Jan 29, 2015
Supplement and Nutrition Notes

By Dave Ellis

Contributor Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS, a sports nutrition and recovery professional, provides a list of recent links to important health and nutrition news and studies from across the country.

In light of the upcoming summer Olympics, which will feature the world’s most elite athletes, The Endocrine Society has issued a position statement calling for enhanced detection of steroid abuse among professional and amateur athletes, and greater education to deter teenagers and others from putting their health in jeopardy through doping. The new statement also supports the appropriate clinical use of anabolic steroids.

“The Endocrine Society strongly believes that anabolic steroids and all other hormones should be prescribed and administered only when medically necessary, and only by doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of hormonal disorders,” said Society President Margaret Shupnik, PhD. “Safety is our foremost concern, and the public must be aware that there are very serious consequences associated with steroid abuse.”

Researchers have found potential new biomarkers for growth hormone, which they say could help the sports community in detecting growth hormone abuse. Several proteins or their isoforms (genetic variants or protein sub-populations that are modified) greatly increased or decreased in growth hormone-treated mice compared with controls, the authors reported. The specific proteins and isoforms included transthyretin, clusterin, albumin, and apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA1).

If the results translate to humans, these proteins have the potential to be new biomarkers for growth hormone action. Regulatory agencies could use the new biomarkers in their efforts to halt hormone abuse among athletes. The Aarhus Kommunehospital in Denmark collaborated on this study, which was supported by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Researchers from the University of Illinois-Chicago and Boston University School of Medicine report new developments in the illegal use of growth hormone for anti-aging, bodybuilding, and athletic enhancement in the June 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Attention needs to be focused not on the end user–such as baseball players and entertainers–but on the distributors,” said S. Jay Olshansky, the article’s co-author and professor of epidemiology at the UIC School of Public Health. “The distributors of HGH are almost entirely practitioners of anti-aging medicine. This is a far greater issue and concern than the one associated with the use of growth hormone for sports, bodybuilding, and muscle enhancement. Our concern is with the health of the people who have been misled to believe that this hormone has anti-aging or athletic enhancing properties.”

The authors, whose previous article in JAMA in 2005 warned that the off-label distribution of human growth hormone to treat aging or age-associated illnesses is illegal in the United States, find that the practice of anti-aging clinics and pharmacies aggressively marketing growth hormone for off-label use has only grown worse.

Researchers from Harvard University have found a way to predict which teenage female athletes will stop menstruating, an important risk factor for bone thinning, according to a preliminary study. Amenorrhea, or the absence of menstruation in females of reproductive age, occurs in as many as 25 percent of female high school athletes, compared with two to five percent of the general population, according to the study’s presenter, Madhusmita Misra, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Amenorrhea in athletes is known to cause infertility and early onset of low bone density, and it may increase the risk of breaking bones. Evidence suggests that intense exercise associated with caloric restriction is most responsible for menstrual irregularities among athletes.

Giving the hormone ghrelin to animals and humans has been shown to cause impaired secretion of hormones that regulate ovarian and menstrual function, and ghrelin levels are elevated in people with anorexia nervosa, another condition of severe energy deficit, Misra said. Until now, ghrelin levels have not been studied in teenage athletes in relation to ovarian hormones.

After controlling for BMI, the research team found that ghrelin levels were higher in athletes who were not menstruating than in either of the other two groups. The data also showed that athletes with higher ghrelin levels had lower levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.

Getting extra sleep over an extended period of time improves athletic performance, mood, and alertness, according to research conducted on athletes at Stanford University. Five athletes on the Stanford men’s and women’s swimming teams were monitored as part of an ongoing study. Over two weeks, they maintained their usual sleep-wake pattern, then extended their sleep to 10 hours per day for six to seven weeks.

Athletic performance was assessed after each regularly scheduled swim practice. During the period they were getting extra sleep, athletes swam a 15-meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, reacted 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.10 seconds, and increased kick strokes by 5.0 kicks, according to the study.

“These results begin to elucidate the importance of sleep on athletic performance and, more specifically, how sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance,” said lead author Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory. “While this study focuses specifically on collegiate swimmers, it agrees with data from my other studies of different sports and suggests that athletes across all sports can greatly benefit from extra sleep and gain the additional competitive edge to perform at their highest level.”

Three months of aerobic exercise decreased body fat and calorie intake in overweight and obese people, according to a new study, and the researchers believe that changes to a central nervous system factor are responsible.

A research team at the University of Chile Clinical Hospital in Santiago showed that decreased food intake and reduced body mass index (BMI) were linked to increased levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. Its main role is promoting the growth and survival of nerve cells, according to A. Veronica Araya, MD, assistant professor and the study’s lead author. However, recent evidence shows that BDNF also is related to obesity and metabolism.

As astronaut Garrett Reisman adjusts to Earth’s gravity after three months in space, a University of Kentucky physiologist is continuing his tests on a 50-year-old drug used for liver treatments as a means of helping astronauts perform their work during space walks. Michael Reid, chair of UK’s Department of Physiology and a founding member of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, is researching the value of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) to limit the effect of free radicals made by muscle during heavy exercise.

NAC was developed in the late 1950s and has become a frontline drug in protecting the liver against drug overdoses by scavenging free radicals. “Free radicals also contribute to muscle fatigue,” Reid said. His research has found that NAC will improve endurance. “Now we’re trying to determine the right dose and formulation for space-travel purposes,” he added.

The summer brings many thunderstorms to the U.S., and Javad Parvizi, MD, PhD, one of the nation’s leading joint specialists from the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, says we should believe people who say they can forecast them with their aching joints. He explains the science behind wet weather’s effects on the joints of millions and provides information for pain relief.

Weather-related joint pain is typically seen in patients with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other arthritic conditions. It can affect any load-bearing joint, but is most common in hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and hands. The joints contain sensory nerves called baro-receptors, which respond to changes in atmospheric pressure. These receptors especially react when there is low barometric pressure, meaning the atmosphere has gone from dry to moist, like when it is going to rain.

“When pressure in the environment changes, we know that the amount of fluid in the joint or the pressure inside the joint fluctuates with it,” says Parvizi. “Individuals with arthritic joints feel these changes much more because they have less cartilage to provide cushioning.”

Parvizi says that sometimes the pain is due to inflammatory mediators around the joint, like with rheumatoid arthritis conditions, and can often be helped by keeping the joints warm or icing them (depending on preference), massage therapy, and applying pain relieving creams and ointments. Other treatments may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), site-specific steroid injections, and long-term use of certain supplements like omega-3 (which is used to reduce inflammation) and glucosamine and chondroitin, which have been shown, in combination, to significantly reduce arthritis pain and maintain healthy cartilage.

Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has spent the last 27 years working with a large population of athletes. He specializes in team cramp prevention, recovery interventions, and body composition-frame assessment. During his career, Ellis logged 20 years in the collegiate ranks as the former Director of Performance Nutrition with the University of Nebraska Athletic Department and University of Wisconsin Athletic Department before going into private practice in 2001. He now travels the globe working with some of the most demanding coaches and athletes at the professional, Olympic, and collegiate levels.

To see a full list of consulting services provided by Ellis, visit his Web site: Fueling Tactics Consulting Services.

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