Exercise linked to “younger” DNA

By The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post

As if gray hair, brittle bones and wrinkles weren’t bad enough, scientists say that as you age the very DNA in your trillions of cells starts to fray, unravel and disintegrate.

Now there may be something you can do to slow the inevitable: exercise.

A study published Monday hints that fitness buffs appear to have “younger” DNA than the chronically sedentary. The finding could help scientists understand the effects of exercise and aging at a molecular level.

Previous research has shown that being physically active reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases, potentially extending longevity.

The study’s authors examined just the ends of DNA strands. Called telomeres, these act something like the plastic caps on shoelaces, preventing the DNA in chromosomes from unraveling.

Previous research has shown that older people have shorter ends than younger folks. Indeed, biologists say they shrink every time a cell divides.

How does this lead to overall decrepitude? Eventually it stops your cells from dividing and replenishing themselves, said Emmanuel Skordalakes, a researcher at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

“When the telomeres become short, then you start cutting into actual chromosomes where there are genes essential for our body,” he said.

To prevent the fraying DNA in all those aging cells from seeding malignant tumors, Skordalakes said, the body turns them dormant. “Your body shuts down more and more cells every day and you become old.”  More here.

Too Cold to Exercise? Try Another Excuse

Have you ever wondered if it’s too cold to go out and exercise? I know I have. Well, that was before I read this.

“The big question was, ‘Is it ever too cold?’” Dr. Castellani said. “The answer is no. People go to the poles, people are out there when it’s minus-50 degrees, people do incredible things, and safely. There really isn’t a point where you can tell people it is not safe anymore.”

“Dr. Timothy Noakes, an exercise physiologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who was a reviewer of that position paper, even supervised a swimmer, Lewis Gordon Pugh, who swam 1 km or (.62 miles) in 19 minutes at the North Pole last July, in water that was between 29 and 32 degrees.”

The problem with exercising in the cold, exercise physiologists say, is that people may be hobbled by myths that lead them to overdress or to stop moving, risky things to do.

Some worry that cold air will injure their lungs or elicit asthma symptoms. Or they are convinced that they are more susceptible to injury when it is cold and that they have to move more slowly — forget about sprinting or running at a fast clip.

But lungs are not damaged by cold, said Kenneth W. Rundell, the director of respiratory research and the human physiology laboratory at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa. No matter how cold the air is, by the time it reaches your lungs, it is body temperature, he explained. More here.

If you must buy drugs, avoid CVS & Walgreens…

Just in from the Freakonomics blog.

Here’s just one of several generic drugs available, and the ridiculous price differences from stores too many of us trust(ed).  Costco seems to be the only one that’s not gouging its customers:

Generic Zocor (40mg #90)
$11.66 (Costco)
$164.99 (CVS, Houston)
$180.99 (CVS, L.A.)
$194.19 (Walgreens, Houston)
$221.89 (Walgreens, N.Y.)
$194.19 (Walgreens, L.A.)

More disgusting examples here.

Madonna gets new work-out digs – next door

To keep looking good, Madonna – famous for her punishing daily workouts – bought the house next door and turned it into a gym.

Despite having paid £6 million ($11.9 mill USD) for the building, she still has to walk 20 yards on the public street to get to her personal gym. Which she does daily, in plain workout clothes.

“Her exercise routine is so regular that crowds have started to gather on the quiet road, waiting for her inevitable appearance.”

Madonna walking to gymMadonna house and gym

Drew McClellan: Four things I’m doing…

Marketing blogger Drew McClellan’s gotten on the health band wagon….

What are you doing health, weight or fitness?

“Four things…

  1. I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of soda I am drinking
  2. I am drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day
  3. I’m working out on the nordic track (cross country ski machine) 3-4 times a week
  4. I am trying to get more sleep every night.”

What got you started doing it?

“I was tired of not having any energy and being tired all of the time. I’m in my mid 40s and decided if I didn’t make some new habits now, it was just going to get tougher.”

What keeps you doing it?

“I hung a picture of a man walking his daughter down the aisle where I see it all the time. I want to be healthy and here when my daughter’s ready to do the same.”

Good motivation, John Jantsch has it too. So sad that Heath Ledger will not be able to do that for his little girl.

Om Malik: Don’t make the mistakes I made…

Om Malik 1.18.2008Om this past Friday, January 18.

“I hope you don’t make the mistakes I made — unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and vices such as smoking. With few lifestyle changes, heart related problems can be prevented. Do yourself a favor — go to the doctor and get yourself checked.” See here.

Michael Pollan: Does your pantry contain food in a package?

“Really seldom. If you look in my pantry, you won’t find that much processed stuff. Maybe some canned soups and tuna fish. I don’t have a lot of low-fat products. I much prefer to eat less of a full-fat product. You wont’ find skim milk. We’re lucky. I live in Berkeley with a farmers’ market four blocks away, and it’s open 50 weeks a year. I have the luxury of being able to buy very fresh, good food. I have a weakness for bread. A good white baguette — I have a weakness for that.” -Michael Pollan interviewed in the NY Times and author, Omnivore’s Dilemma

In his piece, Unhappy meals, Pollan’s #1 recommendations is:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Then he makes some surprising suggestions. Here’s one:

1. Don’t eat food that makes health claims.

“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”

He adds,

“Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket…These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims.”

2. Get out of the supermarket. Shop at the local farmer’s market.

“Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food. “

3. Pay more, eat less.

“The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care….I don’t know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.”

See here for his other thoughts on how to get off the junk food train we’ve all gotten onto, without intending to.