194 Bananas in 3 Weeks, Same Liver + Lower Body Fat | Nigella Sativa Boosts Testosterone & Fertility | Sugar Dampens Caffeine Rush + Thyroid & Body Composition

Three weeks of +1,000 kcal carb overfeeding (approx. 194 bananas!): Does it supersize your liver fat? This and more in today's installment of On Short Notice
As promised in yesterday's first part of the weekly written news-round up aka On Short Notice, we won't waste any time on lengthy introductions (the "short" items themselves are already long enough ;-) and get right down to business! For today this means that we are going to take a peak at the latest studies on
  • the reality of thyroid hormone metabolism
  • the dampening effects of sugar on high dose caffeine
  • the sugary truth about the reversibility of early NAFLD
  • the pro-testosterone, pro-fertility effect of black cumin
as well as the latest data on US drug sales and an upcoming blogpost discussing "training for anabolism" - enjoy!
Just in case you feel that's not enough, I suggest you listen to this week's installment of the SuppVersity Science News Roundup (click here to download) on Super Human Radio, as well!
  • Figure 1: The more energy reserves a metabolically healthy and euthyroid person has and the more he or she eats (though this was not quantified we can probably assume that the heavier participant also consumed more energy on a daily basis), the less energy efficient is his metabolism going to be - the margin is yet not unlimited, eat 40% more and get fat regardless of what type of food those calories come from (generated based on Roef. 2012)
    Levels of thyroid hormone associated with greater body weight and body fatness I know this sounds surprising, but int he end the latest results from the Department of Endocrinology at the Ghent University Hospital in Belgium only confirm what I keep preaching here at the SuppVersity over and over again: The main reason that the calories in vs. calories out calculations don't work is that the "calories out" part of the equation depends on both the "calories in" and the "calories stored", as well as the "accessibility of the calories stored" parameters, and [...].
    Put differently, the reason that the 941 generally healthy and euthyroid (=normal thyroid function) male siblings (25-45 yrs, median BMI 24.6) with the highest body weights and the greatest body fat mass also had the highest levels of leptin, free and total T3 & T4, as well as thyroid binding globulin is simple: In the presence of ample energy supply their bodies will treat their resources more wasteful, than those of the skinny or wanna-be-skinny, ah... I mean "ripped" guys who undereat and overtrain.
    The opposite is the case for the more muscular study participants, whose greater lean mass and muscle cross-sectional area were associated with lower (F)T3, (F)T4 and TBG levels (p ≤0.0003). They simply cannot afford (you could also say that they don't need) to ramp up their already higher fatty acid oxidation and overall energy expenditure, even further. Lastly, there was a clear-cut association with higher free T3 levels and lower insulin sensitivity, and - I had almost forgotten to mention that - "[n]o associations between TSH and body composition or metabolic parameters were seen."
    I suggest you print the finding about TSH levels and ask your doctor if he judges the speed of his car by looking at the gaspedal (TSH is more or less the gas-pedal that will tell your thyroid how hard it's got to work, but won't tell you how much of active thyroid hormone it is capable of producing) rather than the speedometer, when he is too cheap to order a full thyroid panel the next time you ask him to do so ;-)
  • Figure 2: While the initial caffeine spike is blunted by the ingestion of a sugar-laden breakfast, the area under the curve (bottom, right) a similar, yet less pronounced effect and both, the reduction of the initial spike in serum caffeine, as well as difference of the total influx over time are dose dependent (Skinner. 2012)
    Sugary breakfast reduces early rise in serum caffeine levels by up to 90% That's at least the result of a recent study by Tina Skinner and her colleagues from the University of Queensland in Down-Under. The high carbohydrate meal, in this case a toast with jam, cordial, and an energy bar ("Vanilla Crisp" PowerBar Performance Bar), the scientists served their 14 healthy active male participants (age 24.8 ± 3.7 yrs, body mass 74.6 ± 8.5 kg, height 184.0 ± 8.5 cm; mean ± SD) who had reported fasted, well hydrated and 48h after they had consumed their last caffeinated beverage at the lab (Skinner. 2012). It does not really take a rocket scientist to see that the absence of the initial onslaught of caffeine as a result of the pre-ingestion of the sugary "breakfast" will probably diminish, if not totally blunt the stimulating effects of coffee.
    In view of the fact that this effect was particularly pronounced during the "high dose" (=9mg/kg body weight; ~540-900mg; equiv. to 3-4.5 large cups of strong coffee), it is yet probably of greater importance for stim junkies and athletes looking for the pre-workout edge before they hit the gym, than for the average white color worker who needs to get his daily buzz, if he does not want to miss his bus (or train ;-)
  • Liver-fattening effects of carbohydrate overfeeding are genetically dispositioned, but the recently published data from a study that was conducted by scientists from the Minerva Foundation Institute for Medical Research, the University of Helsinki and other Finnish research facilities shows that an appropriate diet can reduce increased liver and body fat levels, reduce body fat levels and improve lipid and glucose metabolism, regardless of the genotype (PNPLA3-148II = disadvantaged vs. PNPLA3-148MM) of the subjects.
    But let's take on thing after the other. After some standard baseline tests, the 16 subjects (mean age 54 year; BMI at baseline 30.6kg/m²; 5 men, 11 women) were "overfed" with a high carbohydrate diet from the "every low-carbers worst nightmare" category:
    Figure 3: Change in body composition from due to 3-week overfeeding (blue), 6 months dieting (compared to post overfeeding - red; Sevastianova. 2012)
    "The subjects were instructed to continue their normal diet and in addition to consume an extra 1000 kcal/d with 98% of energy from carbohydrates. The extra diet consisted of candy (Oy Karl Fazer Ab), pineapple juice (Tuko Logistics Oy), sugar-sweetened soft drinks (Oy Hartwall Ab), and/or carbohydrate-loading drink (Squeezy Sports Nutrition GmbH) and was provided free of charge from the research unit to the study participants." (Sevastianova. 2012)
    As you will probably have expected the highly insulinogenic, additional 21,000kcal from glucose and fructose (~5250g or 194 bananas, medium size to be precise ;-) did leave "their marks" on the waist and hips of the subjects, but probably not to the extend you may have anticipated (see figure 1). Even more suprisingly, the short term overfeeding did not deteriorate any of the blood glucose parameters (all changes had p-values way beyond what would be statistcally significant, the glucose clearance over 2h did even improve! - statistically likewise non-significant, though).
    Most importantly, however, the body composition, triglyceride levels (-6%), HDL (+11%) and all the important body composition measures (see figure 3) improved and the liver fat returned to baseline in the course of the 6-months "diet period", which consisted of - mark my words - nothing but making a switch to a diet with more vegetables, less simple sugars, white flour, and alcoholic drinks and dietary counseling wrt to food types and appropriate (=moderate) portion sizes. No extreme low carbing, no drastic calorie reductions, just healthy whole foods - regardless of "your bad genes"!
  • Nigella sativa, aka black cumin, jacks up testosterone and makes tired sperm get a move on Being well aware that you cannot go without a weekly post about at least one natural testbooster,  you will probably be relieved to hear that Rahmatollah Parandin, Namdar Yousofvand and Rostam Ghorbani have published a paper in the latest issue of the Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine in which they describe the fertility and testosterone boosting effects of 200 and 400mg/kg of an alcoholic extract from Nigella sativa seeds (Parandin. 2012).
    *Reminder: Regardless of whether we are dealing with rodents or humans, a "testosterone booster" that works in sick animals or humans does not necessarily work in healthy ones, as well. It is much more likely, that the effects on testosterone are secondary to the effect of the effect the herb or whatever else has on the overall health of the lab animals / participants, so that someone who is not sick in the first place won't see any (or at best minimal) improvements.
    The seed extract that was administered to healthy*  male Wistar rats 60 days contained a mix of various active ingredients
    • 30-48% Thymoquinone,
    • 7-15% P-cymene, 
    • 6-12% Carvacrol, 
    • 2-7% 4-terpineol, 
    • 1-4% T-anethole, and 
    • 1-8% Sesquiterpene,
    of which Prandin et al. state that Thymogquinone is currently considered to be be the pharmacologically active constituent of N. sativa (cf. Padhye. 2008) - keep that in mind, when you cannot resist giving this stuff a try ;-)
    Now, the ~23% increase in testosterone is certainly nothing like the "140% increase in testosterone" certain supplement companies state one of the testers had (without any peer-reviewed data whatsoever, by the way), but as mediocre as it may seem, it was achieved from a healthy baseline level and it went hand in hand with improvements in all sperm parameters, of which I picked the sperm count and plotted it together with the latest human data from the University Department of Growth and Reproduction at the Rigshospitalet of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in the second graph in figure 3 (Jørgensen. 2012).
    Figure 4: Yeah, Nigella boosts testosterone by 20% (left), but there are other things in life... what about it's effect on sperm count (right) for example? The increase the rodents in the high-dose group experients would catapult the infertile Danish men almost into the normal zone (based on Jørgensen. 2012 & Parandin. 2012)
    Now this is certainly by no means scientific evidence and I am not suggesting that it will help solve potential fertility problems (not just because sperm count is only one out of a dozen parameters, but also because we don't know whether what works in healthy rodents will work in sick people; see red box above for the other side of the coin). What I found quite important though, is to give you an idea of what those abstract numbers could eventually mean. Contrary to the 20% increase in testosterone which will hardly help you to build significantly more muscle mass, a similar bump in sperm count (and other fertility parameters) could very well make the difference between fertile and infertile!
    So, at whichever Internet source you may be able to dig up a respective extract and regardless of whether you want it for fertility or futility, ah... I mean "testosterone boosting" issues, make sure that it has a high Thymoquinone content and that you have enough of it to hit the human dose equivalent (click here to learn how to calculate HEDs) of 65mg/kg or 4-5g per day!
Figure 6: US Drug sales 2010 & 2011 as posted on the SuppVersity Facebook wall earlier today (based on Lindsay. 2012).
The End - for today, at least. I guess I won't take too much away, if I tell you that there was actually another item scheduled for today... a post about "High or Low, Long or Short, Heavy or Light what are the Best Set Numbers and Rest Times,Weights and Rep Schemes, When You're Training for Anabolism" - and while this is "anabolism" in the old and actually sort of outdated sense of more testosterone and less cortisol, I'm pretty confident that the muscle-heads among you would have liked it, if it did not get longer and longer, so that I decided to polish it up a little and put you on the rack for another two days or so ;-)

So, in case that's driving you crazy, you may want to consider asking your Dr. for a script for an antipsychotic, currently the #5 on the 2011 (=the latest) US drug sale ranking (see figure 6; remember the data is $-based not script-based), I posted along with a handful of other interesting news-items earlier today on the SuppVersity Facebook wall.

  • Jørgensen N, Joensen UN, Jensen TK, Jensen MB, Almstrup K, Olesen IA, Juul A, Andersson AM, Carlsen E, Petersen JH, Toppari J, Skakkebæk NE. Human semen quality in the new millennium: a prospective cross-sectional population-based study of 4867 men. BMJ Open. 2012 Jul 2;2(4).
  • Lindsley CW. The top prescription drugs of 2011 in the United States: antipsychotics and antidepressants once again lead CNS therapeutics. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2012 Aug 15;3(8):630-1.
  • Roef G, Lapauw BM, Goemaere S, Zmierczak HG, Toye K, Kaufman JM, Taes Y. Body composition and metabolic parameters are associated with variation in thyroid hormone levels among euthyroid young men. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012 Sep 6.
  • Padhye S, Banerjee S, Ahmad A. Mohammad R. Sarkar FH. From here to eternity- the secret of Pharaohs: Therapeutic potential of black cumin seeds and beyond. Cancer Ther 2008; 6: 495-510
  • Parandin R, Yousofvand N, Ghorbani R. The enhancing effects of alcoholic extract of Nigella sativa seed on fertility potential, plasma gonadotropins and testosterone in male rats. Iran J Reprod Med. July 2012; 10(4): 355-362.
  • Sevastianova K, Santos A, Kotronen A, Hakkarainen A, Makkonen J, Silander K, Peltonen M, Romeo S, Lundbom J, Lundbom N, Olkkonen VM, Gylling H, Fielding BA, Rissanen A, Yki-Järvinen H. Effect of short-term carbohydrate overfeeding and long-term weight loss on liver fat in overweight humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep 5.
  • Skinner TL, Jenkins DG, Folling J, Leveritt MD, Coombes JS, Taaffe DR. Influence of carbohydrate on serum caffeine concentrations following caffeine ingestion. J Sci Med Sport. 2012 Sep 7.
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