Can Chocolate Help You Get Fit?

When we think of foods that improve athletic performance, chocolate is maybe not one of the first options that comes to mind.

We’ve known for a while that certain molecules found in chocolate, known as flavonols, are associated with health benefits to the heart and the brain. Epicatechin, in particular, has exhibited widespread effects throughout the body.

But some emerging evidence suggests that chocolate may also aid in exercise performance – weird as it may sound.

Here’s what the research says so far, and how it seems to work.

Feeding Time // Diabetes Reversal // Weight Maintenance

Here is a recap of some of the most interesting stories in science and health that we’ve been reading and discussing this week – focusing on regulation of body fat and blood sugar.

First, a group of Japanese researchers demonstrated how circadian misalignment, caused by shifted feeding patterns, can wreak metabolic havoc. Perhaps more importantly, they uncovered what precisely is happening inside of the brain and body to cause this.

Next, we look at an English study, which revealed a way to that we might be able to put diabetes in remission – without drugs.

Finally, we all know that losing weight is hard, and keeping it off can be even harder. Does the struggle ever get easier? This experiment determined that is you keep the weight off for a year, your body adjusts to help you maintain the new weight.

Certain Dietary Fats Disrupt the Coordination of Metabolism, Others Don’t

When the system in our body that controls the timing of our physiology becomes uncoordinated or misaligned, bad things happen. This can happen in several ways.

The most well-understood way is due to big fluctuations in the timing light exposure from day to day. This is why Apple recently introduce night shift to help limit the impact cell phones can contribute to this issue. But big fluctuations in the timing of light exposure is not the only way to misalign our rhythms. The type and timing of dietary fat also impact’s this system.

When Is the Best Time to Eat?

Around this time of year, much of the world is advancing their clocks by one hour to make efficient use of seasonal daylight. Americans switched to Daylight Savings Time last week, and this week Europeans will revert to Summer Time.

When this happens, we all “lose” an hour of sleep, because we have to get up and get things done an hour earlier than we have been. This is in relation not just to the light and dark cycles of the day, but also to our body clocks.

One hour sounds like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how we function, at least in the short term. For example, data from the past two decades shows that there is a statistically significant spike in the number of car wrecks on the Monday immediately following the shift to Daylight Savings Time in the US.

As we all adjust to the time change, it’s worthwhile to consider how other aspects of our lives can sway our circadian rhythms. Circadian clocks govern the rhythms of sleep and activity in virtually all animals and are responsive to a variety of stimuli like light and stress. Research is starting to suggest that our eating patterns – specifically when we eat – can also have a pervasive impact.

Starving Cancer of Glucose and Glutamine

Biologists have known for nearly a century that some types of cancer cells consume significantly more glucose than normal cells.

Regular cells burn most of a sugar molecule in their mitochondria in order to make energy, which is why mitochondria are often referred to as cellular “power plants.”

Cancer cells, however, function quite differently. They rely heavily upon another energy-producing process in the metabolism of sugar called glycolysis. This produces energy faster, but also extracts much less of it from the sugar molecule. Cancer’s preference for glycolysis has been dubbed the “Warburg effect,” after German physiologist, and Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg, who was the first to demonstrate it experimentally.

It has never been entirely clear why the difference exists. Cancer cells presumably need a considerable amount of energy in order to grow and proliferate throughout the body. How do they do it?

Hot Sauce For Cancer Prevention (and more)

Chili pepper is a culinary element consumed worldwide, especially in China, Mexico, and Italy. Capsaicin is a biologically active alkaloid produced by chili peppers that produce their spicy flavor. The irritation produced by these plants is probably a protective mechanism, evolved to deter animals (like us) from devouring them. But ironically, these compounds, which ostensibly emerged to harm us, may actually offer certain health benefits when eaten – like with respect to cancer.

Does What You Eat Today Affect How You Sleep Tonight? Yes

Recently, research by Marie-Pierre St-Onge and colleagues evaluated whether sleep is modified in response to changes in dietary intake across the day. The study kept healthy participants in an inpatient unit, so there was a high degree of control to record what the participants ate and how they slept. During the first 4 days, the researchers gave the participants a controlled diet and monitored their sleep in response to what they ate. On day fifth day, however, the participants were allowed to choose their own food, and on that night, sleep changed: it took longer for the participants to fall asleep, they had less deep sleep and more arousals across the night.

Science Recap – New Science of Body Fat Regulation

To kick off the new year, our first recap will discuss new and interesting science related to the regulation of body fatness with a focus on the brain, the gut, and the food industry.

You may remember from previous posts – and from dialog regarding our Ideal Weight Program (first, second) – that the “fat thermostat” in the brain is of key importance for anyone interested to reduce body fat in a sustainable way. So, I was eager to see new research looking at how brain inflammation impairs the control of body fatness and blood sugar, as well as other new research highlighting the brain chemical neuropeptide Y (NPY) as a key regulator to the body weight setpoint.

Next, from NPR’s food-oriented blog called ‘The Salt,’ we highlight some of the interview with Michael Moss, who discusses how the food industry has exploited our natural preferences for sweetness and saltiness – and how that has impacted what and how we eat.

Lastly, find out if brain stimulation helps us to eat less, and whether a selective mixture of probiotics could help us shed body fat.

Does Protein Restriction and Fasting Slow the Aging Process? Better Aging Part 3

In the previous article on aging, we looked at three forms of dietary restriction: caloric restriction, prolonged fasting, and alternate-day fasting. These interventions have played an important role in providing a framework for researchers to begin unraveling the molecular details of how aging happens. But these dietary restrictions are quite extreme and are simply not practical for everyone. In this article, we will look at two less extreme forms of dietary restriction: protein restriction, and the Daniel fast.

Better Aging Part 2 – Slowing Down Aging with Dietary Restrictions

Can we improve how we age and how long we live by restricting what we eat? Nearly all signs point to yes. In this article, I will describe three major categories of dietary restriction that have been explored, the evidence of efficacy, and some of the limitations that stand in the way of our understanding of this topic.

Numerous studies on a diverse range of organisms, including bacteria, yeast, worms, flies, rodents, and primates, have shown that dietary restrictions, such as chronic or intermittent fasting, can slow down biological aging and increase maximum lifespan substantially, by up to 50% in some protocols. Some of the mechanisms by which these different dietary-restriction regimens work have been identified. Many of them are metabolic pathways that are shared across species, including humans. It is therefore reasonable to think that the beneficial effects on lifespan, in let’s say a worm or mouse, could also occur in humans. Definitively proving this, however, is difficult because longevity studies to utilize any type of intervention in humans inherently require decades of adherence to a protocol, along with decades of follow up by the research team. That’s why we love to do aging research in worms that have a twenty-day lifespan! But ultimately, in order to move from non-human intervention to safe and effective human application, we need to study promising interventions in humans. The good news is that human studies have been carried out, but instead of directly measuring lifespan, biomarkers are used. Biomarkers are biological characteristics that can be objectively measured today that can predict important health outcomes—in this case, biological aging. (Read More)