Weighted vest exercise program can build hip bone mineral density

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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Enjoy life. Get a Lady of the Kettlebells Racerback Tank. Beautiful.

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).

Masters athletes protein intake improves recovery. Virgin initiation ceremony for the Hash House Harriers, Grenada West Indies

Can stress from noise make you gain weight?

Can stress make you gain weight? Mona Lisa Kettlebell shirt in vintage heather gray.

Mona Lisa Kettlebell shirt in vintage heather gray. Looking awesome in one of our shirts can help reduce stress. Check out our WODWomen Etsy shop. Click the pic.

Can stress make you gain weight?  Not too long ago that would have been considered a funny question. Weight gain, you would have known for fact, is caused by eating too much and exercising too little.  These things are certainly important, but research indicates that is not the entire story.  There are other factors. Research indicates stress, including stress from such simple things as noise, can play a role in weight gain.

Can stress make you gain weight?

Surely there are many factors involved in the current obesity epidemic.  I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of people blame the loss of recess and gym class in schools, the supersized drinks, and the easy availability of junk food,  There is also the lack of time needed to plan, shop for, and prepare the healthy, home-cooked meals that some of us stealthily passed to the dog under the table during our childhoods.  Unwanted vegetables, I recall, were stashed in pockets.  But why are so many people struggling today with body weight?  If you stop to think about it, our bodies do an amazing job of maintaining body weight.  Our weight doesn’t, unless something is really wrong, seesaw all over the place.  When we do gain weight, it tends to move gradually upwards, and then is hard to take off.  This is due to complex interactions of hormones, which we do not completely understand.  Note here: what we don’t know about the regulation of our own bodies could fill a barn. Somewhere out there is the answer to the question how can stress make you gain weight.

How stress can make you gain weight

When a person experiences long-term stress the body adapts by increasing levels of cortisol.  Cortisol does a number of things.  Cortisol elevates blood sugar, suppresses your immune system, and breaks down muscle to use it for fuel.  Fat, tends to build up, especially around the waist.  This is a very simplified nut-shell explanation.   For an excellent and enjoyable discussion check out this video featuring stress researcher Robert Sapolsky.

Contemporary life is full of stressors.  This can include things we think we have completely tuned out, like noise. Living in an area with heavy traffic noise has been associated with cardiovascular disease.  It has also been associated with metabolic disorders and sleep problems.   Noise as a factor in body fat was studied by a group of Danish researchers.  They had a cohort of over 57,000 people.  This is a lot of people, which makes the study a lot more powerful than studies that look at small numbers of people.   The results of the study found that people in areas with noise levels of 60+ decibels had larger waists and higher BMI than people living in quiet areas (20 or fewer decibels of noise).   Researchers controlled for socioeconomic factors, history of smoking, level of physical activity and exposure to air pollution which are also associated with body weight and metabolic disorders.

Can stress make you gain weight?  Maybe.  Can noise make you gain weight?

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Relieve stress with a quiet statement. You can get this design on an awesome shirt at our WODWomen Etsy shop. Click the pic.

This study indicates that people living with noise have bigger waists and are heavier, as a whole, than people whose homes were quiet.     What makes for a noisy home?  The researchers were particularly interested in noise from traffic and railroads.  The cutoff for “noisy” was 60 decibels.  This is not considered all that loud.  Background conversation in a restaurant will clock in at about 60 decibels.   Being a hundred feet from an air conditioner can too.  Driving in a car, presumably with the windows shut will be around 70 decibels and conversation at home is normally around 50.  To get into the quiet category (20 decibels or less) your average background noise would consist of gently rustling leaves and whispering.

Things to consider for the can stress make you gain weight question

Reducing stress in your life, including extra noise, may help you improve your health and make losing weight easier.  However, not everyone responds to stress, including the stress of noise, in the same way.  Some people find quiet very stressful.  Some noise can be soothing.  Tweeting birds and babbling brooks make noise too.


Christensen JS, Raaschou-Nielsen O, Tjønneland A, Overvad K, Nordsborg RB, Ketzel M, Sørensen TI, & Sørensen M (2015). Road Traffic and Railway Noise Exposures and Adiposity in Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Cohort. Environmental health perspectives PMID: 26241990

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

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

Weighted vest exercise program can build hip bone mineral density

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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Andrea B. Kirk, PhD

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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

Cell Interior by David Bolinsky

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).

BREAKING NEWS: Green tea anti-oxidant EGCG may increase cancer risk. TWF!

 Basics: The anti-oxidant EGCG can cause DNA strand breaks and mutations.

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This shirt may protect the wearer from injury, insult and poor health. You can get one from us or order from Amazon.

EGCG stands for Epigallocatechin gallate.   Epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC) is a polyphenol found in green tea.  Some people take it as a supplement.  Or it may be part of “green tea extracts.”  Anti-oxidants are thought to protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage can occur when one atom or molecule “steals” electrons from important molecules in your body. Cell membranes, for example. Or DNA. When DNA undergoes oxidative damage it may become mutated. Mutations in body cells can lead to cancer. So, protecting your body by taking anti-oxidants seemed to make a lot of sense. No oxidants, no oxidation, no mutations, no cancer. Many people believe(d) that taking anti-oxidants would protect against illness and aging and extend life. The benefits of anti-oxidant supplements now appears to be more complicated that we thought.

Hypoxia study.  Hypoxia can also cause cellular damage

Hypoxia study without anti-oxidants or oxidants.  Hypoxia can also cause cellular damage.  It might also increase cancer risk.  Brain damage for sure though.

Anti-oxidants have had a mixed history when used medicinally.

There are many anti-oxidants.   Vitamins C, A, E and selenium are commonly used as nutritional supplements for their anti-oxidant properties.  And many have assumed that more is better.  As with many other things in life, more is not always better.  Sometimes “more” makes more trouble than less.  Selenium, for example, seems to have protective effects against cancer.  Unfortunately when too much selenium is taken, it can increase the risk of cancer.  One of the problems with taking supplements is that we rarely know how much is too much.  And we almost never know how much is optimal.   Studies of Vitamin A, C and E have also shown signs of creating problems when taken above levels one would normally get eating from food.

EGCG as an inducer of mutations and cancer.

A paper newly released by Nature (Lu et al. 2013) shows how anti-oxidants are able to cause DNA damage and increase risk of mutations. The researchers used epigallocatechin gallate as the test anti-oxidant.  The researchers present their data very clearly and efficiently with minimal interpretation.  They simply report that Epigallocatechin gallate caused DNA damage and increased number of mutations (among other non-good things.)  These results may or may not apply to other anti-oxidants, but they are a good indication that we should exercise caution with anti-oxidant supplements.    There is sure to be a lot of discussion and debate over the results of the Lu study.  And many additional studies are sure to follow.

Anti-oxidants, oxidants and health

It you are feeding your pets anti-oxidants you might want to hold off for a while.

This is a very interesting paper and sure to upset a lot of boats.   ECGC is a powerful anti-oxidant.  Other anti-oxidants may not be strong enough to cause damage.  It was just a year ago that  ECGC was reported to be the most effective anti-cancer chemo protective compound in green tea.  ECGC may turn out to be health protective.  It may turn out to be one of those “nutrients” that is good for you at low levels but dangerous when high.  Its too early to tell.  More research is needed.

Until we know more, eat real food.  Eat a varied diet so you don’t get too much of something that may be harmful.



Lu LY, Ou N, & Lu QB (2013). Antioxidant induces DNA damage, cell death and mutagenicity in human lung and skin normal cells. Scientific reports, 3 PMID: 24201298

Du GJ, Zhang Z, Wen XD, Yu C, Calway T, Yuan CS, & Wang CZ (2012). Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) is the most effective cancer chemopreventive polyphenol in green tea. Nutrients, 4 (11), 1679-91 PMID: 23201840

Thangapazham RL, Passi N, & Maheshwari RK (2007). Green tea polyphenol and epigallocatechin gallate induce apoptosis and inhibit invasion in human breast cancer cells. Cancer biology & therapy, 6 (12), 1938-43 PMID: 18059161

lectin Quinoia Paleo? CrossFit Social after CrossFit WOD

Arsenic in Rice and Long-Term Health Risks

Arsenic in rice has been reported as being of no immediate health risk.  But the major concern with arsenic is that it is a long-term health risk.  Arsenic may be best known as a tool of poisoners.  But arsenic poses greater risk as a slow, quiet inducer of cancer.  In that way, arsenic is like most carcinogens.  The problem is not that someone would eat a bite of rice and then fall face first into his or her plate.  The problem is that arsenic causes skin and bladder cancer.  It also does other unpleasant things to people who are exposed to relatively low levels over long periods of time.

Arsenic in Rice and Arsenic in Drinking Water

The current limit for arsenic in drinking water is 10 parts arsenic for every billion parts of water.  If you are an average adult drinking two liters of water you could get about 20 micrograms of arsenic.  As long as your drinking water meets federal standards.  If you drink more than two liters of water your will probably be just fine.  If you get more than 20 micrograms of arsenic every day you will probably be fine too.  Federal standards have built in safety factors.  These protect people who are not average 160 pound adults. Who drink two liters of water a day.  If people are exposed to additional arsenic in rice on a regular basis in addition to arsenic in water they may face increased risk of cancer.  The man in the photo on the right lives in an area where arsenic in drinking water greatly exceeds World Health Organization standards.

Should I worry about Arsenic in Rice?

Maybe.  Arsenic in rice may increase your risk of cancer.  Especially if you live in an area where arsenic levels in drinking water are high.   Or if you are feeding rice to infants or very young children.   Infants and young children tend to rely on only a few types of food.  If you are a heavy rice eater you should add some other grains to your diet.  The best way to protect yourself from contaminants in food is to eat a varied diet.  And not depend too heavily on any one food type.  To find out if you live in an area where arsenic in drinking water is a high take a look at the map below.  Keep in mind that if you live in a high-arsenic area your community drinking water may be less if it is treated.   If you live outside the US you can probably find a map for your country online.  Keep in mind too that arsenic levels in rice will vary.  The amount of arsenic in rice will depend on how much arsenic was in the ground and water at the growing site.

Arsenic in Rice Arsenic in Drinking water

USGS Map of Arsenic Concentrations in drinking water.


Do it yourself CrossFit workout with sandbag

Exercise and Weight and Gut Microbiota

Exercise and Weight.

Crossfit womens shirt model at Crossfit Seven in Fort Worth

Our crossfit women prefer to lift in WODMASTERS shirts. Designed to protect the sternum from bar abrasions while looking cool and beautiful.

Exercise and weight are closely related. We all know that exercise burns calories and helps maintain body weight. Exercise has a lot of other health benefits. And maintaining a healthy body weight is important too. But ever wonder how gut microbes, exercise and weight interact? If you are like most people you will be thinking about such things as you wander the grocery store aisles, forgetting why you are there in the first place. Or you may wonder about how physical activity changes gene expression. Or how inactivity changes gene expression. You may wonder, as you pass the yogurt section, “what is with this probiotic stuff?” We’ll talk about probiotics another time.

Exercise weight and bacteria.

Exercise and weight are inter-related. But it looks like there is another player involved. (At least one and probably many.) It looks like exercise has influence over the bacteria that live in your digestive tract. Most of us have been taught that bacteria are bad. But they are not all bad. We need some species to help us digest food, access vitamins, stay healthy and defend us against evil germs. New research shows that the kinds of bacteria in the digestive tract differ depending on level of physical activity.  The study was of mice. Mice may have been chosen for the project because it is more agreeable to pick up their poop and analyze it.  You can scoop them into a flour sifter to remove the litter.  And because you can easily control their diets. And keep them in cages with few complaints.

The researchers wanted to know how exercise, obesity, diabetes and gut microbes interact. The mice were placed in a cage with an exercise wheel. OR placed in a cage with an exercise wheel that didn’t work. After five weeks of exercising or not exercising animals were dosed with a common environmental contaminant. The chemical (PCBs) are known to impair glucose handling. They may also increase risk of diabetes. And a lot of other health problems. After dosing doots were collected. Little rodent poops are often called “doots” by the research community.

Mice who exercised had different kinds of bacteria in their doots. Bacteria from the digestive tracts of sedentary mice had a dramatic loss of proteobacteria and a hugely dramatic loss of Erysipelotrichaceae. The guts of exercising mice had many different kinds of bacteria.

What does this mean for us humans?

This research fits a piece into a larger puzzle. How are exercise and weight and bacteria related? People who are overweight have different gut bacteria profiles. The profiles change when a person loses weight. There are still many other puzzle pieces to fit And many that are missing. But it looks more and more that we need to move to keep our bodies running the way they should. And that things may go badly if we don’t.

Choi JJ, Eum SY, Rampersaud E, Daunert S, Abreu MT, & Toborek M (2013). Exercise Attenuates PCB-Induced Changes in the Mouse Gut Microbiome. Environmental health perspectives, 121 (6), 725-30 PMID: 23632211

Coconut oil and athletic performance

Coconut Oil 's Mythical Properties for Health, Nutrition and Performance

Coconut oil is an extra-ordinary food.

Coconut oil is an extraordinary food.  But what makes coconut oil special?  Coconut oil is a natural source of fat.  But what gives coconut oil its mythic properties as a perfect food?

Coconut oil and health nutrition and athletic performance.

Does coconut oil improve athletic performance and increase longevity? No one knows for absolutely sure that it doesn’t.

Coconut oil as a nutrient

Coconut oil is rich in medium chain saturated fat.  There is some evidence that medium chain saturated fatty acids may help with weight loss, possibly by suppressing appetite. Some saturated fat in the diet is probably OK.  Maybe we need some saturated fat in our diets to be healthy.  Who knows?  Unfortunately or not, research continues to show that diets high in saturated fat are unhealthy.  Research also continues to show that diets that contain more unsaturated fats relative to saturated fats are associated with better health outcomes.

Coconut oil and athletic performance

A well-cited article has been referenced to support the idea that coconut oil improves athletic performance.  The study compared cyclists who drank either a glucose containing beverage or a glucose and medium chain fatty acid containing beverage.  The study’s authors concluded that the medium chain fatty acid beverage impaired performance.  (They did not say that it helped).    The authors also concluded that the medium chain fatty acid beverage caused stomach cramps.  The authors suggested that the cramps may have been what caused poor performance.  More study would be needed to see if cramps are indeed the culprit.  This doesn’t mean that having medium chain saturated fatty acids circulating in your blood will provide you with an advantage.   In fact the body seems to prefer unsaturated fatty acids for fuel (Raclot 1997).

Coconut oil and CrossFit Masters

CrossFit Masters Athletes sometimes eat coconut oil. These guys are really good.

Coconut oil and longevity

If you Google “Coconut Oil” and Longevity you will find about a half a million hits saying that coconut oil improves longevity.  If you do the same research in Web of Knowledge (a database of scientific publications) you will find seven hits.  Five are about insect pest control.  One is about plants.  One is about coconut oil increasing atherosclerosis in rabbits.

Other wonderful properties of coconut oil

Coconut oil seems to work pretty well as a conditioner for cast iron cookware.  Coconut oil is made of mostly medium chain fatty acids.  Coconut oil has a high smoke point.  This means it can be used for frying with less risk of burning.  Coconut oil is solid at room temperature.  (As long as the room isn’t too warm.)  Coconut oil makes good popcorn that is light and doesn’t have a burnt oil taste to it. Coconut oil is good for frying for the same reasons it makes good popcorn.   Some people like to use coconut oil as a moisturizer.

What makes coconut oil so special?

Coconut oil has been called a perfect food because someone called it a perfect food.  And they must have called it perfect with convincing authority.  Free of doubt.  Pretty free of logic.  And pretty much free of evidence.   Dr. Oz may have been involved.  Almost all of us respond to authority.  Authorities provide us with answers to our questions.  The desire and drive for answers is a powerful inborn trait.  This quality may be uniquely human.  It has helped us make tremendous advances in understanding and controlling our world.   Answers may be treasured once we have them in hand.  Because they are so treasured we sometimes hold onto them longer than we should.  Sometimes we hold and treasure answers that are wrong.  Or that are simply expressions of someone else’s wishful thinking.

I would have written about this earlier, but so many people were telling me coconut oil was healthy that I didn’t question it for quite some time.  Go figure.
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Raclot T, Langin D, Lafontan M, & Groscolas R (1997). Selective release of human adipocyte fatty acids according to molecular structure. The Biochemical journal, 324 ( Pt 3), 911-5 PMID: 9210416

Jeukendrup AE, Thielen JJ, Wagenmakers AJ, Brouns F, & Saris WH (1998). Effect of medium-chain triacylglycerol and carbohydrate ingestion during exercise on substrate utilization and subsequent cycling performance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 67 (3), 397-404 PMID: 9497182

Clegg, M. (2010). Medium-chain triglycerides are advantageous in promoting weight loss although not beneficial to exercise performance International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 61 (7), 653-679 DOI: 10.3109/09637481003702114

CrossFit and High Intensity Interval Training

The importance of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.

Crossfit aerobic training and running.  You have probably heard that exercise improves mood, memory and brain function.  And that it may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.  Former runners who have turned to CrossFit may remember their runner’s high.  It was that wonderful feeling of peace and well-being.  CrossFit is a great fitness program.  For many people it has become a way of life.  But it does not seem to produce the “high” that many people get from running.  Combining CrossFit running is something to think about.


Running.  The moderate stuff matters.

The “runner’s high” is thought to be caused by chemicals called endocannabinoids.  These chemicals are produced in the brain (and possibly in other areas).  They reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of well-being.  Endocannabinoids are also involved in appetite suppression and synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity refers to the ability of neurons to adapt and change.  An area where Synaptic plasticity is important is in learning and memory formation.   New research (April 2013) on endocannabinoids shows that moderate aerobic exercise increases production.  Low intensity exercise (like walking) does not.  High intensity exercise does not seem to increase endocannabinoids either.  CrossFit is very high intensity exercise.  Including moderate intensity running with CrossFit (CrossFit running) is probably a good idea. If you are interested in preserving cognitive function.  Or if you are interested in improving cognitive function.  Some of us are just trying to keep from losing ground.  CrossFit is fun.  And great for full-body fitness.  But it may be that a relaxing run, bike or swim is just as important.  If not more.

CrossFit and Running

A couple discusses crossfit running during a tender moment post wod.


Raichlen DA, Foster AD, Seillier A, Giuffrida A, & Gerdeman GL (2013). Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity. European journal of applied physiology, 113 (4), 869-75 PMID: 22990628