Selenium & Skin Cancer. ALA, Inflammation & Muscular Adaptations. Eccentric Training & Oxidative Muscle Fibers. Tip of the Day: Have Plenty & Regular Sex For Your Brain

Certain "behaviors" during spring break can give your brain a neuro-anabolic break.
13% and 15% that's the number of Canadian University Students who claim to do what it takes to keep their brain volume at least stable over the spring break. 13% of the female and 15% of the male student and female students, respectively, that's also the SuppVersity Figure of the Week and at the same time the relative number of students who openly declared that they were about / had previously engaged in "casual sexual activity" on the upcoming / past spring break trip to Daytona Beach, Florida (Maticka-Tyndale. 1998)

Who said our youth did not know what's good for them?

Since the pertinent study preceded the Glasper study addressed in the current installment of on short notice by 15 years, these results just go to show you that we know instinctively what's necessary to counter the effects of the alcohol over spring-break ;-)

Selenium and skin cancer (Cassidy. 2013) -- I guess you will remember the debate that arose after the data from the selenium + vitamin E large scale trial hit the mainstream media news. Hell broke lose and people did (unfortunately) not only start questioning the usefulness, but also the safety of all vitamin supplements - and that quite frantically (cf. "Ask Dr. Andro, Are Vitamin Pills Bad for Me?").

The results of a recently published study by scientists from the Huntsmen Cancer Institute (no that's not "Paleo" ;-) in Salt Lake city could shed at least some new insights into the very mixed results we are seeing in the studies on vitamins and/or minerals with anti-oxidant prowess:
"Taking A Multivitamin is a Question of Faith", above all (read more)
"We studied the effects of Se in vitro on UV-induced oxidative stress in melanocytes, and on apoptosis and cell cycle progression in melanoma cells. In vivo, we used the HGF transgenic mouse model of UV-induced melanoma to demonstrate that topical treatment with l-selenomethionine results in a significant delay in the time required for UV-induced melanoma development, but also increases the rate of growth of those tumors once they appear. In a second mouse model, we found that oral administration of high dose methylseleninic acid significantly decreases the size of human melanoma xenografts." (Cassidy. 2013)
In other words, in as much as they are able to postpone / prevent the occurrence of cancer by protecting the healthy cells, their protective effect is not tissue specific and will - once the bad guys have appeared on the scene protect the cancer from your bodies own, as well as the pharmacological inflammatory anti-cancer machinery.

Alpha lipoic acid does not hamper exercise induced intramuscular ROS production & DNA damage (Fogarty. 2013) -- I know this does not really sound like good news to some of you, but you will be surprised that even the authors of the study at hand feel that it is.

While this is not directly related to the intramitochondrial ROS production, I still reccomend, you read my previous article on the purported "nutrient partitioning effects" of ALA before you go and buy a year's supply. (learn more)
The scientists from the University of Ulster recruited 12 of this in the world of scientific paper "rare specimen" of healthy male study participants (age 28 + 10 years, stature 177 +/-12 cm and body mass 81 +/-15 kg) and had them take either 2x1,000mg of regular alpha lipoic acid twice a day or placebo.
Wouldn't it be better to use R-ALA? I am telling you this now for the 1124th time: There is no reliable evidence for the superiority of R-ALA over regular ALA, the majority of the studies showing benefits of ALA supplementation has been conducted with the 50% r-enantiomer and 50% s-enantiomer version and if you have ever heard of the hormesis hypothesis (=low (eu-)stress induces beneficial adaptation) you would rather ask, "isn't it likely that taking R-ALA would not have yielded the same beneficial effects?"
The caps were to be taken in addition to the regular diet, the young men were following and were supposed to build up a protective anti-oxidant belt against the exercise induced oxidative assault of 100 isolated and continuous maximal knee extensions in the non-dominant leg after 14 days of supplementation.
"[The ALA preload] increase[d] plasma antioxidant status and attenuates lipid peroxidation and DNA damage following maximal, eccentric muscle contractions[, but] had no protective effect on muscle mitochondrial DNA damage."
Now this is actually awesome news, because it shows that ALA blunts the systemic oxidative damage only, while leaving the local intra-muscular oxidative damage of which the researchers rightly point out that "a substantial body of literature documents" the beneficial effects of ROS on "cell adaptation associated with exercise training" (Fogarty. 2013). In other words: It's unlikely ALA will hamper your gains.

Eccentric training for bigger stronger muscles? (Hody. 2013) -- At first sight the conclusion of a soon-to-be-published study from the University of Liège in Belgium, which says:
"Our data suggest that the eccentrically biased contractions in mice induced specific adaptations in protein expression and muscle fiber composition which may reflect a more oxidative muscle phenotype." (Hody. 2013)
appears to suggest that the longstanding wisdom that eccentric reps are (given you get adequate rest) profoundly anabolic was inaccurate. If you use your knowledge about the enormous degree of type I fiber hypertrophy in bodybuilders (cf. fig.1 here), however, the information that eccentric training causes a shift in the muscular phenotype towards a predominantly oxidative slow-twitch fiber make-up, would at least the part about the muscles becoming "bigger" will remain intact.
Figure 1: Effect of five training sessions of variable duration (75-135 min / increasing from session to session) with 48h breaks between sessions on the muscle fiber make-up of mice (Hody. 2013)
Now, don't be afraid that your eccentric biceps curls could eventually make you weak. There are some "on the other hands" attached to the study results. The first and most important one of these is the mere fact that the largest increase occurred in type IIa fibers which are also often referred to as "oxidative" muscle fibers, but are actually more of an "jack-of-all-traits" fiber type, which happen to do most of the work in the BB-relevant 6-15 rep range. Secondly, the training downhill-running protocol the adult C57BL6 mice were exposed to. Downhill-running, may be eccentric, but it is also an endurance and no strength training regimen, and will thus have a tendency to promote the

No pain inflammatory signaling, no gain? In the long(er) run this could in fact be true (learn more). And what would be more fitting to induce the former if not eccentric training?
That being said, it is only logical that whatever growth / genera adaptation mechanism a given exercise regimen may be triggering, the trained muscle group and in this case also the trained fiber-type will benefit the most. Moreover, scientists and laymen tend have a very different understanding of a "shift in fiber type composition" by which the former don't imply loss of any fibers, while the latter misunderstand the ratios for absolute values and fool themselves to believe that results like the ones of the study at hand were about "losing precious type II" (=fast twitch, glycolytic, "lift heavy, but short") muscle fibers. What they are really about, is yet the accentuated ability of the highly stressing eccentric reps to induce more than just a "balooning up" of the muscles and induce profound structural adaptations, the importance of which I have highlighted only a couple of days ago in the context of my post on satellite cells (read up on that one).

Only regular sexual intercourse keeps your brain healthy and in shape (Glasper. 2013) -- No, I am not going to start this comment with a reference to certain old men who met a couple of days ago in Rome. I will rather stick to the relevant facts and inform you that you better make sure you get laid this weekend. Why? Easy, a recent study by scientists from the University of Maryland and Princton University shows quite impressively that our body notices that we are useless once we give up reproducing. So useless, in fact, that he even does not bother to repair our brains any longer:
In a past installment of On Short Notice you have already learned what the female orgasm could be for, remember? Which brings up the question will the women benefit, as well? Likely.
"Sexual experience enhanced the number of newly generated neurons in the dentate gyrus with both single and repeated exposures in middle-aged rats. Following continuous long-term exposure to sexual experience, cognitive function was improved. How-ever, when a prolonged withdrawal period was introduced between the final mating experience and behavioral testing, the improvements in cognitive function were lost despite the presence of more new neurons." (Glasper. 2013)
You want a bottom line? Well, let's make it fast, I feel I got to do something for my brain, now! Have sex, have it regular and have plenty of it (the rodents did it at least once a day) and when the new pope calls, tell him it's just for your brain health ;-)
Note: Although I deliberately wrote this part of On Short Notice, I hope that you are all old enough to know that getting drunk and having unprotected sexual intercourse with the next best person you can find "spring break style" is an absolute no-go. Not just for Catholics, but for any sane human being who has not already drowned his last neuron in alcohol.

That's it for today, and I guess with the Glasper study in the back of your head, I don't have to tell you that there are other things than hanging out in front of the computer, TV or even the gym that can be done on the weekend, right? Enjoy!

  • Cassidy PB, Fain HD, Cassidy JP, Tran SM, Moos PJ, Boucher KM, Gerads R, Florell SR, Grossman D, Leachman SA. Selenium for the prevention of cutaneous melanoma. Nutrients. 2013 Mar 7;5(3):725-49.
  • Fogarty MC, Devito G, Hughes CM, Burke G, Brown JC, McEneny J, Brown D, McClean C, Davison GW. Effects of α-Lipoic Acid on mtDNA Damage following Isolated Muscle Contractions. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Mar 6.
  • Gasper ER, Gould E. Sexual Experience Restores Age-Related Decline in Adult Neurogenesis
    and Hippocampal Function. Hippocampus. 2013 [Epub ahead of print]
  • Hody S, Lacrosse Z, Leprince P, Collodoro M, Croisier JL, Rogister B. Effects of Eccentrically and Concentrically Biased Training on Mouse Muscle Phenotype. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Feb 22. 
  • Maticka-Tyndale E, Herold ES, Mewhinney D. Casual sex on spring break: Intentions and behaviors of canadian students. Journal of Sex Research. 1998; 35:3.
Disclaimer:The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. It is by no means intended as professional medical advice. Do not use any of the agents or freely available dietary supplements mentioned on this website without further consultation with your medical practitioner.