Latest News & Research: 26 June 2018

This week: Caloric intake and muscle mass at high altitude; Higher fitness and lower aortic stiffness keeps brain young; Focus on chronic pain; Virtual fitness replaces sport at Aussie school

Caloric intake and muscle mass at high altitude

Recent research has explored why a group of young, healthy adults residing at high altitude lost muscle mass while severely underfed and consuming the same high-protein diet that preserved muscle during weight loss at sea level.

A team led by Stefan Pasiakos, PhD, a nutritional physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, examined eight participants from a larger randomised controlled study. The larger study compared the effects of standard versus high-protein diets on a group of healthy young men hiking at high altitude that experienced increased exercise levels and decreased caloric intake.

Pasiakos and colleagues found that the combination of unaccustomed high-altitude exposure and negative caloric balance resulted in the development of anabolic resistance, or inability to build muscle mass – a phenomenon mainly observed in older adults.

‘Findings from our study show that after prolonged exposure to environmental stress and underfeeding, the body's ability to build and repair muscle was suppressed’ Pasiakos explained.

‘These data highlight the fundamental relationship between caloric balance and skeletal muscle, and suggest that if efforts to maximise food intake are not prioritised during high-altitude sojourns, muscle mass will be lost.’

The study underscores the importance of maintaining caloric balance at high altitudes, especially among unaccustomed lowlanders. The findings could also have potential implications for individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which decreases oxygen delivery to the body and is often accompanied by both weight loss and lean mass loss.

Source: The FASEB Journal

Higher fitness and lower aortic stiffness keeps brain young

The rate of decline in certain aspects of memory may be explained by a combination of overall physical fitness and the stiffness of the central arteries, researchers from Australia’s Swinburne's Centre for Human Psychopharmacology have found.

A study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease considers the mechanisms underlying cognitive performance in older people living independently. Lead author Greg Kennedy said that from early adulthood, memory and other aspects of cognition slowly decline, with an increasing risk of developing into dementia in later life.

‘Exactly why this occurs is unclear, but research indicates that exercise and physical fitness are protective’ Kennedy said; ‘A healthier, more elastic aorta is also theorised to protect cognitive function, by reducing the negative effects of excessive blood pressure on the brain.’

The study investigated whether fitness was associated with better cognition through a healthier aorta. Physical fitness and arterial stiffness assessment One hundred and two people (73 females and 29 males), aged between 60 and 90 years, living independently in aged care communities, were recruited in Melbourne, Australia.

Their fitness was assessed with the Six-Minute Walk test which involved participants walking back and forth between two markers placed 10 metres apart for six minutes.

Only participants who completed the full six minutes were included in the analysis, which assessed the stiffness of their arteries and cognitive performance.

"People generally are less fit and have stiffer arteries as they age, which seems to explain the difference in memory ability that is usually attributed to getting older’ Kennedy said.

Interestingly, physical fitness did not seem to affect central arterial stiffness, however Mr Kennedy points out that only current fitness was assessed -- long term fitness may be a better predictor of central arterial stiffness, however this has yet to be investigated.

‘The results of this study indicate that remaining as physically fit as possible, and monitoring central arterial health, may well be an important, cost effective way to maintain our memory and other brain functions in older age’ Kennedy concluded.

Source: Science Daily

Virtual fitness replaces sport at Aussie school

Les Mills Virtual studios have made their mark in Australian schools, specifically Ballarat Clarendon College, with hopes to expand further after success at the Victorian College.

Ballarat Clarendon College has been trialling Virtual fitness in its facility since September 2017, and has been a hit with both students and staff. The school implemented Virtual fitness studios after the decision was made to stop the traditional sports curriculum during physical education, as they found a lot of kids already incorporated regular sports in their routine outside of school. Instead, the college brought in a program to teach kids everyday healthy habits and mindfulness techniques.

According to a 2016 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study, 80% of children and young people aged 5-17 did not meet physical activity recommendations. Initiatives such as the Les Mills Virtual studios and Clarendon's 'healthy habits' program helps to cement these important foundations in the next generation.

A spokesperson from Ballarat Clarendon College said the switch to Virtual fitness has been extremely positive for their students, and so far cost effective, and would highly recommend to every school in Australia.

‘We've found that the kids work way harder with Les Mills than they did in the past. It is a great way to get kids doing vigorous intensity activity in a small space and in a non-competitive, fun environment. Our most popular classes are RPM, BODYCOMBAT and BODYBALANCE.’

Source: LMAP

Focus on chronic pain

Chronic pain – pain that doesn’t go away after the injury or illness has resolved and lasts at least three months – is a significant health issue in Australia, with around one in five people of all ages living with this invisible illness. Figures are even more alarming for our older population, with one in three people over 65 years living with chronic pain. As such, it’s likely that you’ll encounter clients living with chronic pain.

Chronic pain can have significant impact on a person’s ability to work, form relationships, and live an ordinary life. Chronic pain can also have a seriously detrimental effect on the mental health of people living with it. However, by working with various health practitioners in a long-term approach, people living with chronic pain can start to combat some of the effects it has on their lives and better manage their pain.

Running from 23 to 29 July, National Pain Week is an annual initiative of Chronic Pain Australia, the national voice of people living with chronic pain. The week aims to destigmatise the experiences of people living with chronic pain while also championing the need for the voice of people living with chronic pain to be heard when any related health policy is developed. This year’s theme, ‘Nothing about us – without us’, further highlights this.

For information on the event go to