“Our muscle cells need a source of energy when they exercise,” says Dr. Anthony Komaroff, a professor at Harvard Medical School. “Muscles get that energy by burning fat and sugar brought to them by the blood. That’s been known for nearly a century. However, it’s not the whole story.” Exercising muscle, the new study says, produces a hormone called irisin.
“Irisin travels throughout the body in the blood, and alters fat cells,” explains Dr. Komaroff. “Body fat is stored inside fat cells. Most of these fat cells are called white fat cells, and their function is to store fat.”
White fat vs. brown fat
Why do we store fat? When we eat more calories than we burn by exercise, the extra calories have to go somewhere. They’re stored partly as fat. Our distant ancestors didn’t eat as regularly as we do. Forty thousand years ago on the Serengeti, our ancestors were able to get a serious meal only a few times each week. In between meals, they needed some source of energy. A large part of it came from the fat they stored away after a meal. In 2009, studies from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere discovered that humans have not only white fat cells but also brown fat cells. “Brown fat cells don’t store fat: they burn fat. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to increase the number of your brown fat cells and to decrease your white fat cells,” says Dr. Komaroff.
Irisin does that, at least in mice. And those newly-created brown fat cells keep burning calories after exercise is over. But it gets better. In addition to its effect in creating brown fat cells, irisin also helps prevent or overcome insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes. The discovery of irisin also could have some very practical and beneficial applications. Because irisin is not an unnatural pharmaceutical but a part of our natural body chemistry, makes for a more potent treatment for obesity and diabetes. So there is justifiable excitement about the discovery of irisin, and about the speed with which science is discovering the chemistry of exercise, appetite, metabolic rate and body weight. However, our environment, and its effect on our own behavior, plays a huge role in determining how much we exercise and how much we eat, and therefore how much we weigh.
“We don’t have to wait for a magic potion,” says Dr. Komaroff. “We already have a proven treatment that profoundly protects our health: Exercise.”
Elbowing Aside Pain
Tendon Trouble Struggling with ongoing pain in a frequently used joint due to tendon trouble – generally referred to as tendinopathy – can be frustrating.
Often, a combination of physical therapy, medications, activity modifications and the use of a brace can help turn things around. But even with these standard treatment approaches, the discomfort and pain associated with tendinopathies involving joints such as the elbow and knee can drag on for months.
Now, researchers are approaching treatment from a different direction, one that doesn’t focus on reducing inflammation. It’s hoped there’s a way to directly stimulate healing of tendon tissue. One possibility that’s drawing a lot of attention is injecting a blood-derived liquid – platelet-rich plasma (PRP) – directly into ailing tendon tissue.
The early research suggests that platelet-rich plasma injections may promote tissue regeneration in painful degenerative tendon conditions through a number of mechanisms. Some of these include:
•Attracting healing cells to tendon tissue that’s deteriorated
•?Stimulating new growth (reproduction) of tendon cells
•?Stimulating production of tendon collagen – the building block that gives tendons their strength.
Tendons that may be treated include:
•The knee’s patellar tendon
•The Achilles tendon
•The plantar fascia
Mayo Clinic doctors are optimistic about platelet-rich plasma therapy. While recognizing it’s still an experimental procedure, they’ve founded that about 70 per cent of those receiving it have had improvement.
D for Diabetes
Tufts researchers have identified a surprising factor in diabetes risk that might help keep people with pre-diabetes from developing the disease: vitamin D. In a new study published in Diabetes Care, high-risk patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D were 28% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest levels.
Vitamin D could help ward off diabetes by improving the workings of the pancreas, which plays a key role in the disease, improvement in functioning of cells in the pancreas called beta cells.
Vitamin D is synthesized from sunlight by the body and can also be got by way of a supplement or fortified foods.
Overeating may reduce brain function
Eating too much (more that 2500 calories a day) may do more than just expand your midsection. A recent study suggests that high caloric intake over time may actually raise your odds of developing memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), later in life.
Previous studies have shown that in mid-life, a greater body mass index, or BMI – a measure of body fat that uses a ratio between your height and weight – is associated with an accelerated rate of cognitive decline in late-life.
Conversely, a larger BMI in late-life has been associated with slower cognitive decline. “This could be because weight loss late in life is associated with poorer overall medical outcomes for many reasons,” the researchers suggest.
For older adults a daily caloric intake of between 1,526 to 2,142 calories “is likely associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment late in life, they say.
What kind of food?
It’s not just how many calories but what kind of calories that are important for protection against dementia. In particular, a diet which focuses on fish, vegetables, legumes, olive oil and whole grains, is associated with a decreased risk of developing cognitive impairment later in life as well as decreased progression of cognitive impairment once symptoms are already present.
Probiotics Vs Antibiotics Side Effects
While the jury’s still out on some promised benefits of probiotics, a new analysis reports that the “friendly bacteria” in yogurt and other foods can help prevent diarrhOea that occurs as a side effect of antibiotics. As many as 30% of patients prescribed antibiotics suffer diarrhoea as a side effect, which is a major problem in getting people to stick to the treatment. In the analysis, scientists found probiotics associated with a 42% lower relative risk of developing diarrhoea. Trials that focused only on Lactobacillius or yeast as the probiotic showed similar results. Other probiotics lacked enough clearly identified trials to determine effectiveness.
Hands off the appendix!
A group of British researchers suggests that doctors may want to rethink the initial treatment of uncomplicated acute appendicitis (when the appendix is inflamed but hasn’t ruptured). After analyzing four randomized trials, the researchers found that a course of antibiotics may be safer than appendix removal, because it reduces the risk of surgical complications and is just as effective. In the analysis, 63 per cent of patients given antibiotics avoided appendectomy. However, 20 percent had a recurrence of appendicitis within one year. It’s unlikely that appendectomy will be replaced anytime soon, but the researchers conclude that the approach using antibiotics merits more study.
Coffee: Should You Go Green?
Say “coffee,” and most people think of a dark brown brew. But there’s also “green coffee,” which simply refers to the raw (green) coffee beans. Green coffee is especially rich in chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol that has been shown in animal and lab studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as effects on blood sugar and body weight. But the compound is mostly destroyed in roasting. (On the other hand, roasting the beans creates other beneficial compounds that green coffee lacks.)
A few studies have found that overweight people who take green coffee extracts capsules containing chlorogenic acid GCE lose more weight than those taking a placebo. Though caffeine slightly boosts calorie burning, chlorogenic acid may decrease intestinal absorption of sugar and increase oxidation of fatty acids, among other possible weight-loss mechanisms, researchers say.
Interestingly, while regular coffee can temporarily increase blood pressure (especially in people not used to caffeine), Japanese studies have shown GCE may lower blood pressure, due to other compounds in the raw beans. According to the Natural Standard, which evaluates alternative medicine, roasting coffee beans produces a compound that inhibits the beneficial effects of chlorogenic acid on blood pressure – and this may be why only green coffee has been shown to lower blood pressure.
BOTTOM LINE: Green coffee may have some health benefits, but until there are better, larger, longer studies to assess its safety and effectiveness, we don’t recommend the extracts. The optimal dose is not known and supplements vary in their formulations. Keep in mind that if GCE lowers blood sugar, as some studies suggest, it may interact with diabetes medications.
Here’s a simple way to get people to step up their physical activity: Post signs in buildings that encourage them to use the stairs instead of elevators and escalators. In a recent study from the New York City Department of Health, signs saying “Burn Calories, Not Electricity. Take the Stairs!” were placed next to elevators and stairwells in a health clinic, an apartment house, and an academic building. Stair use immediately climbed between 9 and 35 per cent, with the effects continuing, to varying degrees, over the nine-month study. Ask the owner or manager of your apartment and/or office building if it’s okay to post a sign.
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