Category Archives: exercise

Magnesium supplementation boosts physical performance in older women

A new study published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that magnesium supplementation can improve physical performance in older women (1).

Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance
“Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance”

A focus on healthy ageing is paramount because the UK population is getting older. Currently one-in-six of the UK population is aged 65 and over. By 2050, this number will reach one-in-four. Life expectance is steadily increasing. Unfortunately ‘healthy life expectancy’, or years free from disability, is not increasing at the same rate (2). Good nutrition is a critical component of healthy ageing, allowing us to take charge of our health and remain fit and independent in later life.

This particular study tested the effect of magnesium on older women’s ability to carry out everyday functional movements such as lifting and carrying, alongside other measures of strength and balance.

The researchers studied a group of 139 healthy women with an average age of 71. Each of the women underwent a gentle 12-week exercise programme. While half of the women were given a placebo pill, the remainder of the group were given a daily magnesium supplement.

At the beginning and end of the study, each of the participants were tested for measures of physical performance. Simple functional movements, such as getting out of a chair and balancing tasks, were assessed. Compared with the placebo group, the magnesium group made significant improvements in all measures of physical performance.

The magnesium group also made ‘substantial’ improvements in walking speed compared to the placebo group. This result was of particular interest to the researchers because walking speed is an independent predictor of adverse health events.

The benefits of supplementation were most pronounced in those women whose diets were deficient in magnesium. However, improvements were also noted in those whose magnesium intake met the Recommended Daily Allowance.

As we age, we have a tendency to lose muscle mass. This degenerative loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, robs older people of independence by limiting mobility and the ability safely to carry out simple functional movements. “These findings suggest a role for magnesium supplementation in preventing or delaying the age-related decline in physical performance, particularly in magnesium-deficient individuals”, wrote the researchers.

Magnesium is involved in more physiological processes than any other mineral. It plays a critical role in energy production, bone and tooth formation, muscle function, cardiovascular health, bowel function and blood sugar regulation.

Unfortunately the average women in the UK does not manage to obtain the recommended amount of magnesium through her diet, and older women are even more at risk of deficiency (3). Eliminating refined grains, sugar and other processed foods from the diet goes a long way towards ensuring a good intake of magnesium. Magnesium supplements, and increased intake of magnesium-rich leafy greens, beans and lentils, can also help address deficiencies.

This particular study used magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide, at a dosage of 300mg elemental magnesium. While magnesium oxide is cheap, it is not the most bioavailable form of magnesium. Magnesium citrate or magnesium malate, which demonstrate superior bioavailability, are often considered more helpful by nutritionists.

References

  1. Veronese N, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomised controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Epub 9 July 2014
  2. Cracknell R (2010) The ageing population. Key Issues for the New Parliament. House of Commons Library Research.
  3. Food Standard Agency. (2011) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults over 65 years.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Supplements in Sport

Success in sport depends on many factors, but when everything else is equal, nutrition can make the difference between winning and losing.

A large majority of sports supplements have traditionally been used by elite athletes, body builders and sports enthusiasts, with a heavy emphasis being placed on protein powders and performance enhancers. Although useful, these supplements only scratch the surface of sports nutrition. In fact, by delving a little deeper into nutritional science, a number of seemingly non-sports orientated supplements, including fish oils and probiotics, can be found predominantly placed in the supplement protocol of any physically active individual.

It is all too common for people to consume less than sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals within the diet, which can lead to poor health, impaired recovery and under-performance. This is where supplements can play an important role.

Whatever level at which people participate in their chosen physical activity, it is now widely accepted that the addition of key nutritional supplements to any exercise regime can be beneficial to health. Much of today’s use of nutritional supplements is aimed at not only ensuring that any dietary deficiencies are corrected, but that recovery from training, competition or injury is accelerated, and that the immune system remains uncompromised so that individuals can continue to perform at the highest level.

Some nutrients have undoubted benefits and have been proven in clinical trials to improve performance and recovery. However, the ‘normal balanced diet’ may not provide these nutrients in sufficient quantities, and extra demand on the body through training and competing can deplete them even faster. Athletes and physically active individuals would therefore obtain the greatest benefit from taking high quality supplements, backed by scientific credibility. Incorporating these principles can often provide that extra edge, which is so important when the margins set between winning and losing are so small.

BioCare® has made innovative steps in sports supplementation by gaining Informed-Sport accreditation
BioCare® has made innovative steps in sports supplementation by gaining Informed-Sport accreditation

Informed-Sport

Purity is one of the most essential considerations when choosing supplements for sport. Informed-Sport accreditation allows athletes and those involved in sport to choose products that are rigorously tested, batch-by-batch, for contaminants and WADA banned substances to ensure that they are safe to use. Testing is carried out by HFL Sport Science, an internationally recognised and accredited laboratory, supported by UK Sport.

BioCare® has made innovative steps in sports supplementation by gaining Informed-Sport accreditation for products which truly support the foundations of health – One A Day Vitamins & Minerals, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Bio Acidophilus Forte and Vitamin C 1000. These supplements do not necessarily correlate with stereotypical sports supplementation, but this holistic and innovative approach represents the future of sports nutrition.

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Festive Digestive: Eat, drink and be merry this festive season

Did you spend last Christmas with a queasy, acid, bloated and uncomfortable stomach?

The combination of family events, rich foods, alcohol and late nights can be stressful and normal stomach enzyme secretion can be impaired by the influence of stress hormones. Avoid the misery of acid indigestion by taking a high potency Digestive Aid with a powerful combination of enzymes to aid digestion. Certain enzymes aid in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates ensuring your digestion is at peak performance, working hard when you are playing hard.

Help restore your gut balance of good bacteria. Probiotic formulas add a combination of good bacteria to aid digestion and boost immunity. Perfect to aid recovery from the festive season’s culinary excesses.

Provided you have enough of the health-promoting bacteria, they act as your first line of defence against unfriendly bacteria and other disease-producing microbes including viruses and fungi. The good bacteria make some vitamins and digest fibre, allowing you to derive more nutrients from otherwise indigestible food, and also help promote a healthy digestive environment.

Keep your New Year’s Resolution this year with a few helpful tips from Viridian Nutrition:

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Higher levels of vitamin B5 can help support energy levels
  • Don’t think of yourself, think about your poor old dog! A stroll with the dog for half an hour can make a big difference after a few weeks to both your physical and emotional fitness and will cheer the dog up too. Wrap up warm and enjoy the simple and loving company of your furry friend. If you don’t have a dog, offer to walk a neighbour’s.
  • Big meat eater? Try one day a week without meat and see how your energy levels and digestion improve.
  • Veggie or vegan? Top up with B12. Vitamin B12 can contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue and also supports immune function.
  • Feeling under-the-weather? Choose a multivitamin & mineral like High Five Multivitamin and Mineral Formula from Viridian Nutrition. The higher levels of vitamin B5 can help support energy levels, normal mental performance and boost overall vitality.

Emotional Health

  • Help others. There is no better pick-you-up than helping others. Volunteer, be a good listener or write letters to friends to bring them cheer.
  • It can be hard to keep your spirits up in the dark winter months, try some extra vitamin D. Vitamin D has been the subject of a wealth of research studies and has been shown to contribute to the normal function of the immune system as well as essential in the health of bones, muscles and teeth. Sometimes called the Sunshine Vitamin, we often miss it most in the winter months.
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7 Health Benefits of Using Pure Oxygen

Pure oxygen has been used by hospitals to improve our health for over 200 years and has been recorded to improve our exercise performance since as early as 1928, although the first famous figure was Sir Roger Bannister, who published a research paper about the benefits of using pure oxygen in 1954 (the same year he broke the 4 minute mile).

Whilst not new, the use of pure oxygen is becoming more widely accepted and more widely understood for the health benefits it can provide. Air contains 21% oxygen and canned oxygen is normally 95%.

Here are 7 Health benefits of using pure oxygen:

1. Slow down ageing skin

From wrinkle creams to moisturising gels to facials, we all want to slow the ageing process. Getting rid of those crow’s feet, laughter lines or frowning tell tale marks, the beauty industry offers every type of product and solution that our heart’s desire. Pure oxygen is starting to break onto the scene to help us in the fight against ageing. Try canned oxygen as part of your daily beauty regime.

2. Stressful lives

The 9 to 5 is a challenge for all of us. Trying to get more done in the same amount of hours is best described by the ‘Carrot and Donkey’ fable. From getting to work, wanting to achieve more, dealing with more than one person should, followed by trying to fit enough house time, family time, and me time, can have us at breaking point several times per week. We all know that when we are stressed someone normally suggests ‘taking a deep breath’. Pure oxygen can help you take a moment, get pure oxygen into your bloodstream and help you tackle the road ahead with a little more ease because pure oxygen can help to reduce stress.

3. Think faster

A study by the Human cognitive Neuroscience Unit in Northumbria experimented with pure oxygen and concluded that those breathing pure oxygen remembered up to 20% more words, from a given list, than those that did not breathe pure oxygen. If you are struggling some days to focus, get things done, then breathing pure oxygen can help make those tasks that bit easier and quicker.

4. That jetlag feeling

Flying on long haul is challenging enough with not enough leg room and then arriving to feel as though all your energy has been left on the plane. The reasons for this are to do with the change in time zone, obviously the long travel, and also the increased pressure in the airplane cabin, which means that less oxygen enters your blood stream. Using pure oxygen will help you to overcome jetlag quickly and help you to enjoy your holiday sooner.

5. Speeds up recovery

Footballers, rugby players, and runners, to name a few, are breathing pure oxygen to help them speed up their recovery. Of course, when you earn tens of thousands per week and your team depend on you, or you just want to get back to winning again, speed of recovery is key. Breathing pure oxygen has been prescribed by hospitals for recovery and now breathing pure oxygen can help everyone that is looking to recover more quickly from injury, a minor operation or a period of being unwell.

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Air contains 21% oxygen and canned oxygen is normally 95%.

6. The great detoxer and cleanser

According to many health gurus the great body cleanser and detoxifier is oxygen. Our lifestyle is less physical than our ancestors and so we are not oxygenating our blood as well as they did, which leads to our bodies carrying more toxins than we did generations before us. Breathing pure oxygen can help to reduce those toxins that we carry in our bodies, in turn helping us to be healthier.

7. Booost the immune system

Our immune system helps us to fight infections, diseases, coughs & colds, and helping it do its job is key to living more healthy. There are a number of ways you can maximise your immune system, like eating healthily, exercising regularly, moderating your alcohol, and breathing pure oxygen is another way of helping you to help your immune system to help you.

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Insulin-boosting effects of natural extract fresh olive leaf

A robust new clinical trial has shown that Fresh Olive Leaf Extract has significant effects on insulin in men who are at risk of developing type II diabetes. The randomised cross-over double blind controlled clinical trial reveals olive leaf extract offers significant improvement in the action of insulin and the way it is secreted in overweight men. Type II diabetes is highest in overweight or obese people and occurs as a result of insulin not working effectively in the body. The findings, published in an international journal, could help the UK’s ageing and increasingly overweight population or “dia-risk” to help prevent onset of the disease.

The clinical trial was conducted at the Liggin’s Institute, based at The University of Auckland in New Zealand. The scientists monitored 47 overweight males who were at risk of developing type II diabetes. The study used Comvita’s Fresh Olive Leaf Extract, a black liquid which is made from the resilient, bitter-tasting leaves of the olive tree. The trial revealed that a 12 week course of the natural supplement improved insulin action to healthier levels. On average a 28% improvement in insulin secretion and a 15% improvement in insulin action was witnessed in the olive leaf group when compared to placebo.

The research suggests that a daily tablespoon of fresh olive leaf extract (or two capsules) holds promise for the millions of “Dia-risk” individuals in the UK as part of a preventative strategy against the onset of Type II diabetes. A condition which recent research suggests costs the NHS nearly £10 billion.

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Fresh Olive Leaf Extract has significant effects on insulin in men who are at risk of developing type II diabetes

Around 1 in 20 people in the UK are Type II diabetics and it is most likely to affect those with a BMI >30, although ethnicity also plays a part. It is also estimated that around 2% of people in the UK have type II diabetes, but are undiagnosed. Further millions of British adults and increasingly teenagers are “dia-risk”, meaning they are likely to develop the condition: such as those with an overweight or obese BMI, older people or those with a genetic predisposition.

Insulin is an essential tool in the body; it allows glucose to pass into the cells of the body to be used as energy. However in Type II diabetes (and to some extent the “dia-risk”) the pancreas cannot produce as much insulin as it needs to or this insulin can no longer be used effectively by the cells (known as insulin resistance). This means the glucose isn’t being used effectively in the body and remains in the blood leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

Diabetes Type II is a serious condition and many UK sufferers rely on prescribed drugs to treat their condition. This is not ideal as many common diabetic medications that are currently prescribed in the UK have been linked to unpleasant side effects such as sickness and diarrhoea – and serious health implications such as increased risk of heart failure.

“We are pleased to report that Olive Leaf was well tolerated by all participants with no major side effects,” Dr Ralf Schlothauer, Chief Technical Officer for Comvita, comments. “The study found on average a 15% improvement in insulin action, a very encouraging result.”

While we are very excited by the findings of the clinical trial, we would not advise any Type II diabetics to use olive leaf in place of medications prescribed by their doctor,” Simon Pothecary, UK spokesperson for Comvita comments “However the research holds promise for the millions of people who are at risk of developing the disease, perhaps they are overweight or there is a family history of the condition.”

While much research has focused on the health benefits of olive oil, new data regarding olive leaf is emerging. Active compounds found in olive oil called ‘polyphenolics’ have been identified, but the olive leaf contains these in much higher concentrations – around 30-40 times stronger.

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Natural Energy from Oxygen in a Can

Canned oxygen has actually been around for many years. booost Oxygen have focused on the sporting benefits derived from inhaling almost pure oxygen. Their mantra is that they help sports people “get through the wall.”

The science isn’t that complicated – having a higher concentration of oxygen in your blood gives you more energy, and as Dr John Brewer from the Lilleshall Human Performance Centre says: “Extra oxygen enables you to recover more quickly from exertion. It allows someone to train and then exercise again.”

Here are some quick facts that might surprise you:

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Booost Oxygen tanks contain 99.5% oxygen with a natural peppermint flavouring
  1. Roger Bannister, the famous 4 minute miler used medical oxygen
  2. Oxygen gives us 80% of our energy, and food just 20%
  3. The brain, which is only 2% of your body by weight, uses 20% of the oxygen you inhale
  4. Before the industrial revolution oxygen levels on earth were as high as 38%. In some places now, they are down to 10%
  5. Oxygen is used as the first stage of treatment for victims suffering from any trauma

The product is being used by people in all areas of sport. Squash champions Amr Shabana and Daryl Selby are regular users, as is the UK’s strongest man, Eddie Hall. Professional rugby league teams are customers, as are triathletes, boxers and Muay Thai fighters. Team GB triathlete Mark Buckingham, who recently won his first world title, uses booost as an important part of his swim training program.

booost Oxygen is available in a “super tank” size, which provides up to 100 shots and now also comes in a “travel tank” size which provides over 20 shots – this was originally developed for cyclists to fit into their jerseys, but is also convenient for runners and will easily fit into the smallest handbag. The tanks contain 99.5% oxygen, with a natural peppermint flavouring which leaves the mouth feeling fresh.

In many ways, oxygen is a great sports supplement – it has no calories, no sugar and no caffeine, and it provides an energy burst which can enable athletes to lift more, go faster or just keep going.

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Look after your heart this February

February is National Heart Health month which is an initiative supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). It is aimed at increasing individuals’ awareness on how to look after the health of their hearts and to ultimately reduce the number of heart disease related deaths. BHF state; “Our vision is of a World where people do not prematurely die of heart disease.”

Look after your heart this February
Eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables is good for supporting a healthy heart (5.)

There are many ways in which we can protect our heart, and bodykind‘s Nutritionists have often written about these. Back in March, Ani Richardson wrote about the benefits of eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables and the benefits of Pecans in relation to heart disease. Nadia Mason wrote about how a daily nutritious smoothie may reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease in August and in September wrote about Turmeric and Cinnamon being excellent spices for a healthy heart. There is continuous research conducted on heart health and it’s more important than ever to take actions to protect it.

In January this year, the BHF released some statistics (1.) that show heart attack death rates dropped dramatically in the early years of the new millennium, falling by more than half. The research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (which is important to note), showed an average of 5% drop in heart attacks each year from 2002 through to 2010. Whilst these figures are impressive, there are still over 30,000 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital each year – many of who die before medical help arrives. That is why is it so important to prevent a heart attack in the first place – as they say; “prevention is better than cure”.

There are many nutrients that can benefit heart health and an overall balanced and wholefood-based diet full of fruits and vegetables are essential for this. One study (2.) published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, found that there was a large reduction in coronary heart disease risk in men and women that had a diet rich in green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale) as well as olive oil (often associated with the Mediterranean lifestyle).

More specifically, one of the main nutrients which you can include in both your diet and in supplement form for heart health are omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are generating a large amount of popularity for their multitude of beneficial health effects. They are found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring and sardines as well as in flaxseeds, walnuts and soya beans. If you don’t eat fish on a regular basis you may want to consider a fish oil supplement (or flaxseed if you cannot eat fish) in oil or capsule form . One recent study (3.) published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011, investigated circulating Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the incidence of coronary heart disease in 2,735 older adults between 1992 and 2006. The researchers found that the total level of fatty acids circulating in the blood systems of these patients was associated with lower levels of coronary heart disease.

Another study (4.), also in 2011, looked into the possibility that early menarche (a risk factor for developing cardio-metabolic diseases) could be related to vitamin D deficiency in early age. After investigating the plasma vitamin D concentrations for 242 females for an average of 30 months, they found that early menarche was indeed twice as likely in vitamin D deficient females as those that were not vitamin D deficient. The authors concluded that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with earlier menarche and therefore the possibility of increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases. Vitamin D is found in oily fish (again), cod liver oil, eggs and dairy products as well as in supplement forms.

As well as these nutrients, B vitamins (more specifically folic acid, B6 and B12) which are found in whole grains, meat and eggs, help to keep our arteries healthy. Vitamins E and C can also keep our heart healthy and antioxidants and bioflavonoids found in a variety of fruit and vegetables are also a great addition to any diet or supplement regime to reduce the level of free radicals in the body that can harm the heart.

Exercise is also must, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the office car park on your lunch break to get the blood circulating. Aiming for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week is the ideal. Perhaps try walking to the shop instead of driving or take the steps instead of the lift. Why not consider getting a group of friends together and organising a walking or bike-riding club? The possibilities are endless with exercise and it doesn’t have to mean slogging away on the treadmill for hours in the gym!

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

References

(1.) BHF

(2.) Benedetta, B., Masala, G., Saieva, C. et al (2011) Fruit, vegetables, and olive oil and risk of coronary heart disease in Italian women: the EPICOR Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 93, no. 2, 275-283.

(3.) Mozaffarian, D., Lemaitre, R.N., King, I.B., Song, X., Spiegelman, D., Sacks, F.M., Rimm, E.B. & Siscovick, D.S. (2011) Circulating Long-Chain ω-3 Fatty Acids and Incidence of Congestive Heart Failure in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. A Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155: 160-170.

(4.) Villamor, E., Marin, C., Mora-Plazas, M. & Baylin, A. (2011) Vitamin D deficiency and age at menarche: a prospective study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 94, no. 4, 1020-1025.

(5.) Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane

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The Sun Chlorella guide to a healthy gut – Part 1

Todays blog is provided by the experts at premium supplement brand Sun Chlorella.  In parts 1 and 2, their expert nutritionist discusses the fact and fiction surrounding the topic of gut health.

‘Beat the bloat’  How healthy is your gut?  Fact & Fiction

Many aspirations to get more energised and active in the summer months are often thwarted by the common issue of bloated bellies.  To help our collective tummies beat the bloat, nutritionist Nadia Brydon from premium supplement brand Sun Chlorella, is on hand to separate the fact from the fiction when it comes to keeping your guts healthy.

“The most important thing when managing your digestion is to identify the causes and stop the patterns that lead to pain and discomfort.  Once you know how healthy your gut is you’ll be able to prevent any bloating.” says Nadia.

NADIA BRYDON’S GUT HEALTH FACT & FICTIONS

Sun Chlorella A1
Breathing and exercise are particularly important to help the digestion process and ‘burn’ off the food we eat.

Exercising when bloated will aggravate the condition – FICTION!

Breathing and exercise are particularly important as the gut needs air to help the digestion process and ‘burn’ off the food we eat.  Try to take exercise in the open air for half an hour each day.  If you’re bloated, a gentle walk will give you energy and the movement will facilitate your digestion.  Exercise that focuses on the abdominal muscles or uses controlled breathing is excellent as it strengthens the muscles in this area.

Don’t drink alcohol – FICTION!

If you are heading out for a few drinks just make sure you go prepared. Take Sun Chlorella® ‘A’ to help balance the pH in the gut before you head out, drink plenty of water throughout the night, and try to keep food simple and light.  Keep peppermints and chamomile teabags in your bag to have after your meal.

Eight hours sleep a night will help your tummy – FACT!

Sleep is a must and a good eight hours a night will give optimum benefit. It has been found that those sleeping less than this develop an increased desire for sugary type foods – due to lack of energy – which can ferment in the digestive tract and cause bloating.

Keep hydrated – FACT!

Always remember to drink lots of water throughout the day and try to drink before or after a meal rather than during.  Drinking up to eight glasses of water a day is the best ‘laxative’ nature can provide!

Visit the loo regularly – FACT!

Irregular bowel movements can cause bloating and it is important to empty the bowels on a daily basis.  For each main meal taken in, there should be a bowel movement to make space for the next meal.  Otherwise foods ‘back up’ and ferment leaving the gut feeling full and bloated.  To help keep the bowels regular, eat fibre-rich fresh fruit, vegetables and seeds such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Don’t miss the second part of Sun Chlorella guide to a healthy gut in the next bodykind blog on Thursday 4th August 2011.

Written by Nadia Brydon

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Drinking cherry juice might reduce muscle damage caused by exercise

Cherries are one of my favourite fruits, previously I wrote about the health benefits of cherries specifically with regards to their ability to boost antioxidant levels in the body.  Cherries contain a variety of antioxidant flavonoids (bioactive plant chemicals) and eating a diet rich in flavonoids has been linked to protection against a variety of diseases.  The main group of antioxidant flavonoids in cherries are anthocyanins.  Many laboratory studies have found that anthocyanins seem to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antidiabetic and antiobese properties – these studies need to be confirmed in larger human trials before any definite conclusions can be drawn but evidence is growing for their importance to health.

A recent study (1), published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, has found that cherries, specifically sour/tart charries of the Montmorency variety, could help athletes and gym go-ers reduce muscle damage to recover faster from a tough workout. 

The research (1) took place at the Sports and Exercise Science Research Centre at London South Bank University, it was a small and preliminary study.  The scientists gave 10 well-trained athletes tart cherry juice concentrate to drink twice daily for seven days prior to a set intensive strength training regimen.  The juice was also given to these athletes two days after the training.  After a two weeks the experiment was repeated using an isoenergetic fruit concentrate drink which did not contain the same flavonoids content of the cherry juice.  Various exercise and blood tests were used to assess muscle damage and recovery.  The researchers found that the athletes muscle recovery after the cherry juice concentrate was significantly faster compared to when they drank the isoenergetic juice.
After drinking cherry juice (1), athletes returned to 90 percent of normal muscle force at 24 hours, compared to only 85 percent of normal at the same time point without cherry juice – a significant difference that could affect the next bout of performance.  The researchers suggest that the antioxidant flavonoids compounds in the cherry juice may well have reduced the oxidative damage to muscles which normally occurs when muscles are worked hard, this probably allowed the muscles to recover faster.  The flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory potential in the body which may have contributed to the results seen.  The study researchers conclude (1)Montmorency cherry juice consumption improved the recovery of isometric muscle strength after intensive exercise perhaps due to attenuation of the oxidative damage induced by the damaging exercise”.

Previous research (2) in 14 male college students also found that cherry juice significantly reduced some of the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage such as strength loss and pain.  Further research would be needed to fully investigate the links between cherry juice consumption and reduced muscle damage after exercise.

Many different flavonoids are found abundantly in fruits and vegetables, which are so important for our health.  Flavonoid supplements are now available to buy (including cherry anthocyanin supplements), although the evidence for their use is still in the early stages and supplements can never be considered as a replacement for a healthy diet.  It is advisable to always check with your medical doctor prior to taking any nutritional supplement. 

For more information on the science supporting the unique health benefits of cherries please visit the ‘choose cherries‘ website.

(1) Bowtell JL et al.  2011.  Montmorency Cherry Juice Reduces Muscle Damage Caused By Intensive Strength Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jan 12. [Epub ahead of print]

(2) Connolly DA.  2006.  Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br J Sports Med.  40(8):679-83

Written by Ani Kowal

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Spinach and beetroot may help boost muscle efficiency

Last year  I wrote about a study which found that drinking beetroot juice may help boost stamina and help individuals to exercise for up to 16% longer than they are normally able to.  The results were thought to be due to the nitrate content of the beetroot juice.  The researchers were not sure of the exact mechanism that causes the nitrate in the beetroot juice to boost stamina. However, they suspected it could be a result of the nitrate turning into nitric oxide in the body, which can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.

Now a new study (1) has found that after taking a small dose of inorganic nitrate for three days, healthy people consume less oxygen while riding an exercise bike (a sign of improved exercise performance). The study traces that improved performance to increased efficiency of the mitochondria that power our cells.

The study scientists are not recommending that anyone take inorganic nitrate supplements – what they point out is that their results may offer an explanation for the well-known health benefits of vegetables and fruits, especially green leafy vegetables.   In a press release one of the scientists said (2) We’re talking about an amount of nitrate equivalent to what is found in two or three red beets or a plate of spinach,” “We know that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes but the active nutrients haven’t been clear. This shows inorganic nitrate as a candidate to explain those benefits.

Until recently nitrate wasn’t thought to have any particular nutritional value and it had even been suggested that this component of vegetables might be toxic.  However, these researchers had previously found that dietary nitrate, with the help of friendly bacteria in the mouth, feeds into a pathway in the body that produces nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is known to be a physiologically important molecule e.g.  It helps to opens up blood vessels which helps to lower blood pressure in the body (2).

This new study (1) suggests another benefit of nitrate and the nitric oxides that stem from them.   It appears that the nitric oxide makes the ‘powerhouses’ in our cells, the mitochondria, more efficient (by means of a complex mechanism that lowers the levels of a specific protein which normally makes the mitochondrial powerhouse leaky and less effective).  The study (1) involved healthy people who were given nitrate – the equivalent of 200-300g of spinach or lettuce for three days, after which they were given a cycling task to perform. The researchers then analysed samples from their thigh muscles and compared them with similar samples from the same subjects when they had taken a placebo (no nitrite) instead. After nitrate ingestion, a significant improvement was seen in the efficiency of the mitochondria, which consumed less oxygen and produced more of the energy-rich substance ATP per consumed oxygen molecule.

The study results do show that increased dietary nitrite, from beetroot or spinach consumption, can have quite an immediate effect.  However, it is not known what might happen in individuals who consume high levels of these kinds of fruit and vegetables over long periods of time.  The scientists are already planning further research studies and also want to repeat the experiment in people with conditions linked to mitochondrial dysfunction, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, to see if they too enjoy the benefits of nitrates.

The researchers conclude (1): Among the more consistent findings from nutritional research are the beneficial effects of a high intake of fruit and vegetables in protection against major disorders such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes,”  “However, the underlying mechanism(s) responsible for these effects is still unclear, and trials with single nutrients have generally failed. It is tempting to speculate that boosting of the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway may be one mechanism by which vegetables exert their protective effects.”

As an interesting side note the researchers say that the benefits of dietary nitrates suggest that powerful mouthwashes may have a downside. “We need oral bacteria for the first step in nitrate reduction,” “You could block the effects of inorganic nitrate if you use a strong mouthwash or spit [instead of swallowing your saliva]. In our view, strong mouthwashes are not good if you want this system to work.” (2)

A healthy diet is one which includes an abundance of different vegetables and fruits.  Beetroot and spinach are a healthy addition to any eating plan.  Arginine supplements are available to buy and have been shown to be useful to increase nitric oxide levels in the body.  The amino acid, Arginine, is a powerful vasodilator (blood vessel relaxer) and may help to support and maintain healthy blood flow and circulation. Arginine is also an antioxidant and helps support healthy arteries.  Always check with a medical doctor prior to taking any supplement.  Beetroot drinks and supplements are also available to buy but it is important to remember that supplements should never be viewed as a substitute for a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle.  Beetroot is also rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant bioflavonoids (bioactive plant compounds) and fibre. 

(1) Larsen FJ et al.  2011.  Dietary Inorganic Nitrate Improves Mitochondrial Efficiency in Humans.  Cell Metabolism.  13(2):149-159

(2)Press release.  Cell Press (2011, February 1). Want more efficient muscles? Eat your spinach. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 2, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/02/110201122226.htm

 

Written by Ani Kowal

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