Science Sunday: Running, Lifting, Drinking, Praying

Drinking in the sun

Binge drinking is bad for your bones

If a wicked hangover isn’t enough to convince you that binge drinking blows, then how about this: a Loyola University study found that Alcohol disturbs genes necessary for maintaining healthy bones.

Researchers injected poor unsuspecting mice with alcohol equivalent to three days worth of binge drinking or to chronic alcohol abuse for four weeks. They found that alcohol affected the amounts of RNA associated with these genes. (RNA serves as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.) According to bone biologist John Callaci, “the expressions of certain genes important for maintaining bone integrity are disturbed by alcohol exposure.”

Let’s not forget the added risk of falling on your ass and breaking a femur. If you must binge drink, please mind your step.

Runners burn more calories, even at rest

Runners in the audience: rejoice. All that truckin’ pays off, even while vegetating on the couch. From the New Scientist:

Endurance sports such as long-distance running are known to increase the number of mitochondria, the tiny engines inside cells that convert sugars and fats into ATP molecules, the cell’s energy carriers. This boosts the capacity of muscles to consume oxygen and work at higher power during exercise.

Now [researchers] at Yale University say that the mitochondria in the muscles of men who run at least 4 hours a week consume 54 per cent more fuel at rest than those of men who don’t run. Yet the amount of ATP produced by the two sets of men was the same, indicating that when at rest the extra fuel was being “wasted”, and turned into heat.

Western diet increases heart attack risk all over the world

A recent study of dietary patterns published in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that the typical Western diet — fried foods, salty snacks and meat — accounts for about 30 percent of heart attack risk across the world.


The Haul from the Newington GreenmanResearchers identified three dietary patterns in the world:

  • Oriental: higher intake of tofu, soy and other sauces;
  • Prudent: higher intake of fruits and vegetables; and
  • Western: higher intake of fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat.

After adjusting for known risk factors, researchers found:

  • People who consumed the Prudent diet of more fruits and vegetables had a 30 percent lower risk of heart attack compared to people who ate little or no fruits and vegetables.
  • People who consumed the Western diet had a 35 percent greater risk of having a heart attack compared to people who consumed little or no fried foods and meat.
  • The Oriental pattern showed no relationship with heart attack risk.

If prudent is perfect, then I’m very happy about my recent grocery shop (shown right).

Old people need freeweights, too

A Manchester Metropolitan University study has found that taking carbohydrate and protein supplements just before and just after low-resistance exercise could boost muscle performance and slow muscle wastage in people over retirement age.

Douglas Robb of Healthhabits says:

This will not come as a surprise to many of you fitness junkies out there. Pre and post workout nutrition has been recommended for enhancing performance and recuperation for years.

But the fact that this concept is being applied to our aging population is significant. With the leading edge of the Baby Boomer generation entering their senior years, maintaining health and fitness is about to become a major demographic concern.


Cure for depression: “existential well-being”

Those who worship a higher power often do so in different ways. Whether they are active in their religious community, or prefer to simply pray or meditate, new research out of Temple University suggests that a person’s “religiosity” can offer insight into their risk for depression.

Lead researcher Joanna Maselko characterized the religiosity of participants in terms of three domains: religious service attendance, or being involved with a church; religious well-being, or the quality of a person’s relationship with a higher power; and existential well-being, or a person’s sense of meaning and their purpose in life.

Researchers found that those who attended religious services were 30 percent less likely to have had depression in their lifetime, and those who had high levels of existential well-being were 70 percent less likely to have had depression than those who had low levels of existential well-being.

“People with high levels of existential well-being tend to have a good base, which makes them very centered emotionally,” said Maselko. “People who don’t have those things are at greater risk for depression, and those same people might also turn to religion to cope.”

Let’s just hope doctors don’t start prescribing religion as a cure for depression. Time to hire the existential detectives…

4 thoughts on “Science Sunday: Running, Lifting, Drinking, Praying

  1. DR

    Thanks for that info about runners burning more calories at rest.

    I have a client who is deathly afraid that any form of cardio is useless at fat loss and will cannibalize all of his hard earned muscle.

    This study should have him dragging his 275 lbs of beef up onto the treadmill.

  2. Evita

    Okay, so about the alcohol – I won’t even start on that one. The research you present is just one of many, many negative effects of not only binge drinking but regular alcohol consumption.

    As for the diets – how true Monica and yay to the prudent diet!!!

    As for the seniors, absolutely – weights at any age have a huge benefit on health!

    And finally the last one – this is also so true. However, I find that the emphasis is much more (as research shows too) on the existential well being rather than religion. People can have a religion and hide behind it and still be angry and sad or whatever. But having a greater purpose and meaning in life – ah that is the key to so many areas!

  3. Lance

    Diets – I see here where I live a world becoming more obese. And a proliferation of fried foods, fast food, and junk food. All bad when we look at our health…

    Free weights – it’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life in the past few years – adding free weights in, and really using them. And I couldn’t agree more that can work wonders for anyone, whatever age.

    I really like, as well, what Evita says about having a greater purpose and meaning in life. Religion can be good, religion can be bad. What we have inside of us, what we truly believe, is what matters.


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