Fitness Factoids: Volume 52
Higher Omega-3 Levels Linked to Better Sleep
The importance of proper rest and recovery for optimizing our health and performance cannot be overstated. Without getting enough rest the body is unable to undergo normal cellular repairs that effect everything from our cognition to our physical performance. According to new research published in the Journal of Sleep Research, people with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids show improved sleep patterns. Researchers at Oxford University conducted a study in which they gave 600mg of omega-3 DHA, the primary omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain, to 362 children over the course of 16 weeks. Researchers found that when children with sleep problems were given supplemental omega-3 fatty acids they were able to have fewer waking episodes per night and slept an average of 58 minutes more than participants in the study that received corn, soybean oil, or a placebo. Researchers suggests that omega-3 role in melatonin production is most likely the cause for their findings. Those who have been struggling with regular sleep/wake cycles may want to consider omega-3 supplementation as a possible means for mitigating sleep debt.
Vitamin D Increases Chances of Breast Cancer Survival
Over the past decade there has been a flood of new information from the scientific community highlighting the importance and vast array of functions that vitamin D is responsible for in the body. A new study published in the March issue of Anticancer Research has found that higher serum levels of vitamin D in the blood of breast cancer patients increases their chances for survival according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Researchers analyzed five studies that included a combined 4,443 patients to investigate the connection between serum vitamin D levels and breast cancer survival rates after previous studies had implicated that women with low vitamin D levels had a much higher rate of developing premenopausal breast cancer. After analyzing the data the team found that patients who had serum vitamin D levels of 30 ng/ml or higher were twice as likely to survive breast cancer as those in the lowest group that had blood concentrations of 17 ng/ml on average. Researchers note that there is no longer reason to be cautious about vitamin D supplementation due to the overwhelming research in support of its positive impact on various aspects of our health.
Decreased Vitamin D Levels May Play a Role in Autism
New research from renowned vitamin D expert Dr. Rhonda Patrick that was recently published in The FASEB Journal has identified a link that connects low levels of vitamin D and serotonin to autism spectrum disorder. Patients diagnosed with autism typically have low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain despite having elevated levels in the blood. According to the research, low levels of vitamin D may be responsible for inhibiting the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. Vitamin D has been found to activate an enzyme identified as tryptophan hydroxylase 2 which appears to be directly responsible for the tryptophan to serotonin conversion. "Dietary intervention with vitamin D, tryptophan, and omega-3 fatty acids would boost brain serotonin concentrations and help prevent and possibly ameliorate some of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders without side effects," Dr.’s Patrick and Ames suggest. "Over 900 genes contain vitamin D response elements, many of which are important for cognitive function, suggesting that vitamin D supplementation has additional benefits outside the scope of this article," they conclude.
Spinach Extract May Reduce Food Cravings
Phytochemicals are nutrients that come fruits, vegetables, and other natural sources such as coffee beans which have been shown to have a wide array of health benefits. New research being released by Swedish scientist at Lund University has uncovered a previously unknown benefit of a phytochemical known as thylakoid, which is derived from an extract of spinach. According to the report, thylakoid displays a unique ability to reduce cravings and hunger pangs. For the study a group of 15 participants was issued the compound daily and asked to assess their level of cravings and temptation to avoid snacks between meals. After an unspecified length of time each participant self-reported a reduced urge to succumb to unwanted cravings or snacking in between meals. Although the compound is derived from a spinach extract, research note that the compound itself is bound and cannot be accessed directly from digestion of the whole food product.
Red Meat and Exercise Improve Quality of Life as We Age
Eating protein and strength training improves the size and strength of muscle as we age according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. While that news may come as Common Sense 101 to bodybuilding fans and resistance training enthusiasts, it is a bit of a revelation to the less informed general public. Researchers at Deakin University conducted a study that involved 100 women between the ages of 60-90. The women were followed and monitored over the course of four months as researchers evaluated the impact of resistance training, and resistance training with increased protein consumption coming from 3-4 servings of red meat weekly. At the conclusion of the study the data showed that the participants that engaged in resistance training and consumed more lean red meat had an 18% increase in muscle strength, gained .5lbs of lean body mass, and had a 16% reduction in pro-inflammatory markers. This study reinforces the notion that not only are diet and exercise vital for maintain optimal health and physical condition now, but they become even more important with age as muscle mass and hormonal outputs begins to decline.