Can we control the genetic information we pass on to our children?

NathanEvery 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?

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Indulge in chocolate and boost your athletic performance

Phd candidate Nina Zisko

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.

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Is it healthy to start the day with an egg?

PåskeeggFor many Norwegians Easter is all about long skiing trips in the mountains and spending the nights in the cabin in front of a crackling fireplace. However, it is estimated that only 3-5% of Norwegians actually spend Easter in a mountain cabin, while 85% spend Easter at home. Regardless of where Easter is spent, very many Norwegians start each Easter morning with an Easter egg. I’m not talking about the chocolate-filled eggs left by the Easter Bunny, but the white and yellow ones you would eat for breakfast. The amount of eggs consumed in Norway is doubled during Easter, which gives a consumption equivalent to one egg per person per day during the Easter. Is it healthy to eat that many eggs?

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Eat more avocados!

AvocadoLes dette innlegget på norsk her!
People always say that vegetables are good for you, but did you know that avocados might lower your risk of cardiovascular disease? This delicious vegetable used in salads, power-smoothies, guacamole and more was recently under the scope by American and Australian scientists due to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids.

The study published in the Journal of American Heart Association investigated whether inclusion of one avocado per day as part of a moderate-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet had any effect on overweight patient’s lipid-profile, compared to a low-fat diet and a moderate-fat diet without avocados. The study participants underwent controlled feeding, which means that every nutrient that was eaten for five weeks had to be registered by the scientists.

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Current physical activity guidelines are insufficient to mitigate long-term weight gain

overvektLes om denne studien på norsk her!

Researchers in our group have found that current physical activity guidelines for health are insufficient to mitigate long-term weight gain. The study was published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, and are based on data from The HUNT study i Norway.

The current guidelines for physical activity for health benefits say that all adults should do moderate-intensity activity a minimum of 150 minutes, or vigorous-intensity activity for 60 minutes or more, each week. But do this level of physical activity prevent long-term weight gain?

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Is it worth carrying a bottle of beetroot juice in high altitude?

Beetroot juice. By Saaleha Bamjee CC BY-SA 2.0 dette innlegget på norsk her!

In the cartoon Popeye the sailor man became super-strong after eating spinach. Is it just fiction or is it a scientific explanation behind it?

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Why is it so hard to lose weight only with exercise?

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joggeturSummer is almost over, and many people are trying to find the motivation to exercise more and get a healthier lifestyle. If the motivation to start exercising again after summer is to lose weight, the risk is big for you to be disappointed. Let’s just say it out loud: you will not lose weight only by exercising. To be more specific, you need to exercise MUCH if you are going to train your weight away.

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Four habits for a long and healthy life

As a part of the study, the researchers developed a lifestyle score for each of the participants, ranging from 0 (least healthy) to 4 (healthiest), based on their diet, body mass index (BMI), amount of regular moderate-intensity physical activity and smoking status. Only 2 % of the participants satisfied all four healthy lifestyle criteria.

Red Apple with heartOf all the habits, smoking avoidance was the strongest protective factor of coronary heart disease and mortality. Actually, smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviours still had lower survival rates after 7 years than did non-smokers who were sedentary and obese. Regarding diet, the researchers found evidence for maintaining a diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and fish. Besides, keeping a normal weight (BMI<25) and exercise regularly was found to be protective factors as well. “Regularly exercise” was defined as more than 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity or more than 75 minutes/week of vigorous intensity.

Once again stated: there are no shortcuts to a healthy life. However, the different factors often interact with each other, making it easier to make healthy choices. For instance: do you feel like smoking after a hard training session? Or gobble up the largest burger ever? Probably not – and as a side effect, your weight stays healthy. Starting lifestyle changes with exercise may therefore be smart – hopefully, it gives you more energy and motivation to change the other unhealthy behaviours.

Maria Henningsen, CERG

The rough always follows the smooth

The health-related benefits of physical activity are well-known. For instance, we have previously posted the popoular “23 1/2 hour”-video on the blog, showing the association between being physical active and having a lower risk of depression, anxiety and several other psychological symptoms. But physical activity is not the only health behaviour that are linked to psychological issues.

A recently published study showed that the consumption of baked goods such as buns and cakes, and fast food such as pizza, hotdogs and hamburgers, were strongly associated with depression. The study was conducted in a sample of 8964 former university students in Spain, with no depression symptoms at baseline. They were then followed through an average period of 6 months, where 493 participants developed depression or started taking antidepressants. The analysis revealed a dose-response relationship, which means that the more food that was consumed, the higher the chance of being depressed.

Girl with two donutsThe characteristics of people with the highest consume of commercial baked goods and fast food were that they were more likely to be single, less active and also have bad dietary habits, such as consuming a smaller amount of vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish and olive oil. Cigarette smoking and working more than 45 hours per week were also typical in this group.

Why do fast food and cakes increase the chance of being depressed? The authors suggest that this actually may be explained biologically: Previous research has found depression to be associated with a low-grade inflammatory status, endothelial dysfunction, worse lipid profiles and impaired insulin and glucose homeostasis. All these symptoms are at the same time associated with a high consumption of transunsaturated fatty acids (TFA) – a main ingredience in fast food and commercial baked goods. Alternative explanations could be that a high consumption of unhealthy food in most cases leads to overweight and obesity – conditions that are well known to be related with psychological problems. Likewise, the typical high-consumer was single, inactive and worked a lot. These characterisics may lead to depression as well.

Maria Henningsen, CERG