Stored for the future

BlodprøverBy storing blood samples in a bio bank, the work we do today, can be useful in the future when for example new methods of analyzing is developed. In our largest project, Generation 100, we have saved 60,000 small tubes of blood so far, which in the future will help answer questions about aging and health. In the EU project OptimEx we are currently collecting blood from patients with diastolic heart failure both from Norway and other European countries. In the international project MET-EX we are collecting blood from participants with metabolic syndrome from several continents.

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Are couches bad for your health?

This question was raised by Professor I-Min Lee in her keynote lecture this week in the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 61st Annual Meeting and 5th World Congress on Exercise is Medicine in Orlando, Florida USA. Dr. Lee is an acknowledged researcher and epidemiologists because of her important contributions to the research field of of physical activity in promoting health and preventing chronic disease. Dr. Lee was on the Steering Committee for the Physical Activity series published in the Lancet in 2012, and she has 41 articles cited more than 100 times (articles receiving more than 50 times is considered as classical articles). In her keynote lecture, Dr. Lee looked into the development of the research field of physical activity and health from the past to the present.

Gaining legitimacy for the benefits of physical activity started with the Scottish epidemiologist Jeremiah Morris (1910-2009). By performing a large scale survey in 1949, he noticed that the sedentary drivers of London’s double-decker buses had higher rates of cardiovascular disease than the conductors who climbed the stairs. After this discovery, a considerable amount of literature has been published as strong evidence for the health benefits of regular physical activity across the life course.

However, the scientific evidence up today has uncovered complexity in the research field of physical activity, which can be illustrated by the following two statements: “I was born with bad genes” and “How little can I get away with”? According to Dr. Lee, there is at present no scientific evidence supporting that fact that genes can totally explain sedentary behavior. However, there is a growing awareness that our health status is based not only on our genes or only on our environment, but on the ways in which these two components “interact” with each other.  For example, some people may be more sensitive than others to the effects of physical inactivity, which means that being regular physical active will outweight any harmul effects from “bad genes”. In fact, recent results from 23,016 initially healthy women in the Women’s Genome Health Study suggest that women will reduce their risk of developing CHD by being physically active, regardless of their genetic predisposition for physical fitness.


The Joseph B. Wolffe Memorial Lecture at ACSM 2014.

The Joseph B. Wolffe Memorial Lecture at ACSM 2014.

When it comes to the question on how little physical activity is needed to gain any health benefits, there is some confusion about ways to distinguish sedentary behavior from physical inactivity. Dr. Lee claims that there is a need for a clear definition of the concept sedentary behavior, further, that we need more research using objectively measures of sedentatary behavior and physical inactivity in different populations. Nevertheless, in a recent meta-analysis of epidemiological studies, Sattelmair et al. found that individuals who met the official guidelines and engaged in the equivalent of 150 min/week of moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity had a 14 percent lower coronary heart disease risk compared with those reporting no leisure-time physical activity. Further, and just as important, that people who were physically active at levels lower than the minimum recommended amount also had significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease.

So, are couches really bad for your health? Given the scientific evidence of the beneficial effects of physical activity and the harmful effects of physical inactivity and sedentary behavior the answer to this question should definitely be “yes”. According to Dr. Lee, sitting is the new smoking and it is time to quit. So if you really love your couch, the best way to keep it last longer is to minimize the use of it!

 Linda Ernstsen, Post doc. at CERG

More bad news for couch potatoes

Our previous blog post called for more than the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise for people with inactive jobs or inactive lifestyles. Our campaign against inactivity goes on, today representing a study by an Australian research group. The findings concluded that each hour you spend sitting in front of the TV reduces your life expectancy by 21.8 minutes – ten minutes longer than a cigarette.

Funny but risky

The study, lead by J. Veerman at the University of Queensland, was published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. Data from 12000 Australians was collected by a national survey on diabetes, obesity and lifestyle. The respondents answered questions about health, diseases, exercise, smoking, dietary habits and hours of watching television per day.The goal was not to measure time in front of the screen specifically, but get a ballpark figure of the amount of hours a person spent sitting. With these data in hand, the researchers tried to isolate the factor of risk posed by long stay seated for other unhealthy habits like smoking and not exercising. Their conclusion was that adults who spends six hours a day sitting in front of TV, lives nearly five years less than persons who do not watch television.

Interestingly, another study on the same subject was published this fall by a British group in the scientific journal Diabetologia, and reviewed 18 studies – total 794,577 individuals investigated – that took into account not only the period in which the person remains seated in front of the TV, but also the time sitting at work. The authors showed that adults on average spend between 50 and 70 % of their day sitting. Furthermore, the study showed that people who spend more than seven hours a day sitting have a 112 % increase in risk of developing diabetes, 147 % in risk of cardiovascular disease and 49 % in risk of dying prematurely even if they exercise regularly.

So, the take home message is: spend less and less time sitting and exercise more! It’s just as simple as that. We will write more about this topic the coming weeks, and you can also find tips for exercising in previous blog posts.

Written by Gustavo da Silva, researcher at CERG.

Gain for the brain

The latest study in a growing body of research into the neuroprotective effects of physical exercise has been published this week in the Journal of Neurology and highlighted by the BBC. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) techniques to study gray and white matter volumes and white matter integrity in the brains of 691 adults in their 70s.

Even when covariates such as age, social class and health status were controlled for, higher levels of physical activity were associated with less brain atrophy and more coherent white matter tracts in the brain in this sample.

jumpThis study supports a neuroprotective effect of physical exercise in the human brain but does not shed much light on the mechanisms behind this effect. In connection with the Generation 100 project currently being conducted by CERG, researchers from the Trondheim fMRI group are carrying out a sub study investigating the effects of physical exercise on cognition in 70-75 year olds. Like the study described above, MRI images of the brain will be taken at the start of the study and after one and three years of exercise training of either moderate or high intensity. However, the “Cognition in Generation 100” study will not just look at brain structure. Smell tests will form part of the study, since loss of odor identification abilities is an early sign of cognitive impairment and dementia in aging. In addition, a range of well-validated cognitive tests and questionnaires about memory and mood will be used to gather new information about which aspects of memory and cognition may be affected by fitness levels and physical activity in this age group.

Written by Helen Palmer, researcher at CERG.

Why children should walk to school

The effect that environment has on human health has been known since the nineteenth century. In the United States development of sanitation and provision of clean running water eliminated the spread of infectious diseases. Zoning laws were adopted and housing density decreased in order to prevent overcrowding and spread of disease.  Residential areas were moved from the poisonous fumes of industrial and commercial enterprises.

From iStockphoto

Concern of today’s society is prevention of chronic disease.  So the question arises if the automobile dependent urban environmental set up that we enjoy today, could have contributed to rising rates of inactivity and sedentariness, major risk factors of chronic disease, especially in children. A recent study published in the October issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise investigated how a change in the mode of travel of children from and to school influenced their activity levels. They measured children’s moderate to vigorous activity levels using accelerometers and found that those children that walked to primary school had on average 10 minutes more moderate to vigorous activity than those that came to and from school by car. The moderate to vigorous activity levels in secondary school children who walked to school were on average 18 minutes higher than those of children that were using the car as their mode of transportation. Children that took the bus recorded less activity than those traveling on foot but more activity than those traveling in a car.

Thus, public health agenda should encourage active travel to school. If a walk to school is unsuitable for one reason or another, public transportation seems to be a better solution than the car not only for children’s health but for the environment as well. Authors of the study suggest that change in the mode of travel to and from school could substantially increase the numbers of children who meet activity level guidelines. According to their data 64% of children who walk to school would meet activity level guidelines compared only to 27% of the children traveling by car. These simple modifications in the mode of transportation of children to and from school have a potential to influence behavior early on in the childhood allowing formation of habitual physical activity, which could contribute to better health in the adulthood.

Written by Nina Zisko, phD student at CERG.

Today’s CERG seminar

The annual seminar of the CERG group has taken place today. The program consisted of updates on ongoing research in the group, which were very interesting and inspiring. The seminar was concluded with a presentation by Stig Omholt, director at Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE) and professor at NTNU. He held a very interesting talk on the challenges of bioinformatics in cardiovascular disease.

There are certainly lots of exciting projects going on in the group, and judging by the amount of ideas, questions and comments from the audience, we can hope for more groundbreaking projects in the future.

Some pictures:

Very enthusiastic Natale Romes telling about aerobic exercise in diabetic mice

Svein Erik Gaustad – Generation 100

Stig Omholt

The winter came to Trondheim during the day! Hard to tell from this picture, but for people crazy about skiing and winter sport just a few snow flakes are enough to be euphoric:)

CERG research receives international attention

In a blog post from September we referred to a study from Rognmo and colleagues about high intensity versus moderate intensity workout for patients recovering from heart attack or heart surgery.

Previous research has shown that vigorous exertion may increase the risk of acute myocardial infarction and cardiac arrest. The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate whether this risk was greater in high versus moderate intensity exercise, both during and immediately after exercise.

The results indicated that the risk of CVD events was low regardless of intensity. Because of the well-known benefits of high intensity exercise for the heart function, the researchers therefore recommend this type of workout for heart patients as well as healthy people.

Due to the fact that the study represented a rather novel approach to exercise for heart patients, it attracted a lot of attention in the exercise research field. Rognmo was interviewed in Reuters (read the article here), and in the current issue of Circulation, the study is described and discussed in detail in the editorial. International acknowledgement is a great encouragement and give inspiration to further research on this topic.

Written by Maria Henningsen.

Intense workouts may be safe for heart patients

In a recent interview with Reuters, CERG Post Doc Øivind Rognmo, explains that intense workouts may be safe for heart patients.

Moderate levels of exercise are often prescribed for people recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, but a new study finds that pumping up workouts to high intensity levels might be a safe option too.

Read the article here