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Health News Old and New

May 27, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Medical research usually comes in one of two forms. There’s the common sense variety of information that reports seemingly obvious findings that most people already know. Then there’s the revelatory type, which reports new insights or unique ways of looking at old data. On the face of it, the revelations may appear to be the more important of the two. But a good reminder can have a great, if not greater impact on your health than new scientific discoveries. After all, both new and old research is only beneficial if we’re consciously aware of it and put it to good use.

I frequently discuss the importance of testing your Vitamin D levels. Overweight is also a regular topic on this site. Did you know that losing weight can actually improve Vitamin D status? The May 25th issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that obese or overweight women who lost a significant amount of weight (15%) increased Vitamin D to a much greater extent than those who lost 10% or less. The 12 month study in question involving 439 postmenopausal volunteers found that the 5% to 10% weight loss group saw a rise in 25(OH)D levels of just 2.7 ng/mL. The 15% or more participants almost tripled that gain by increasing D status by 7.7 ng/mL. The lead author of the study summarized the findings thusly: “It appears that the relationship between weight loss and blood Vitamin D is not linear, but goes up dramatically with more weight loss”. (1,2)

Protein powders are synonymous with weightlifters of all ages. But, how many people make it a point to consume a protein shake after aerobic exercise? If you don’t, consider this. A new study conducted at the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University examined the effects of supplementing with either a moderate carbohydrate or moderate protein drink (20 grams/protein) after aerobic exercise. The participants in the trial had a median age of 50 and were asked to walk on a treadmill for 45 minutes, three times a week for 6 weeks. Pre-trial and post-trial muscles biopsies were collected to determine changes in muscle structure in both the carbohydrate and protein volunteers. The results indicate that treadmill training, a form of endurance exercise, induced “positive changes in skeletal muscle structure” and that the use of a protein drink “increases the training effect”. According to Dr. Gerard Weissmann, the editor of the journal in which the study appeared, “If you want to age gracefully, this study shows that proteins taken after exercise keep your muscles strong and fit”. (3,4)

Autism is a disease that provokes passionate debate among many in the alternative and conventional medical communities. In essence, the holistic sector tends to believe that autism risk can be averted or minimized by avoiding certain prenatal and postnatal influences such as environmental toxins, food sensitivities, heavy metals and specific vaccinations. This is a point of view not widely shared by mainstream medicine. In conventional medical circles, genetics are more likely believed to play a determining role. A new study published in the journal Epidemiology will hopefully find proponents on both sides of the medical aisle. In the research, scientists from University of California Davis found that women who did not supplement with a prenatal vitamin/mineral during the first month of pregnancy nearly doubled the risk of their babies developing autism spectrum disorder. When genetic factors were included in the analysis, the relative risk increased to seven times that found in women who did use a prenatal supplement. Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor and chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health at UC Davis, commented that “This finding appears to be the first example of gene-environment interaction in autism”. However, the conclusion of the study also suggests that “replication and mechanistic investigations are warranted”. (5,6)

Higher Body Mass Index is Linked to Lower Plasma Vitamin D

Source: Diabetes. 2010 Jan;59(1):242-8. (link)

When you face a challenging problem, try “sleeping on it”. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recruited 54 young adults to test the commonly held assertion that a good night’s sleep aids decision making ability. All of the participants were taught to play a casino inspired card game in which the winners were assigned play money – also known as The Iowa Gambling Task. Roughly half the group was allowed to sleep after a brief training period and the remainder stayed awake. Gaming ability was then tested under daytime and nighttime conditions to account for circadian effects. Not only did the well rested volunteers win more often, but they also demonstrated a better understanding of the concepts underlying the game or “rule discovery”. This matches what many inherently believe/know from experience. But why is it so? The lead author of the study, Dr. Rebecca Spencer, remarked that “Our guess is that this enhanced effect of decision-making is something that depends on rapid-eye-movement or REM sleep, which is the creative period of our sleep cycle”. If this is indeed the case, it also suggests that sleep quality and quantity are paramount when you’re facing important decisions or learning new tasks. (7,8)

Psychology can be a tremendous asset in the “battle of the bulge”. The latest illustration can be found in the current edition of the journal Health Psychology. On two separate occasions, 46 volunteers were given a 380 calorie milkshake. In the first instance, the milkshake was described as “indulgent” and contained 620 calories. On a second occasion, the same milkshake was labeled as “sensible” and was said to contain only 140 calories. Plasma levels of ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone”, were measured before drinking either shake and afterwards. Ghrelin levels declined only when the volunteers believed they were consuming the decadent shake. According to Dr. Alia J. Crum, of Yale University, “The brain was tricked into either feeling full or feeling unsatisfied. That feeling depended on what people believed they were consuming, rather than what they actually were consuming.” The somewhat surprising conclusion is that what you think about a food may influence how a food affects you. (9,10)

We all know that losing excess weight is generally associated with an improved health outlook. Now we know that it may be partially due to an elevation in Vitamin D levels. In order to make the most out of the exercise-nutrition connection, protein should be provided after both aerobic and resistance exercises. Virtually every sexually active woman of childbearing years ought to take a prenatal or woman’s multivitamin/mineral for all of the known (neural tube defect prevention) and yet to be confirmed benefits they may provide. Finally, rest your body for greater decision making and know that your mind can help or hinder your weight loss goals. Every item mentioned is patient empowering. I hope you’ll use this information to your greatest advantage and share it whenever possible.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Children's Health, Diet and Weight Loss, Exercise

3 Comments & Updates to “Health News Old and New”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: NAC, a nutritional supplement, acts as a valuable adjunct to conventional care for autistic children …


    Clin Neuropharmacol. 2015 Jan-Feb;38(1):11-7.

    N-acetylcysteine as an adjunctive therapy to risperidone for treatment of irritability in autism: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of efficacy and safety.

    OBJECTIVES: According to the proposed interference of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) with pathophysiologic processes of autistic disorders (ADs), we aimed to assess the effectiveness and safety of NAC as an adjunct to risperidone in the treatment of ADs in a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial.

    METHODS: The participants were referred outpatients between 4 and 12 years of age with the diagnosis of ADs and a score of more than 12 on Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Community (ABC-C) Irritability subscale score. The participants were randomized into 2 groups. One group received risperidone plus NAC, and the other group received risperidone plus placebo. The dose of risperidone was titrated between 1 and 2.0 mg/d, and the dose of NAC was 600 to 900 mg/d. The main outcome was mean decrease in the ABC-C irritability subscale score from baseline at 5 and 10 weeks. Changes in other subscales were considered as secondary outcome measures.

    RESULTS: Forty patients completed the 10-week trial. Baseline characteristics including age, sex and body weight, as well as baseline scores in 5 subscales did not demonstrate statistically significant difference between the 2 groups. Repeated-measures analysis showed significant effect for time × treatment interaction in irritability (P = 0.01) and hyperactivity/noncompliance (P = 0.02) subscales. By week 10, the NAC group showed significantly more reduction in irritability (P = 0.02) and hyperactivity/noncompliance (P = 0.01) subscales scores.

    CONCLUSIONS: N-acetylcysteine can be considered as an adjuvant therapy for ADs with beneficial therapeutic outcomes.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated 11/22/16:


    J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 21.

    Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder.

    BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a frequent developmental disorder characterized by pervasive deficits in social interaction, impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication, and stereotyped patterns of interests and activities. It has been previously reported that there is vitamin D deficiency in autistic children; however, there is a lack of randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation in ASD children.

    METHODS: This study is a double-blinded, randomized clinical trial (RCT) that was conducted on 109 children with ASD (85 boys and 24 girls; aged 3-10 years). The aim of this study was to assess the effects of vitamin D supplementation on the core symptoms of autism in children. ASD patients were randomized to receive vitamin D3 or placebo for 4 months. The serum levels of 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25 (OH)D) were measured at the beginning and at the end of the study. The autism severity and social maturity of the children were assessed by the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC), Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), and the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC).

    TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: UMIN-CTR Study Design: trial number: UMIN000020281.

    RESULTS: Supplementation of vitamin D was well tolerated by the ASD children. The daily doses used in the therapy group was 300 IU vitamin D3/kg/day, not to exceed 5,000 IU/day. The autism symptoms of the children improved significantly, following 4-month vitamin D3 supplementation, but not in the placebo group. This study demonstrates the efficacy and tolerability of high doses of vitamin D3 in children with ASD.

    CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first double-blinded RCT proving the efficacy of vitamin D3 in ASD patients. Depending on the parameters measured in the study, oral vitamin D supplementation may safely improve signs and symptoms of ASD and could be recommended for children with ASD. At this stage, this study is a single RCT with a small number of patients, and a great deal of additional wide-scale studies are needed to critically validate the efficacy of vitamin D in ASD.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 1/19/18:


    Int J Yoga. 2018 Jan-Apr;11(1):59-65.

    Effects of Multimodal Mandala Yoga on Social and Emotional Skills for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploratory Study.

    Context: Youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrates impairment in the ability to socially and emotionally relate to others that can limit participation in groups, interaction with peers, and building successful life relationships.

    Aims: The aim of this exploratory study was to examine the effects of a novel multimodal Mandala yoga program on social and emotional skills for youth with ASD.

    Subjects and Methods: Five males with ASD attended 1 h yoga sessions, twice a week for 4 weeks. Multimodal Mandala yoga comprised 26 circular partner/group poses, color and tracing sheets, rhythmic chanting, yoga cards, and games. Treatment and Research Institute for ASD Social Skills Assessment (TSSA) scores were collected before and after the eight yoga sessions. The Modified Facial Mood Scale (MFMS) was used to observe mood changes before and after each yoga class. Paired sample t-tests were conducted on TSSA and MFMS scores to compare social and emotional differences post the 4-week camp. Narrative field notes were documented after each of the eight yoga sessions.

    Results: A significant improvement from pre- to post-test was found in overall TSSA (t(4) = -5.744, P = 0.005) and on respondent to initiation (t(4) = -3.726, P = 0.020), initiating interaction (t(4) = -8.5, P = 0.039), and affective understanding and perspective taking subscales (t(4) = -5.171 P = 0.007). Youth’s MFMS scores increased from 80% to 100% at the end of eight yoga sessions demonstrating a pleasant or positive mood. Thematic analysis of the narrative notes identified three key factors associated with the yoga experience: (a) enhanced mood and emotional expression, (b) increased empathy toward others, and (c) improved teamwork skills.

    Conclusion: This multimodal Mandala yoga training has implication for developing positive social and emotional skills for youth with ASD.

    Be well!


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