A Good Reason to Follow the Mediterranean Diet

New research has shown that following the Mediterranean Diet for just a period of 4 days will boost exercise performance! Which is another great reason to follow one of the healthiest diets! The research team at St. Louis University in Missouri conducted the study to see if this diet would improve exercise performance and endurance. What they found was evidence that the Mediterranean diet which is already known for good health, did boost exercise performance in the study group.

The team recruited four men and seven women who were already recreationally active. The participants were asked to follow a diet that included eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, and a moderate consumption of red wine while also avoiding processed and red meats, trans and saturated fats, refined sugars and also limiting dairy products.

Following the first four days with the participants on this predominantly plant based diet, they were asked to run 5 kilometers on a treadmill. Nine to sixteen days later the participants were asked to follow a Western diet for an additional four days and then run 5 kilometers once again. The Western diet they followed was the traditional Western diet which consists of over consumption of refined sugars, salt, and saturated fats and little intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The team additionally wanted to test the effects the two diets would have on muscle strengthening and anaerobic exercise. They asked the participants to take a vertical jump test, a cycle test and a hand grip test at the same time points throughout the study.

The study found that overall the participants were 6 percent faster in the 5 kilometer treadmill run after following the Mediterranean diet than they were following the Western diet. The improvement occurred even though the heart rates of the participants were about the same and ratings of perceived exertion were the same on both occasions. However, the different diets did not show any effect on performance with the anaerobic exercise.

A variety of individual nutrients that are found in foods in the Mediterranean diet improve performance immediately or within just a few days. However, the benefits were quickly lost when a switch was made back to the Western diet. The study provides an incentive not only for athletes but also the general population to eat a healthier diet such as the Mediterranean diet.

To view the original scientific study click below.

Short-Term Mediterranean Diet Improves Endurance Exercise Performance: A Randomized-Sequence Crossover Trial.

Ingredients in Pills Can Lead to Adverse Reactions

pillsA recent study conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered that a large majority of some of the most frequently prescribed medications in the U.S. contain at least one “inactive ingredient” that could cause adverse reactions.

Inactive ingredients are added to medications to improve taste, absorption, shelf life and a variety of other characteristics of a pill. The study team found that over 90 percent of all oral medications they tested contained an ingredient which can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms and other allergic reactions in sensitive people.

The inactive ingredients include peanut oil, lactose, chemical dyes and gluten. These added ingredients present a challenge to clinicians who want to make sure they are prescribing a medication that does not cause an allergic or adverse reaction. The study actually was inspired by a real life situation where an individual with celiac disease was prescribed a medication that contained gluten.

The team collaborated with a biochemical data scientist and an internal medicine resident and others to analyze data of inactive ingredients found in 42,052 oral medications all of which contained more than 354,597 inactive ingredients. Inactive ingredients are defined as any substance that is added to a pill’s formulation but are not expected or intended to have any direct therapeutic or biological effect.

Inactive ingredients have been tested for safety at population levels. However, scattered case reports have shown that inactive ingredients can cause problems for individuals with intolerances and allergies.

The team notes that the data set is complex. There are hundreds of different versions of capsules or pills that deliver the exact same medication but use a different combination of inactive ingredients. This indicates how convoluted the choices of inactive ingredients is. But it also suggests that there is an untapped opportunity to specifically choose the most appropriate version of a medication for someone with unusual sensitivities.

The research team discovered a total of 38 inactive ingredients that have been described in literature to cause adverse symptoms after oral exposure. At least 92.8 percent of medications analyzed contained at least one of these ingredients. About 45% contained lactose, about 33% contained a food dye, and about .08% contained peanut oil.

While the content of a particular inactive ingredient may be too low to lead to an adverse reaction in most people, someone with an allergy or intolerance could have a reaction. These doses may be low, however it isn’t known what the threshold is for individuals to react to them. This pushes scientists to think about precision care and the role of legislation and regulation when it comes to medication labels that contain an inactive ingredient that can cause adverse reactions.

To view the original scientific study click below.

“Inactive” ingredients in oral medications

Youthful Blood Cells Rejuvenate Brain

brain rejuvinationA new study has shown that by transplanting the bone marrow of young lab mice into older lab mice, cognitive decline was prevented. The younger blood cells preserved memory and learning abilities in the senior mice. The findings have supported an emerging model which attributes decline in cognitive skills at least in part to the aging of blood cells which are produced in bone marrow.

Previous studies have shown the results, however, it has not been well understood how it happens. The new research which was conducted by Cedars Sinai Medical Center, suggests that one explanation lies in specific properties of the younger blood cells.

For the study, 18 month old lab mice received bone marrow transplants from either mice their own age or 4 month old mice. At six months, both groups underwent a variety of standard lab tests including activity level and learning and working and spatial memory. The mice that received the young bone marrow transplants outperformed the mice who received the old bone marrow transplant. They also outperformed a control group of older mice that did not get any transplants.

The team then examined the hippocampus, a region in the brain which is associated with memory. The mice who received the young bone marrow transplant retained more synapses (connections) between neurons in the hippocampus than did the recipients of the older bone marrow. Synapses are important to brain health.

Additional tests indicated a possible explanation for the missing synapses. They found that the blood cells made by the young bone marrow reduced the activation of microglia. Microglia are a type of immune cell found in the brain. They support neuron health but can also become overactive and take part in disconnection of synapses. Fewer overactive microglia allows neurons to remain healthy and more synapses to survive.

With the increase in more elderly people in populations and an increase in neurodegenerative diseases, there will be a huge burden on health systems. If continued research confirms similar processes in humans, the findings could provide pathways for creating therapies to slow the progression of these types of diseases. However, translating the results if confirmed in human samples into possible treatment plans is challenging. Currently, bone marrow transplants are not feasible for this use.

The team is currently working on creating personalized young blood stem cells through stem cell technology. It is hoped that these cells might be used to help replace an individuals own aging blood cells to help prevent cognitive decline and even neurodegenerative diseases.

Below is a link to the original scientific study.

Young bone marrow transplantation preserves learning and memory in old mice.

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain through Blood

blood test

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine have developed a new test that will objectively measure pain biomarkers in blood. This test is important in that it could help medical professionals treat patients more effectively with precision medicine and help slow down the use of opioids.

The team tracked hundreds of study participants at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis to identify biomarkers in the participants blood. The blood test which is the first of its kind, would give physicians much more accuracy in treating pain. In addition it would help them determine the best long term look at a patient’s medical future.

The prototype for the blood test can objectively show doctors if their patient is in pain and how severe that pain is for them. Pain is a subjective sensation so it is very important to have an objective measure. Until this study, physicians could only rely on their patients self reporting or on their own clinical impression of the patient’s pain level.

The research team looked at biomarkers found in the participants blood which in this case are molecules that reflect the severity of a disease. From there a doctor can assess the severity of pain and provide treatment in a quantifiable and objective manner. With the current opioid epidemic, the team believes there has never been a more critical time to administer drugs in a responsible manner.

The opioid epidemic has occurred due to the addictive medications that have been over prescribed because there has been no objective measure of whether someone is actually in pain and if they are, how severe that pain is. The thought has been, if the patient says there are experiencing pain then prescribe it. The new test recently developed allows doctors to treat people’s pain in a precise manner.

The blood test also helps doctors match a person’s biomarkers in their blood with a variety of potential options for treatment. The researchers use a prescription database to match pain biomarkers with a profile of natural compounds and drugs which have been cataloged in the database.

A person’s blood biomarkers are similar to a fingerprint and they can be matched against the database to see which compound could normalize the signature. Hopefully the best treatment is identified as a non opioid drug or compound. For instance, there are some compounds that have been used for years to treat things other than pain. These might pair best with a person’s blood biomarkers for pain treatment.

The goal in any area of of medicine is to match a patient to the right drug for any health condition and to do so with very little harm. In the area of pain management through the widespread use of opioids, precision health such as the biomarker blood test could now possibly eliminate or reduce opioid use.

Study experts have also discovered that biomarkers not only match with non addictive drugs which treat pain, but can also assist in predicting when someone might experience pain sometime in the future. This helps them determine if a patient is showing chronic, long term pain which could result in emergency room visits in their future.

The team first sought to find markers for pain that are universal and they achieved that. However, based on their data there are some markers which will work better for men and some that work better for women. And there could be markers that will work better for headaches or fibromyalgia and other conditions and diseases.

Moving forward the research team hopes to secure funding to continue and hopefully accelerate their studies. Their hopes are to be able to personalize the approach even more and also move towards a clinical application. The team’s leader notes that is has been a goal for many researchers to find biomarkers for pain. The work the group has done could now have a significant impact on how physicians around the globe treat pain in the future.

To view the original scientific study click here: Towards precision medicine for pain: diagnostic biomarkers and repurposed drugs.

Another Good Reason to Exercise


Need another great reason to exercise? A new study has suggested that the level at which a person exercises and is physically active may have an effect on the bacterial diversity of their gut. And this in turn influences a person’s health.

Exercise has been shown to adjust the balance of the gut microbiome. Our bodies are made up of about as many bacteria and microorganisms as our regular human cells. In the colon alone which contains the largest number of bacterial cells, there are about 38 trillion bacteria. Bacteria affects the state of our health and any loss of the bacterial diversity in the gut has been linked to increased risk of disease.

The researchers from Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted the study. They already knew that the efficiency of our circulatory and respiratory systems in delivering oxygen during exercise was associated with larger bacterial diversity. What they weren’t sure about was whether this was in part due to the physical activity or on the other hand a person’s percentage of body fat.

To explore this more, the team recruited 37 participants who had previously been successfully treated for non metastatic cancer of the breast. They choose these individual due to the fact that treatment for cancer typically has a negative impact on metabolic health which includes cardio respiratory fitness.

The study participants were asked to perform graded exercises for the researchers. This is so they could assess their peak cardio respiratory fitness in addition to their total expenditure of energy. The team also collected fecal samples from these participants which were used to analyze their gut microbiota.

What the team found after all analyses and assessments, was that the participants with higher cardio respiratory fitness also showed more diversity of their bacterial populations in the gut as compared to those with low cardio respiratory fitness.

The researchers also confirmed that cardio respiratory fitness was connected to about 25% of the variance of the bacterial species diversity. They also noted that this effect was not associated with what was produced by a person’s body fat percentage.

This data indicates that exercise with intensity that is adequately high and will boost cardio respiratory effectiveness, will improve the state of overall health through supporting a more adequately balanced gut.

Although this study involved a small group of women, the research teams believes their findings will help them more forward in finding out how best to apply them to improve the health of others not only for those wanting to improve their overall health, but also for those who are at a high risk for a variety diseases and obesity.

The team is also pursuing an interventional study to see how variations in exercise intensity might influence microbiota diversity of the gut under controlled feeding conditions.

Another earlier study from the University of Illinois found that exercise for just a six week period could produce quite an impact on gut microbiome.

This study began by sampling the gut microbiomes from participants whose exercise program consisted of cardiovascular exercises for 30 to 60 minutes three days per week for a period of six weeks. The gut microbiome was sampled at the beginning of the study then at the end of the study.

At the end of the study the team found the microbiomes had changed. Some of the participants showed an increase in certain microbes and others a decrease. Most had an increase in gut microbes whose job is to assist in the production of short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids will reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases as well as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Following the six weeks of exercise, the participants were then asked to return to their normal sedentary life styles for an additional six weeks. When the gut microbiomes were sampled at the end of this period, the team discovered that the gut microbiomes in the participants had reverted back to their original status before the first six weeks of exercise began.

This finding indicates the kind of impact exercise can have on the microbiome for a relatively short time period of exercise. However, the exercise needs to be done on a regular basis without stopping for the benefits to be realized and to continue. The team hopes to further study their findings by looking at exercise for even longer periods of time to see if this would result in even greater changes in the gut microbiome.