development can be harmful.   Cassava may follow the same pattern (Bumoko et al. 2014).  The potential for cyanide to harm neurons is something to consider.  Even if it is only “a little.”

Anything else regarding Cassava Paleo concerns?

Just a bit.  There is also evidence that a cassava diet will make diabetes worse, possibly by damaging the pancreas.  This is from an animal study.

What is good about Cassava Flour?

Cassava flour may be a choice for people with celiac disease.  It should also be safe if it is properly processed and if a varied, healthy diet is followed otherwise.  Increased spending on Cassava Flour might also help the economies of developing countries that export cassava.

Andrea B. Kirk, PhD

ResearchBlogging.org
Boivin, M., Okitundu, D., Makila-Mabe Bumoko, G., Sombo, M., Mumba, D., Tylleskar, T., Page, C., Tamfum Muyembe, J., & Tshala-Katumbay, D. (2013). Neuropsychological Effects of Konzo: A Neuromotor Disease Associated With Poorly Processed Cassava PEDIATRICS, 131 (4) DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-3011

Bumoko GM, Sombo MT, Okitundu LD, Mumba DN, Kazadi KT, Tamfum-Muyembe JJ, Lasarev MR, Boivin MJ, Banea JP, & Tshala-Katumbay DD (2014). Determinants of cognitive performance in children relying on cyanogenic cassava as staple food. Metabolic brain disease, 29 (2), 359-66 PMID: 24481810

Nunn PB, Lyddiard JR, & Christopher Perera KP (2011). Brain glutathione as a target for aetiological factors in neurolathyrism and konzo. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 49 (3), 662-7 PMID: 20816718

Yessoufou A, Ategbo JM, Girard A, Prost J, Dramane KL, Moutairou K, Hichami A, & Khan NA (2006). Cassava-enriched diet is not diabetogenic rather it aggravates diabetes in rats. Fundamental & clinical pharmacology, 20 (6), 579-86 PMID: 17109651

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Grains may protect against telomere aging and cellular aging.

Telomere aging.

Aging is associated with many undesired developments.  Fragile skin, vision change, unimpressive reaction times.  Less noticeable, at least to others who may think you are becoming a little “slow”, are changes in hearing.

One of the things that biologists examine when assessing biological aging is telomere length.  Telomeres function as protective caps at the ends of our DNA.  Telomeres wear down a little with each cell division.  Older people, and older animals, will have shorter telomeres than the young.  However, the rate of telomere shortening, is not set in stone.  Oxidative stress can wear on telomeres as they do on other cell components.  Inflammation also appears to increase biological age as it also seems to speed shortening of telomeres.  Some researchers have found that long-term exercisers have longer telomeres than their sedentary peers.  Others have shown that a diet high in anti-oxidants (or high in fruits and vegetables) is also protective.   Accelerated telomere wearing has been associated with:

  • Osteoporosis (who’d have thought?)
  • Increased risk of bladder cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

Risk factors for faster telomere aging include:

Protective factors against telomere aging.

  • Mediterranean diet
  • Long-term exercise pattern
  • Fruit and vegetable intake
  • Grain and cereal intake
  • More things we can write about later.  This is a hot research topic.

Don’t give grains a completely short stick: grains may preserve telomeres and reduce cellular aging.

Cereals have gotten the short stick lately as two popular diets, low-carb and paleo diets, are anti-grain.  However, grains have been part of the human diet for millennia.  Certainly long enough for humans to have made genetic adaptations.  Grains contain anti-oxidants, minerals, soluble and non-soluble fiber.  All of these are beneficial to health.   Diets relatively high in grains are associated with longer telomeres (less cellular aging).  Diets rich in grains (cereal fibers) may help preserve telomere length . . . possibly by providing anti-oxidants and minerals . . . it’s too early to tell.   As for now, you may actually be better off including grains in your meals.  If, like me, you have continued to eat them despite all the pressure to stop from Paleo friends who are convinced you are slowly killing yourself with bran flakes. . . carry on.  You’re doing fine. Read more about telomeres and telomere aging here.

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Lee JY, Jun NR, Yoon D, Shin C, & Baik I (2015). Association between dietary patterns in the remote past and telomere length. European journal of clinical nutrition PMID: 25872911

Cassidy A, De Vivo I, Liu Y, Han J, Prescott J, Hunter DJ, & Rimm EB (2010). Associations between diet, lifestyle factors, and telomere length in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 91 (5), 1273-80 PMID: 20219960

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Low Vitamin D, Atherosclerosis and CardioVascular Disease

Vitamin D has received tremendous interest over the last ten years.  One of the many things to come out about Vitamin D is that is that it protects against vascular calcification.  Vascular calcification causes or contributes to:

  • Stiff arteries
  • Poor elasticity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Early death
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That is terrible.  Not long ago calcification was considered a normal part of aging. Then it was considered an issue of cholesterol and a high fat diet.  The contributions of dietary cholesterol and dietary fats continue to be explored and challenged, however, researchers are uncovering other factors.  Vitamin D insufficiency has been strongly associated with risk of poor health and death.  This includes increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  Research groups are  now working to figure out more of the details.

Chronic Vitamin D Deficiency vs. On-again Off-again Vitamin D deficiency

A recent article in the Journal of Nutrition reports on an investigation of Vitamin D and vascular calcification.  The study used groups mice.  It lasted 32weeks.  Different groups of mice were fed either

  1. mouse version of a typical Western diet with adequate vitamin D for 16 weeks
  2. mouse version of a typical Western diet with low vitamin D for 16 weeks
  3. mouse version of a typical Western diet low vitamin D for 32 weeks
  4. mouse version of a typical Western diet with low vitamin D for 16 weeks then switched to a normal D diet for another 16 weeks.

Research Findings

Mice on the 16 week low vitamin D diet had more calcified arteries than mice fed the higher vitamin D diet, but not by that much.  (See the article for details).  The low vitamin D diet, however. turned up something interesting:

  • Vascular cells in the Low Vitamin D mice appeared to change into osteoblast-like cells.  Osteoblasts are build bone.  They also create dense, crosslinked collagen and create a matrix for bone.   This may not be the best thing for vascular health.
  • Mice fed a low D diet for 32 weeks had significantly more plaque than other mice, more osteoblast-like cells and more tumor necrosis factor.
  • Mice who were returned to the normal D diet had less calcification.  This is a nice finding.  It looks like increasing vitamin D  will improve the quality of arteries if your diet has been low in vitamin D.

Takeaway:

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It looks like low vitamin D plays a strong role in hardening of the arteries. Not all is lost,  Damage you have accumulated to date may be reduceable.  Please note too that this was a study of dietary vitamin D and not vitamin D made through sun exposure.  You can make your own vitamin D with exposure to sun light.  Please remember not to go overboard.  Too much vitamin D may also cause calcification of arteries.

 

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Nadine Schmidt, Corinna Brandsch, Alexandra Schutkowski, Frank Hirche, & Gabriele I. Stangl (2014). Dietary Vitamin D Inadequacy Accelerates Calcification and Osteoblast-Like Cell Formation in the Vascular System of LDL Receptor Knockout and Wild-Type Mice Journal of Nutrition

Ellam T, Hameed A, Ul Haque R, Muthana M, Wilkie M, Francis SE, & Chico TJ (2014). Vitamin d deficiency and exogenous vitamin d excess similarly increase diffuse atherosclerotic calcification in apolipoprotein e knockout mice. PloS one, 9 (2) PMID: 24586387

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Quinoa Stimulates Protein Synthesis via Phytoecdysteroids

Summary: While Quinoa contains saponins, not all saponins are harmful.  Some are anti-oxidants and are probably health protective.  Quinoa, as most readers will know, is relatively high in protein.  New research shows quinoa is also high in phytoecdysteroids.  Phytoecysteroids have been shown to stimulate protein synthesis, at least in rats.

Introductory paragraph: (feel free to skip).  I’m not sure where Quinoa falls on the dietary good-evil spectrum these days.  Many value it for its high protein and mineral content.  It can be a staple food for the health-minded vegetarian.  On the other side of the spectrum, Quinoa has been vilified by followers of the Paleo diet because advocates consider it to be a grain.  Paleo dieters have also been concerned that Quinoa contains saponins. Some have proposed that saponins may damage the intestines.  However saponins are beneficial anti-oxidants and some are health-protective.  For a more general discussion of Quinoa and why it should be an excellent addition to the paleo diet click here.

Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis

Phytoecdysteroids in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis

Quinoa is high in protein, flavonoids and phytoecdysteroids

Analysis of quinoa extract shows that quinoa contains:

  • 20% protein
  • 11% oil
  • 2.6% flavonoid glycosides
  • 1% phytoecdysteroids (this is very high compared to other plants)
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Crossfit Trainer Amie Taylor of CrossFit Seven gets ready for the snatch

Flavonoid glycosides are health protective anti-oxidants.   Quinoa contains high amounts of phytoecdysteroids relative to other plants.   These are thought to be part of a plants defense system against predatory insecct.  However, they may be good for people.  There are many different phytoecdysteroids. Different phytoecdysteriods may have different functions and behave differently in mammals.  The dominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa is 20HE.

Beneficial effects of phytoecdysteroids

There have been a number of studies showing different positive effects of both phytoecdysteroids or of qunoia extract.

  • Phytoecdysteroids increased protein synthesis in animals with and without exercise
  • 20HE (the predominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa) has anabolic-like properties that promote protein synthesis
  • 20HE Increased muscle fiber size
  • Phytoecdysteroids Inhibited tumor growth
  • Phytoecdysteroids increased grip strength in rats
  • Quinoa extract increased metabolic rate and may be an anti-obesogen
  • Quinoa extract lowered blood glucose in obese, hyperglycemic mice
Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis

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How phytoecdysteroids work is not completely understood.  They do not seem to act in the same way as anabolic steroids.  Anabolic steroids interact with androgen receptors.  Phytoecdysteroids don’t seem to do that.   So far, phytoecdysteroids show very low toxicity in mammals but limited (if any) testing has been done in humans.  Some people are marketing ecdysteroids as body-building supplements.  So far there is no evidence that these provide any benefit.

Dinan L (2009). The Karlson Lecture. Phytoecdysteroids: what use are they? Archives of insect biochemistry and physiology, 72 (3), 126-41 PMID: 19771554

Báthori M, Tóth N, Hunyadi A, Márki A, & Zádor E (2008). Phytoecdysteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids–structure and effects on humans. Current medicinal chemistry, 15 (1), 75-91 PMID: 18220764

Foucault AS, Even P, Lafont R, Dioh W, Veillet S, Tomé D, Huneau JF, Hermier D, & Quignard-Boulangé A (2014). Quinoa extract enriched in 20-hydroxyecdysone affects energy homeostasis and intestinal fat absorption in mice fed a high-fat diet. Physiology & behavior, 128, 226-31 PMID: 24534167

Gorelick-Feldman J, Maclean D, Ilic N, Poulev A, Lila MA, Cheng D, & Raskin I (2008). Phytoecdysteroids increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 56 (10), 3532-7 PMID: 18444661

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Masters Athletes Need More Protein than Younger Athletes

Masters Athletes may have some nutritional needs that differ from those of younger athletes. By Masters, we’re referring to athletes over age 40. This is currently the cut-off for Crossfit. Here’s what we know about Masters and protein:

  • Masters athletes may need more protein than younger athletes regardless of sport.
  • Consuming more protein may slow normal loss of muscle mass that occurs over time.
  • Masters athletes doing resistance training may need more protein than younger people because they don’t synthesize muscle proteins as quickly.
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Masters Athlete Nutrition: what we know today.

The amount of FDA recommended protein stands at about 0.66 grams per kilogram of body weight.  This number was derived by looking at many studies of people.  Some of the studies looked at the average amount eaten by healthy people.  Others looked at nitrogen balance: how much comes in vs how much comes out.  People who lose more nitrogen than they take in through food are said to be in negative nitrogen balance.  For these studies, the recommended amount would be the amount where the amount of nitrogen coming in is equal to the amount leaving (urine).  There are a number of limits with these approaches.  They do not answer the question of “what is best”.   They have not focused on athletes or older adults.   Weight lifters and others trying to add muscle have traditionally eaten a lot of protein.   Way more than 0.66 grams/kilogram. Eating more than the recommended amount of protein doesn’t seem to hurt.  Just don’t leave out other nutrients.

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Scientists who work in this area have concluded that 0.8 g/kg is better for masters athletes than the old level of 0.66 g/kg.  Many people will find number low and may get upset about. Don’t worry if you’ve just had a WTF moment.  After all, we’ve been urged to consume at least a full gram of protein, 1.2 g/kg or even more. This may be perfectly valid if you are interested in strength gain or preservation of muscle mass during aging. We simply don’t know what is “optimal.”  “Optimal” will, of course, depend on many different factors.  The increase from 0.66 g/kg to 0.8 g/kg is 25%.  That is a big jump.

Here’s what may help preserve or increase muscle mass for masters athletes

  • Eat more than 0.8 g/kg/day to increase strength (you have to lift too.)
  • Get some protein soon after a training session
  • Some recommend taking 5 g/day of creatine monohydrate.  There is some evidence that it can boost strength gains and help increase fat free mass.  Keep in mind that creatine can also increase water retention.  Some of the gains in fat free mass may just be water.
  • For endurance: sadly, there is no evidence that carb loading helps.
  • Carbohydrates are important.  If your body doesn’t have carbohydrates it will use some of your protein for energy.  It will use fat too, but it will also use muscle.

What kind of protein is best for Masters Athletes?

There is a lot of research showing that red meat increases risk of cancer.  I know a lot of people like red meat.  But evidence says: avoid it.  If you do eat red meat avoid grilling or charring it.  Burning food creates carcinogens.  Cooking fats at high temperatures produces acrolein.  Acrolein may contribute to development of Alzheimers.  Vegetable protein (beans and nuts) seems to lower risk of cancer.  It also seems to lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.  The paleo diet is against beans.  There is really no reason not to eat beans other than that some popular diet books put them in the “bad” category.  Beans should be well-cooked.  If you are not used to eating beans . . . you will probably get better at digesting them peacefully.  You may even get good at it.

Take away:

It looks like masters athletes need more protein than others.  The  recommended increase from 0.66 g/kg/day to .80 g/kg/day is a 25% increase.  Until we know more, increasing your protein intake may help you maintain or increase muscle mass. Limit red meat. Many people seem to be devoted to red meat, but the vast majority of research indicates it is a risky protein source.  Avoid fish high in mercury (tuna, swordfish).  Mercury accumulates in the body over time and has been linked to a number of poor health outcomes. Increasing protein intake with vegetable protein is a healthy strategy.

 

 

Tarnopolsky MA (2008). Nutritional consideration in the aging athlete. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, 18 (6), 531-8 PMID: 19001886

Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, Loria C, Vupputuri S, Myers L, & Whelton PK (2001). Legume consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Archives of internal medicine, 161 (21), 2573-8 PMID: 11718588

Position Statement (2010). Selected Issues for the Master Athlete and the Team Physician Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42 (4), 820-833 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d19a0b

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.

Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.

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

The WODMASTERS Rhino Design ruminates on Vitamin K

Protein intake throughout the day increases muscle protein synthesis by 25%

New research on protein intake: protein each meal results in more muscle protein synthesis than the same amount of protein eaten in one meal

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Protein synthesis is a high-interest topic of athletes and many male recreational athletes. Well-developed muscles are signs of health, strength and virility in men. Well-developed muscles are also important for women. Muscles as well as bone are lost as we get older. Much attention has been given to avoiding osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures, spine malformation, pain and loss of independence. Sarcopenia is the muscle equivalent of osteoporosis. Muscle mass is lost a bit each year. That can accelerate in menopausal women. Loss of muscle can lead to weakness, frailty and loss of independence too. Sarcopenia also happens to men. It is important to take care of “muscle health,” even if you’re not interested in looking jacked.

Timing of protein intake

There are some advantages to late protein intake. Protein intake before bed increases muscle synthesis. But what about the rest of the day? Many people get most of their protein at dinner. Many get most of their carbs at breakfast. Is there an advantage to spreading protein intake out over the course of your day? It looks like the answer is Yes.

The Research:

Researchers looked at 24 hour muscle protein synthesis in a group of healthy adults (men and women). The subjects were first given a diet with most of the protein consumed at night (about 10 grams at breakfast, 16 grams at lunch and 63 grams at dinner). This was followed by a second diet where protein was consumed evenly at three meals (average about 31 grams per meal). Subjects stayed on each diet for seven days.

The results:

Protein synthesis was 25% higher when subjects consumed protein evenly at each meal.

Take away:

Its better to have protein with breakfast, lunch and dinner than having a big high protein meal at night. This runs counter to some current diet practices among the health conscious such as intermittent fasting or eating one meal a day. For more information on intermittent fasting see this article by Dr. Jose Antonio of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.  Those practices may not be beneficial for prevention of muscle loss although they may be beneficial for other reasons.  The paper is written more with an eye towards preventing sarcopenia in the ill and the elderly. The authors do suggest that the amount of protein in the RDA is low for optimal health.  I don’t know of any research that’s been done on protein timing and performance for athletes.  If anyone does, please send a link.

“There is broad agreement among many protein researchers
that the RDA for protein [0.8 g protein/(kgd)], although
sufficient to prevent deficiency, is insufficient to promote optimal
health, particularly in populations exposed to catabolic stressors
such as illness, physical inactivity, injury, or advanced age (4,22–
25). Several recent consensus statements have suggested that a
protein intake between 1.0 and 1.5 g/(kgd) may confer health
benefits beyond those afforded by simply meeting the current
RDA (4,26,27). In the current study we provided diets that
exceeded the RDA for protein by 50% but were consistent with
the average daily protein intake of the U.S. adult population [i.e.,
1.2 g protein/(kgd)]”

 Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults J. Nutr. jn.113.185280;