Guide to Activated Charcoal

ActivatedCharcoal

 

Black is .. well the new black – when it comes to health and beauty, that is! Activated charcoal, has been making an appearance everywhere from juice bars to the cosmetic counter. If you’ve seen it around and want to learn more about what the hype is about, we’ve got you covered with this guide.

 

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal isn’t the same as the charcoal you use in your braai. It’s typically made from carbonized wood or coconut shells that have been oxidized at an exceptionally high temperature. Heating charcoal causes it to expand and become more porous.

In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, activated charcoal has been used to treat accidental poisonings and drug overdoses. Why? Because of its ability to adsorb toxins and poisons. Because activated charcoal is so porous it can adsorb a considerable amount, when administered properly, in appropriate doses.

You might be thinking you just saw a typo, but I did in fact mean adsorb (with a d, not a b). Adsorb means “to bind to” rather than “to absorb.”  Activated charcoal binds to toxins to help prevent them from being absorbed from your stomach into your body.

 

Where Will You Find Activated Charcoal?

Outside of the Emergency Room, you’ll find activated charcoal at your local health store— often sold in capsules, powder, or as a liquid. You may also see it popping up in juice bars where it’s being touted for helping to neutralize gas and as a way to “detox.”

Cosmetically, activated charcoal is being used in soaps, cleansers and face masks that are sold as products that help to soak up excess oils and draw out impurities from your skin. It’s also used in some natural toothpastes to help brighten your pearly whites.

Activated charcoal can also be found in water filtration systems—for you or your fishy friends.

 

Charcoal, Huh, What is it Good For?  Absolutely… everything? That might not necessarily be true.

Some natural health practitioners believe that small doses (under 500mg) of activated charcoal are effective at promoting overall well-being and improving the appearance of hair, skin and nails. (Large doses should be administered only by a health care practitioner in a supervised setting).

I believe in the power of natural remedies and while I don’t use it every day, I do use activated charcoal (mixed with French green clay) as a homemade face mask. From time to time, I also use it as a digestive aid mixed with lemon juice, maple syrup and bentonite clay and as a part of my teeth cleaning regimen.

That being said, there’s no evidence that activated charcoal should be used outside of clinical applications for poison and alcohol overdoses. Will it detox accidental poison when administered properly? Yes.  Does it adsorb excess oil from the skin when used topically? Maybe. Will it rid you of last night’s pizza? Absolutely not.

 

Is It for You?

Even though you’re seeing it everywhere that doesn’t mean activated charcoal is meant to be taken as a daily supplement—or that it’s right for you.

Consult with your doctor or health care practitioner about appropriate use of activated charcoal. If you are already using activated charcoal, please follow the guidelines and adhere to the contraindications listed on your bottle, especially if you are taking medications (because activated charcoal can interfere with the absorption and metabolism of other medications and supplements you are taking).

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Foods to Support Testosterone Production

TestosteroneMisoSoup

June is Men’s Health Month, so let’s talk about an important hormone that’s on the top of many men’s minds: testosterone. Commonly known as the male sex hormone (though women produce small amounts as well), testosterone is responsible for sperm production, sex drive, bone mass, muscle size and strength and more—all things you (and the women in your life) care about. Levels of circulating testosterone in your blood begin to fall after the age of 30.

Low serum testosterone levels are correlated with a lower desire for sex, diminished erectile quality, fatigue, mood imbalances, decreased muscular mass and increased abdominal fat.

Aging is rough and reduced testosterone levels just make it rougher. A trip to the doctor’s office will reveal if you have low testosterone and there are several treatment options available if your levels fall critically low.

The best thing you can do to be proactive about your testosterone level is to keep up your healthy lifestyle. Getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and reducing stress all help to support testosterone levels. Beyond making sure that you eating enough calories, macro and micronutrients to support your level of activity, adding more of the foods below to your diet can also help to support healthy testosterone levels. (And no, ladies, eating these foods below you won’t start sprouting chest hair or dropping several vocal octaves—your body won’t use these foods to produce testosterone because of your hormonal chemistry).

 

Zinc-rich Foods

Zinc is an essential mineral found in every single cell of your body. It stimulates the activity of over 100 enzymes and is essential for testosterone production. In the standard American diet, red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc. Phytates from whole grains and legumes reduce zinc absorption, so if you’re eating a mostly plant-based diet, zinc is a mineral to make sure you’re getting enough of.1 Adult men should aim to get 11mg of zinc a day. If you eat an exclusively plant-based diet you may require as much as 16mg a day.2

 

Plant-based sources of zinc3:

  • Wheat germ (3.5mg per ¼ cup)
  • Sesame seeds (2mg per ounce)
  • Pumpkin seeds (2mg per ¼ cup)
  • Crimini mushrooms (1mg per cup)
  • Miso (1mg per 2 Tbsp)
  • Maple syrup (1mg per ¼ cup)
  • Chickpeas (1.3mg per ½ cup)
  • Almonds (1 mg per ounce)

 

Soaking beans, grains and seeds in water for several hours before cooking them as well as sprouting can increase the bio-availability of zinc in plant-based foods.2 For a zinc-rich meal make Mushroom Miso Soup, followed by a protein-rich salad stacked with spinach, shelled hemp seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, followed by a dessert of raw chocolate.

 

Vitamin-D Rich Foods

Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is correlated with low testosterone levels in the blood.4 Your body can naturally produce vitamin D by getting 5 to 10 minutes a day of direct sunlight.

 

Plant-based sources of vitamin D:

  • White, kidney and black beans (sources of both vitamin D and zinc)
  • UV-exposed Mushrooms
  • Supplements
  • Healthy Fats e.g. Omegas

 

Cutting fat from your diet can decrease your testosterone levels, since hormones require dietary fat to be produced.5,6 So don’t skimp on your healthy fats!

 

Plant-based sources of healthy fats:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (chia seeds, sacha inchi seeds, hemp seeds in particular)
  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Coconut oil

 

Eating these foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, catching enough ZZZs and managing stress levels is important keep up healthy testosterone levels as you age. If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, book an appointment at your doctor’s office and keep prioritizing your health!

 

How are you making your health better during Men’s Health Month?

 

References :

  1. Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. (2008). Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. Saunders Elsevier. 12th ed.
  2. National Institute for Health. (2013). Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Zinc. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/food
  4. Lee DM (2012). Association of hypogonadism with vitamin D status: the European Male Ageing Study. European Journal of Endocrinology. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://eje-online.org/content/166/1/77.full.pdf+html
  5. Wang C (2005). Low-fat high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 90(6):3550-9
  6. Dorgan JF (1996). Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 64(6):850-5. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/64/6/850.long

 

Top 5 Fitness Myths

top5FitnessMyths

 

There are a handful of fitness myths that have been around forever, regardless of how much scientific research there is to refute them. I believe that human nature is partly to blame – people tend to believe that which supports their own personal biases. The unfortunate downside to subscribing to these myths is that they can prevent you from being the getting the most from your fitness routine. Here are five of the top offenders:

 

Myth 1: People Who Exercise Frequently Can Eat Whatever They Want

Oh, if this were only true. One need to simply take a look around the gym to realize this is not the case. Fitness clubs are filled with people who exercise almost every day, yet they just can’t seem to lose weight. It comes down to simple math: It can be easier to keep 500 calories out of your mouth than it is to burn it off. Sure, exercise is a big part of the equation, but it is by no means a license to eat whatever you want.

 

Myth 2: If I Stop Working Out, My Muscle Will Turn to Fat

This myth, often the result of people witnessing professional athletes lose their physiques and gain weight after retiring from their respective sports, is easily refuted by basic physiology. A fat cell is a fat cell and a muscle cell is a muscle cell. One cannot turn into the other. The reason these athletes gain weight is the same as for everyone else: decreased activity and increased caloric intake

This is what it takes a 68 Kg person to burn approximately 100 calories :

Workouts:

Biking: 23 minutes of casual cycling

Cardio dance class: 15 minutes

Elliptical: 8 minutes

Jumping rope: 9 minutes at a moderate intensity

Lifting weights, vigorously: 15 minutes

Pilates: 24 minutes

Rowing machine: 13 minutes

Running stairs: 6 minutes

Running: 9 minutes of running at a 6 mph pace

Swimming: 15 minutes moderate intensity

Walking stairs: 11 minutes

Walking: 20 minutes of walking at a 3 mph pace

Water aerobics: 23 minutes

Yoga: 20 minutes

Zumba: 11 minutes

 

Sports and Leisure Activities:

Basketball, shooting hoops: 20 minutes

Bowling: 30 minutes

Dancing around living room: 20 minutes

Darts: 35 minutes

Golfing, carrying clubs: 15 minutes

Ice skating, moderate: 18 minutes

Kickball: 13 minutes

Mini golf or driving range: 30 minutes

Playing catch with a football: 35 minutes

Playing Frisbee: 30 minutes

Playing soccer, casual: 13 minutes

Skiing,downhill: 10 minutes

Softball or baseball: 18 minutes

Tennis (doubles): 21 minutes

Tennis (singles): 15 minutes

Treading water, moderate effort: 23 minutes

Volleyball, recreational: 26 minutes

Water skiing: 15 minutes

 

Yard Work:

Mowing the lawn: 20 minutes

Painting house: 18 minutes

Raking leaves: 23 minutes

Shovelling snow: 15 minutes

Washing the car: 20 minutes

Weeding the garden: 18 minutes

Everyday Activities:

Carrying an infant: 24 minutes

Cleaning, moderate effort: 26 minutes

Cooking: 34 minutes

Doing dishes: 40 minutes

Mopping the floor: 20 minutes

Playing with children: 23 minutes

Pushing a stroller: 35 minutes

Rearranging furniture: 14 minutes

Shopping: 38 minutes

Sweeping: 23 minutes

Walking the dog, 26 minutes

 

Myth 3: To See Results You Must Exercise Continuously For an Hour

Out of these 5 myths, this one is probably the most detrimental to the masses. The number one reason people cite for failing to exercise is lack of time. Many believe that, if you don’t allocate thirty to sixty minutes to work out, then it’s not worth doing at all.  Research suggests that three ten-minute bouts of exercise have the same benefits as one thirty-minute session. There is even some new research into the value of “micro-workouts,” bouts of exercise as short as sixty seconds, may help to support cardiovascular health.

 

Myth 4: Lifting Weights Will Make You Too Bulky

Many athletes avoided strength training for decades, believing that increased muscle size would inhibit movement and lead to decreased performance. The conventional wisdom was that lifting weights would be detrimental and building muscle was to be avoided. Many people still believe this to be the case. Today professional athletes in many different sports engage in some form of strength training to both support performance as well as help decrease the chance of injury. Many also add stretching into their routines to help maintain flexibility.

 

Myth 5: Women Should Lift Light Weights to Avoid Getting “Bulky”

It has been my experience that the fear of building “bulk” is one of the primary reasons far too many women either avoid lifting weights completely, or, if they do strength train, choose weights that are too light. Both need to change. The “overload principle” of strength training posits that to “change” a muscle you must adequately challenge it. Thus, choosing weights that are too light will not elicit meaningful adaptations. Lifting appropriately challenging weights, however, may confer a number of benefits including increased bone density, increased functional strength and an increase in muscle.

 

So, seek out information from reputable sources, ones who support their positions with peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Can Arachidonic Acid (ARA) work as a Bodybuilding supplement?

Effects of Arachidonic Acid Supplementation on Acute Anabolic Signaling and Chronic Functional Performance and Body Composition Adaptations

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the superstars of the essential fatty acid world, and are found primarily in fish and seafood. A tremendous amount of research has investigated the impact of these fatty acids on health and exercise performance. They have been previously discussed in ERD #12 for their potential beneficial role in increasing strength and muscle protein synthesis.

Arachidonic1

Less researched is arachidonic acid (ARA, depicted in Figure 1), the omega-6 cousin to EPA that the body synthesizes from linoleic acid, the plant-based omega-6 found in nuts, seeds, and their oils. It can also be obtained in the diet from meat and eggs, albeit in small amounts.

Despite its lesser-known presence in the nutrition world, ARA is an incredibly important and prominent fatty acid in cell membranes. It is found at a level comparable to that of DHA in neural membranes, including in the brain, where it comprises 10-12% of total fatty acids. In skeletal muscle, ARA has been found to make up 15-17% of total fatty acids.

The body relies on ARA for inflammation, a normal and necessary immune response to repair damaged tissue. Specifically, ARA is the precursor to various leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes, collectively known as eicosanoids. While the majority of ARA-derived eicosanoids act to promote inflammation, some also act to resolve it (i.e., are anti-inflammatory).

Scientists hypothesize that ARA plays a central role in the adaptive response to strength training. After all, strength training causes an acute inflammatory response that’s necessary to build bigger muscles. For instance, two prostaglandins produced from ARA are PGE2 and PGF2α. Test tube studies performed with skeletal muscle fibers indicate that PGE2 increases protein breakdown while PGF2α stimulates protein synthesis. Other test tube studies have also found PGF2α to increaseskeletal muscle fiber growth.

In support of these test tube findings, research in young adults has shown that consuming non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) after exercise blunts the normal increase in muscle protein synthesis through suppressing the normal increase in PGF2α. In contrast, administration of NSAIDs to older adults has been shown to enhance strength and size gains in response to resistance training by suppressing other forms of inflammation in addition to the beneficial PGF2α. Regardless of outcome, this research does clearly indicate a role of ARA-derived prostaglandins in the adaptive response to exercise.

Arachidonic2

If blunting ARA-derived prostaglandin formation attenuates adaptations to resistance training in young adults, then perhaps the reverse is also true (as shown in Figure 2)—that increasing prostaglandin formation enhances adaptations to resistance training. Supplementation with ARAincreases the ARA content of serum phospholipids. This increased availability is associated with increased prostaglandin formation. Accordingly, the current study was designed to examine whether ARA supplementation affected body composition and muscle function in strength-training individuals. This study also used rats to evaluate the effect of ARA supplementation on anabolic signaling mechanisms.

Arachidonic acid is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid synthesized in the body from linoleic acid and consumed in the diet from meat and eggs. The body relies on ARA to promote and help resolve inflammation, and some research suggests that blunting ARA-derived inflammation may attenuate skeletal muscle adaptation to resistance training in young adults. This study sought to test the opposite—whether ARA supplementation would enhance adaptations to resistance training.

Who and what was studied?

Arachidonic3

This study included two phases. Phase 1 is shown in Figure 3. It constituted an eight-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 30 healthy, young males with a minimum of two years of strength training experience. Each participant was randomly assigned to consume two soft gels containing 1.5 grams total of ARA or placebo (corn oil). Instructions were given to maintain usual dietary habits and consume the soft gels about 45 minutes before training sessions, or whenever convenient on non-training days. Compliance via pill count was above 99% in both groups.

The supervised strength training program was performed three times per week on alternating days. Monday was lower body (leg press, leg extension, leg curls, and hyperextensions), Wednesday was back and biceps (bent over rows, lat pulldown, and barbell curls), and Friday was chest, shoulders, and triceps (bench press, military press, skull crushers, and barbell shrugs). Each exercise was performed for four sets of eight to 12 repetitions, and the weight was increased when a given weight could be lifted 8-12 times for all four sets with proper form. Participants were allowed to rest for two minutes between sets and three minutes between exercises. Repetitions were performed with a 3:1 concentric to eccentric tempo.

Before and about 48 hours after the last training session, participants were assessed for body composition via DXA scan, muscle thickness of the vastus lateralis (a muscle of the quadriceps), muscle strength (one rep-max bench press and leg press), and muscle power (cycle ergometer Wingate test).

Phase 2 of this study was an eight-day experiment involving rats who were fed once daily with either 1.2 milliliters of tap water or 44 milligrams of ARA dissolved in 1 milliliter of tap water. This dose of ARA is roughly equal to that used in phase 1 based on species conversion calculations. After eight days, the rats were subjected to electrical stimulation of one of their hind legs in order to mimic an acute strength-training stimulus (the other leg served as a control). Therefore, there were four groups: exercise or no exercise, plus either ARA or placebo. Anabolic and inflammatory signaling of the hind leg muscle tissue was analyzed three hours following exercise stimulation.

Partial funding for this study came from Molecular Nutrition, a company that holds the patent for and currently markets the ARA supplement used in the study, called X-Factor Advanced.

Resistance-trained males underwent an eight-week resistance training program while supplementing 1.5 grams per day of ARA or corn oil placebo. Body composition, muscle strength, and muscle power were assessed before and after the intervention. Additionally, rats were fed either plain water or ARA dissolved in water for eight days, and then had their right hind leg subjected to electrical stimulation to mimic strength training. After that, muscle tissue from both legs was analyzed for anabolic and inflammatory signals.

What were the findings?

Lean body mass significantly increased in the ARA group only (+1.6 kilograms; 3%), with almost no change in the placebo group. Similarly, while both groups significantly increased muscle thickness compared to baseline, the increase was marginally greater in the ARA group (8% vs. 4% increase; p=0.08). Neither group showed a significant change or difference from one another in fat mass.

Leg press 1RM was significantly increased in both groups without significant difference between them. In contrast, bench press 1RM (+8.7%), Wingate peak power (+12.7%), and average peak power (+13.2%) significantly increased in the ARA group only, leading to a significant difference in performance compared to the placebo group, which experienced no significant changes. When bench press and leg press 1RMs were combined to represent total-body strength, only the ARA group showed a significant increase.

The rat experiment revealed numerous significant changes from baseline in anabolic and catabolic signaling pathways, muscle protein synthesis, inflammatory gene expression, and muscle tissue gene expression. However, only two of these were significantly different between the ARA and control groups. The first was a significantly greater reduction in AMPK activation when ARA was combined with exercise as compared to the other three groups. The second was a significantly greater activation of GSK-3β (glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta) in the non-exercised leg ARA group, as well as a significantly greater reduction in GSK-3β after exercise.

ARA supplementation led to significantly greater increases in lean body mass, bench press 1RM, and power output than placebo. The rat experiment showed that ARA led to a significant reduction in AMPK and GSK-3β activation when ARA was combined with exercise as compared to the other groups. Other markers of anabolism and catabolism were not affected by ARA treatment, although they were affected by exercise.

What does the study really tell us?

The primary findings of this study were that eight weeks of ARA supplementation in combination with a resistance training program lead to significantly greater increases in lean body mass, bench press strength, and muscle power output than placebo in young, strength-trained men.

These findings are somewhat in contrast to previous research. The only other study to date investigating the effect of ARA supplementation on resistance-trained young men found that consuming one gram per day of ARA significantly increased Wingate peak power output by about 13% compared to placebo, but had no effect on changes in body composition or strength. There are important methodological differences between this and the current study that may explain why no effect on strength and body composition was observed.

Both studies recruited young men with strength training experience and had them undergo a resistance training program while supplementing ARA or placebo for about eight weeks. However, the dose in the current study was 1.5 grams per day compared to one gram per day in the previous research. Additionally, the previous study used a split-body linear periodization routine performed four days per week, which meant that each major muscle group was being trained more frequently (twice vs. once per week) with greater volume (six vs. four total weekly sets). Finally, the previous study used food logs to ensure that the participants were consuming at least two grams per kilogram bodyweight of protein daily, whereas the current study did not control for or monitor dietary intake.

It is difficult to conclude that ARA has beneficial effects on body composition and strength in light of the conflicting evidence between these two studies. What was the rationale for the resistance training program used in this study, as opposed to the previous study? And why would this study not ensure adequate protein intake, or at the very least monitor dietary intake? Although the fact that Molecular Nutrition funded both studies doesn’t at all invalidate the results, it’s possible for a follow-up study to have a slightly different study design and thus have increased chances of finding a significant. The first study didn’t show as promising results, and unfortunately it isn’t known which study characteristics might affect the eventual outcomes.

Of note, the authors of the current study note in their discussion that “the training in the current study was intentionally stagnated (e.g. non-periodized regimen) in order to induce a training plateau in those strength-trained males.” Additionally, it’s widely agreed upon that a protein intake of 1.2-2.2 g/kg bodyweight is necessary to allow adaptation to training for individuals at or above their energy needs (Phillips et al; Tarnopolsky; Phillips & Van Loon; ISSN & ACSM position stands). However, requirements may increase to 2-3 g/kg to offset the loss of muscle mass when the athlete is in a caloric deficit. Without controlling for dietary intake, we have no idea what the protein requirements to optimize muscle growth were for the participants, and the possibility remains that dietary differences in both protein and calories had an effect on the increased LBM with ARA supplementation.

Future research will be needed to investigate if 1.5 grams per day of ARA also has benefit when the participants are known to be consuming adequate protein and undergoing a periodized resistance training program designed to promote muscle growth.

Muscle power output appeared to benefit from ARA supplementation in the current and previous research. The mechanism for this finding remains to be determined. It is possible that ARA modulates neuromuscular signaling through its incorporation into cell membranes, similar to EPA and DHA as discussed in ERD #12. At least one study supports the notion that ARA increases neurotransmitter firing from nerve cells. More research investigating why ARA supplementation increases muscle power output is warranted.

The rat experiment found largely null findings with regard to the effects of ARA supplementation on anabolic and catabolic signaling pathways, muscle protein synthesis, inflammatory gene expression, and muscle tissue gene expression. Additionally, the previously mentioned trial found no significant effect of ARA supplementation on muscle protein content or gene expression, supporting the findings of the current study.

Nonetheless, a significant baseline elevation was observed in GSK-3β with ARA supplementation. GSK-3β was originally named for its ability to inhibit glycogen synthesis and regulate glucose metabolism, but recent evidence suggests it also plays an important role in cell signaling, cell division and growth, and cell death. How ARA increased GSK-3β remains to be determined, as do the short- and long-term consequences of such an elevation. Notably, some evidence has found elevated GSK-3β in the skeletal muscle of persons with type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Similarly, selective inhibition of GSK-3β improves insulin action and glucose uptake into skeletal muscle tissue.

ARA supplementation also significantly reduced AMPK activation when combined with exercise. It is well-known that AMPK activates in response to a deprivation of cellular energy, leading to, among other things, a reduction in protein synthesis and inhibition of the anabolic mTOR pathway. Again, the implications of this finding remain unknown, although it is plausible that this played a role in the significantly greater lean body mass observed with ARA supplementation. Still, there were no significant differences in other anabolic signaling pathways.

This study tells us that young men with resistance training experience may benefit from ARA supplementation through increased lean body mass, muscular strength, and muscular power. However, with only a single other study conducted to date investigating these outcomes with regard to ARA supplementation, drawing firm conclusions is difficult, especially because the other study found a benefit for muscular power only, and not body composition or muscular strength.

The big picture

It is well established that an imbalanced intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is associatedwith many chronic diseases that have an underlying inflammatory component, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. It has been estimated that humans evolved eating a diet containing a 4:1 to 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This ratio is at least 15:1 in the modern Western diet. In light of this, one could speculate how long-term supplementation of ARA may impact health outside of potential changes in body composition. According to the USDA Food Database, the richest sourceof ARA is boiled beef kidney, which provides 0.37 grams per 100 grams of kidney. To obtain the 1.5-gram dose of used in the study under review, one would need to eat about 400 grams or 14 ounces of boiled kidney daily. The next richest source is braised beef brisket. Yet, at 0.06 grams per 100 grams of brisket, one would need to eat 2500 grams or 5.5 pounds daily. It appears safe to say that the supplemental dose of ARA used in the current study is not realistically obtainable through the diet, something that has been touched on before when discussing animal-based trans-fat research in ERD Issue 14 and when discussing gluten research in ERD Issue 18.

As mentioned previously, it has been shown that supplementation with ARA increases the ARA content of serum phospholipids and that this increased availability is associated with increased prostaglandin formation. Therefore, it stands to reason that long-term supplementation might increase inflammation in the body. Whether this would beneficial or detrimental over the long term remains to be determined.

Other health effects are also unpredictable. On the one hand, supplementing with ARA could potentially have a negative effect on the brain through increasing the production of beta-amyloid, which is one of the key events that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, elderly Japanese adults (56+ years) have lower concentrations of ARA in red blood cell membranes than younger adults (in their 20s) after controlling for EPA and DHA content. And supplementation with 240 milligrams of ARA daily for one month among elderly people has demonstrated efficacy forimproving cognitive function while also increasing red blood cell membrane ARA content. Interestingly, elderly people who supplemented with 740 milligrams of ARA did not have increasedARA metabolites, meaning that it did not increase levels of inflammation.

The dose of ARA used in the current study is well above what anyone could reasonably expect to consume naturally in the diet. Evidence linking inflammatory diseases to an increased omega-6 to omega-3 ratio raises concern over the long-term effects of ARA supplementation. However, limited evidence has shown supplementation of ARA to benefit the cognition of elderly individuals despite a hypothetical plausibility for increasing Alzheimer’s disease risk. Clearly, long-term research on different health outcomes is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does regular exercise interact with ARA metabolism?

Some evidence shows that the ARA content of skeletal muscle fiber membranes is similar between endurance-trained and untrained individuals, but the trained individuals have more DHA and a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Additionally, both endurance training and resistance training do not appear to significantly alter the ARA content of skeletal muscle fiber membranes, but do significantly increase DHA content.

These findings give rise to more questions than they do answers. Why does exercise increase the proportion of DHA? Is this the result of increased usage of ARA, which is needed to stimulate inflammation and begin the recovery process? Or is this a protective adaptation that increases the ability to resolve inflammation through the anti-inflammatory metabolites of DHA?

What should I know?

ARA is a fatty acid that plays a central role in both promoting and helping to resolve inflammation. The current study showed that young men supplementing with 1.5 grams of ARA daily for eight weeks experienced significantly increased lean body mass, upper-body strength, and lower-body power output when combined with non-periodized resistance training program. However, the only other study investigating similar outcomes showed no effect on body composition or strength, but did support the findings of increased power output. Accordingly, it is difficult to draw conclusions until more research is conducted.

Thrive On Your Own Terms as an Athlete

Thrive-On-Your-Own-Terms

When you take 20 athletes of equal ability and give half of them mental training, those with mental training will consistently out-perform the others. Some people may be more talented than others, but if you don’t apply yourself and take responsibility for your own progress, you may fail or give up because you just don’t enjoy what you’re doing.

Empower yourself to take control of your mind, overcome fear and doubt and realize your true potential.

There are parts of your training that you are bound not to love. Rather than gruelling through a painful session, change your perspective to thrive on your own terms as an athlete.

Make it more enjoyable – add music, chose nice areas to train in so, if you’re on a run, stop, look around, admire the view.

Alternate the exercise you do enjoy with those you don’t enjoy as much. You can gain aerobic exercise in a number of ways, so if you don’t really like running, take a spinning class or cycle outdoors. If you don’t enjoy the treadmill mix treadmill days with the elliptical trainer or row.

When you feel you have a say in what you do, you have better emotional buy-in and will be more inclined to stick with it. If you try and force yourself to stick with a plan that you really don’t enjoy, how likely are you to stay with it?

Don’t make training even harder than it is. The goal is to get fit .. but, also to enjoy the process.