The Digest - Feb 17

A recap of some of the interesting studies and articles I read on the flight back to Dubai:  

  • I read this interesting article about what humans going into space for long-term exploration (such as those planned for 2022) will face as it relates to isolation. True isolation is something very few of us ever experience, if at all: true isolation is the feeling of being completely alone, thousands of miles from civilization, for an extended period of time, and with no means of contacting any other human being. It's a difficult concept to fathom, but I came across this fascinating article by Felicity Aston in which she describes the emotions she went through when faced with "true isolation" during her solo 2-month journey across Antarctica. ^


  • I often harp on the importance of training your core, not just for performance but also for injury prevention and general health. In my mind, the core includes all muscles which keep your stable, from the bottom of your foot to your neck. Historically, and for thousands of years, those muscles remained active and"trained themselves" throughout a normal day. Today, with the average person spending in excess of 8-10hrs per day in a seated position, the core doesn't get trained nearly as much as it should (even "ab" exercises in the gym don't train the core adequately). I bring this up again simply as a reminder, and also because I came across this study by the Swiss Army which revealed that "trunk muscle strength" is a much better predictor of injury, attrition and military ability than the standard "sit-up" test. ^


  • Subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) is the fat deposited under your skin, and which is commonly measured by skin-fold calipers and most bioimpedance machines (the ones at the gym). Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT) is the fat deposited around your organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc), and as this study reveals, can really only be accurately measured by MRI. Why am I bringing this up? Because while SAT affects "how you look", VAT affects "how long you live". People with little SAT (i.e. who look thin and trim) may have high VAT (a phenomenon called Metabolically Obese Normal Weight). It affects a large number of people worldwide, especially in the Asian sub-continent where you seepeople who are "thin" dying from heart attacks and Type II Diabetes complications… in other words, being "naturally thin" doesn't protect people from heart attacks or stroke. Being naturally thin doesn't mean you can get away with eating whatever you want because you have a "high metabolism". ^


  • I've never been a fan of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) especially for menopausal women: while they may alleviate symptoms, they've been shown in multiple studies over the years to significantly increase a wide range of health risks and even disrupt women's own hormone production. This new study at the University of Oxford revealed a significant increase in cancer risk in women undergoing hormone replacement therapy. There are many safer alternatives being put forward by functional medicine practitioners these days. ^


  • Many athletes, especially those involved in strength training and competition, "pre-load" their workouts with Nitric Oxide or other "pre-workout" supplements.This study by Florida State University revealed that a 4-week pre-loading phase using VPX Sport NO Shotgun "did not affect perceived soreness, muscle damage, strength, flexibility, or jump performance compared to an isocaloric placebo in trained male runners…" ^


  • I'm not a fan of soy for a wide variety of health reasons, including the fact that it'spro-inflammatory and contains hormone mimickers (molecules which mimic your hormones and disrupt your own hormone production). However many consume soy products as a "protein supplement". This new study from the University of Auckland provides further (enzymatic) evidence of why "soy protein ingestion results in lower muscle protein synthesis after exercise compared with whey". ^


  • Early age menopause has been consistently on the rise in recent years, with many women experience menopause at an average age far younger than previous generations. Stress is generally associated with early menopause, but stress can take different forms, and one of which is environmental: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) have been shown to negatively affect human health in a wide variety of ways: these are chemicals which seep into your body from common household products or the "environment" and disrupt your hormonal homeostasis. This new study by the University of Missouri identified the15 most common EDCs linked to triggering early menopause from the following groups: PCBs (now banned), pesticides (another reason to eat organic), dioxin/furan (industrial by-product which commonly seeps into agricultural grounds and animal feed, eat organic!), Phthalates (present in most plastics, coating of supplements, personal care products, detergents, children's toys, packaging, etc). Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray. By the way, most of these have also been linked to various forms of cancer as well. ^