Every parent wants to provide whatever they can to help their child grow up happy and healthy. Most people will immediately think of things like a safe place to live, healthy food to eat, a good education, and so on. However, the very first thing that a parent provides is something much more fundamental: the genes that determine the biological makeup of their child. As I have written about before in this blog post, our gene DNA sequences determine the functions of the proteins, cells, tissues and organs that biologically define us. But we can’t change our DNA sequences (at least not yet, though maybe one day it will be possible through genome editing technology such as CRISPR/Cas9), so is there any way of controlling the genetic information we pass on to our children?
Beetroot juice was found to enhance athletic performance by providing the body with nitrates, which the body transforms into nitrites, and then into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide affects performance in two ways. Firstly nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, allowing more blood to pass through them, and secondly it improves the efficiency of the mitochondria, the power-houses of the cells, allowing them to create the same energy while using less oxygen.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It affects the hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays an important role in memory and learning. As the hippocampus is damaged by AD, symptoms of memory loss occur – typically starting mildly and gradually worsening as the disease progresses. One person is diagnosed with AD every 60 seconds and the worldwide prevalence of AD is expected to increase dramatically from today’s 36 million to 108 million by the year 2050. Currently, patients live on average 8 years after AD diagnosis. AD is fatal 100% of the time and, as of yet, there is no successful cure.
Overweight and obesity has increased significantly recent decades among children and teenagers. Studies have shown that in some Western countries, up to one third of children and teenagers are obese. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study where the relationship between BMI (body mass index) and heart disease in 2.3 million youths from Israel were examined. The special features of this study are the large sample of youths who were investigated, and the correlation between BMI in teenagers and heart disease in midlife.
We all know that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy and that we should be physical active. However, why is that? Why does evolutionary biologist describe natural selection as survival of the fittest meaning that the “fit” has a greater probability for survival than the “unfit”. Under follows a brief and simplified history lesson on why we become “born to be active”.
Once superior locomotive skills and physical capacity were essential for human survival and certainly a reason that Homo sapiens developed and prospered. Physical capacity was important in order to evade predators and secures food supply. Comparative physiologists (Hochachka et al., 1999) together with anthropologist (Bramble and Lieberman, 2004) has hypothesized that superior traits of endurance capacity together with an impressive ability to thermoregulate was essential for ancestral humans from the high plains of East Africa to succeed as game hunters. A success which ensured high protein sources of food which again was important for the development of larger brains and complex cooperative behavior compared to other primates. Simply stated: Physical capacity was necessary for human survival and development.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in United States. The World Health Organization list tobacco use as a risk factor for the leading causes of death, accounting for some 6 million deaths per year worldwide. Smoking increases the risks of diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and several types of cancers in addition to being responsible for overall diminished health and fitness. In many countries in the developing world smoking rates are now declining. However, cigarette smoking remains a major public health challenge and reduction or elimination of tobacco smoking is a priority for public health.
How is our lifestyle influenced by our spouse’s lifestyle changes? Effects of smoking and alcohol consumption have been examined in this regard but few studies have assessed this relationship when it comes to physical activity. A recent study in The American Journal of Epidemiology has done just that.
The study included more than 3,000 married couples aged 45-64 years. Participants were examined twice, at baseline and after 6 years. Physical activity was assessed using questions about the frequency, duration and intensity of sports/exercise and leisure activities.