Reporting On Science, Not Science Fiction
As a researcher who spends many hours sitting behind a lab bench and scouring the literature to learn about the most cutting edge scientific findings, it is exciting to see what else is going in labs around the world and rub elbows with other scientists at various conferences.
These conferences are often in cities where nerdy scientists can finally take off their safety goggles, put down their pocket protectors, and see the light of day as a true tourist would.
The American College of Sports Medicine is one of those conferences I go to every year. Here are some of the more pertinent findings from a recent conference.
The Newest Marker For Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), C-Reactive Protein
Obviously, we are all interested in packing on slabs of muscle and losing body fat as quickly as humanly possible; however, lest us not forget about that important thing in the body, our heart. Give it hell and the last thing you'll be worrying about is the size of your biceps.
C-reactive protein is a circulating inflammatory marker that has recently been identified as an independent risk factor for future first and recurrent coronary events. With this in mind, many researchers are determined to learn about newest "bad guy" in battling CVD.
Dr. Rawson and colleagues presented a study that assessed both body mass index (BMI) and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) in 109 subjects. Not surprisingly, hs-CRP was significantly greater in obese and overweight subjects and it was determined that BMI, but not recent or previous year physical activity, predicts hs-CRP levels.
| What Does BMI (Body Mass Index) Mean?
A measure of mass that is calculated as weight divided by height squared.
In another study, by the fine researchers at the Cooper Institute in Texas, they found that higher levels of fitness are associated with lower levels of CRP, independent of both age and BMI.
The moral of the story is eat well, exercise, and keep the size of that gut down to prevent you from having an elevated BMI (also keep in mind BMI is calculated without lean mass in the equation so individuals, and typically athletes in particular, may be classified as obese, but are far from it).
It is definitely a wise idea to ask your doc to measure your levels of CRP next time you go in for a check up, regardless of coronary history in your family. There seems to be a lot more to reducing levels of this pesky protein than just being physically active and eating well, so stay tuned.
Infomercial Gimmicks Fail Again
Another group presented their research on the effects of static magnets on upper body aerobic performance. Conclusion, they don't work for any of the outcome parameters measured (or probably any others either), which were oxygen consumption, blood flow, and perceptions of exertion.
Surprising, huh? Funny how every "magical" piece of equipment or infomercial gimmick that is guaranteed to change your physique and/or health doesn't hold true to its promise. Wanna' know what does, hard work and dedication.
Scientists from Eastern Washington University designed a research protocol to assess the effects of massage on metabolism. They measured VO2 (ml/kg/min) and RER in females continuously during the resting and recovery periods and at various pre-set periods during a one-hour, full-body massage.
Seems that the massage significantly increased metabolism from the resting level and this increase was maintained for a minimum of 15 minutes post-massage.
Although this study was conducted on females, I can guarantee you that these results are applicable to males as well. I take back what I said about gimmicks not working to help get you in shape; visit your local masseuse (or significant other) and your physique will be reformed in a matter of no time!
Short For Time, But Still Want Results?
Researchers from James Madison University compared a cardioresistance (CR) program (combined aerobic and anaerobic training) to resistance of aerobic only training programs. Muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance were used to assess the differences among the groups.
After the 12 week protocol, the CR group had significant increases in muscular strength, assessed via the chest and leg presses. There were no significant changes in VO2 max (which was used to assess cardiovascular endurance) among the subjects. The resistance trained subjects also increased their chest and leg presses significantly, but not their VO2 max.
Finally, the aerobically trained subjects also saw small, but significant increases in all outcome parameters; chest press, leg press, and VO2 max.
From this study, it seems one can derive similar benefits from a cardio resistance type program compared to a structured aerobic and/or resistance training protocol. Do keep in mind that this type of program may be beneficial for maintaining what you have already achieved, but is not the type of program you are looking for if you plan to bust out of your skin like the Incredible Hulk (it probably won't make you turn green either… but I am not sure, this group didn't report on that).
Scientists from the University of Florida presented their findings from a study set up to determine the difference of onset muscle pain between genders.
In their study with 67 participants, they induced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) using eccentric resistance exercises for the biceps and measured pain 48 hours post-exercise. They learned that females reported lower pain intensity than males, but no significant differences in pressure threshold (which was assessed using a piece of equipment called a dolorimeter).
Another study presented measured the effects of zinc supplementation on plasma zinc status and resting metabolic rate in physically active individuals. Anyhow, it was found that supplementing with zinc does increase plasma zinc status (ground breaking, huh?) in both deficient and non-deficient physically active males and females; however, this significant increase in plasma zinc status did not correlate to any significant effects on resting metabolic rate or lean body mass gains.
After measuring baseline zinc status in dozens of college age individuals (all were physically active and some are collegiate varsity athletes), there were three deficient individuals. Basically, eat a well-balanced diet and zinc deficiency won't be as common as some want you to believe.
That sums up some of the more pertinent findings from this conference. In future articles, I'll report on some other presentations and studies discussed among scientists from around the world.
Part Two Coming Soon.