Latest News & Research: 21 November 2017

This week: speeding up post-exercise muscle recovery; trauma, stress and weight gain; in praise of eating like a tortoise + more.

Stressful experiences could cause weight gain…

An analysis of data from 22,000 middle-aged and older women has found that those who experience trauma, as well as less severe negative experiences, are more likely to become obese.

Looking at significantly traumatic events, such as a serious illness or the death of a child at any point in their life, and experiences like unemployment within the previous five years, a team from the University of California found that those with at least one experience of trauma were 11% more likely to become obese than those who had been fortunate enough not to encounter such events.

Those who encountered four negative experiences in the previous five years (as opposed to a major trauma at any point in their lives) were found to have a 36% higher incidence of obesity. In fact, the more negative experiences they reported, the greater the likelihood of obesity. Strangely, the correlation was also strongest among those who reported higher levels of physical activity – though the researchers were at a loss as to why this was.

…and so could eating too fast

A Japanese study has found that the speed at which we eat may affect our heart health and waistlines.

Over the five-year study duration, the eating behaviours of over a thousand people, none of whom had metabolic syndrome at the study outset, were monitored. By the end of the study period almost 8% of the participants (average age 51) had developed the syndrome (characterised by weight gain, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, higher levels of bad cholesterol and higher triglyceride levels in the blood.)

Those classified as ‘fast eaters’ were twice as likely as ‘normal eaters’, and five times as likely as ‘slow eaters’, to have developed these risk factors for serious cardiometabloic conditions (such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease).

As a notoriously slow (though by no means light) eater, this study finding gives me a good riposte with which to defend myself the next time my fellow diners roll their eyes at my leisurely approach to lunchtime.

Taurine may accelerate post-exercise muscle recovery

A New Zealand study has found that supplementing with taurine – an antioxidant that’s generated within cells of the human body – may speed up post-exercise muscle recovery.

Using blood tests and measurements of muscular force and power (gauged with an isokinetic dynamometer) researchers found that when 10 healthy males took taurine supplements for three days following strenuous eccentric exercise, their muscles recovered more quickly than when they took a placebo.

Study author Yanita McLeay commented ‘Our data suggests taurine supplementation, twice daily for three days following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage, can enhance the rate of performance recovery of the biceps in healthy males at least. The implications for taurine as a recovery supplement for athletes competing in eccentric-based sports is intriguing, but more research is needed before sports people should be going out and buying it.’

Moving can help keep your eyes fit too

The more you move, the less likely you are to develop glaucoma, a range of diseases that cause blindness, according to new US research.

Although a link has previously been drawn between exercise and positive management of glaucoma, it wasn’t thought that physical activity could actually prevent it from developing.

Now, analysis of data pertaining to physical activity in children and adults has found that for every additional recorded 10 minutes of weekly moderate-to-vigorous activity, there was a 25% reduction in risk of developing glaucoma.

Study author Victoria Tseng of the University of California said ‘Our research suggests that it is not only the act of exercising that may be associated with decreased glaucoma risk, but that people who exercise with higher speed and more steps of walking or running may even further decrease their glaucoma risk compared to people who exercise at lower speeds with less steps.’

Eye health may not be most people’s reason for working out, but it’s yet another incentive – and a damn good one.

Heart disease? Nuts to that

Eating a handful of nuts, packed with their healthy fats, has long been associated with a range of benefits, and now a new US study has added heart health to the list.

Analysing data from over 210,000 individuals, researchers from Harvard found that higher consumption of nuts (preferably raw and unprocessed) was associated with lower incidence of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease.

And not all nuts are created equal, with tree nuts and walnuts having the greatest heart health correlations (around 20% reduced risk for walnuts and 23% for tree nuts).

Commenting on the findings, Dr Emilio Ros from the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, said ‘Raw nuts, if possible unpeeled and otherwise unprocessed, may be considered as natural health capsules that can be easily incorporated into any heart-protective diet to further cardiovascular well-being and promote healthy ageing.’