Weekly Blog: August 15, 2011

The Power of Food

By R.J. Anderson

From healing spices to the impact of improved diet on professional athletes, T&C.com takes a look at recent nutrition studies and headlines affecting athletics.

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There may be a new hope for tendinitis sufferers. Researchers from the University of Nottingham and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich have shown that a derivative of a common culinary spice found in Indian curries may provide relief in the treatment of tendinitis. In a paper due to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the researchers found curcumin, which also gives the spice turmeric its trademark bright yellow coloring, can be used to suppress biological mechanisms that spark inflammation in tendons.

"Our research is not suggesting that curry, turmeric or curcumin are cures for inflammatory conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis," Dr. Ali Mobasheri of the University's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who co-led the research, told Science Daily. "However, we believe that it could offer scientists an important new lead in the treatment of these painful conditions through nutrition. Further research into curcumin, and chemically-modified versions of it, should be the subject of future investigations and complementary therapies aimed at reducing the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the only drugs currently available for the treatment of tendinitis and various forms of arthritis."

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Meanwhile, new research from England's Nottingham Medical School suggests that the levels of carnitine, which plays an essential role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, is lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters. Researchers also found that vegetarians excreted less carnitine than non-vegetarians and had lower concentrations of it in their blood and muscles, as well as lower levels of the transporter messenger and protein expressions.

"The results of this study confirm Lonza's position that vegetarians can benefit by adding supplemental Carnipure L-Carnitine to their diets ... " said Kevin Owen, Nafta head of technical marketing and scientific affairs at Lonza, which supplied its Carnipure L-carnitine for the study (L-carnitine is the biologically active stereoisomer of carnitine). "A good supply is important for active people providing the energy they need. After heavy exercise, vegetarians may get a functional L-Carnitine deficiency, meaning that there is a lack of available, free L-Carnitine in the cell."

Owen added that vegetarians may take supplements of L-carnitine or opt for vegetarian foods fortified with the nutrient, like soy burgers or soy hot dogs. Carnitine is found mainly in foods of animal origin, and over 95 percent of the human body's total carnitine is stored in skeleton muscle tissue.

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A nice story from the Arizona Republic on food making a comeback as the ultimate performance enhancer and the importance of sports dieticians are to helping athletes make solid food choices. The article talks to Grant Hill of the Phoenix Suns about how adjustments to his diet has lengthened his career and improved his on-court performance.

"The one thing that is not emphasized enough in the world of sports is diet," Suns forward Grant Hill told the Republic. "Maybe it's a bad analogy, but you don't want to put regular gas in a high-performance car. But for some reason, nutrition has never been a priority."

The article features viewpoints from T&C contributor Dave Ellis, President of the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association. "There are three big benefits," said Dave Ellis. "There's less down time. People don't get ill as often or as easily. Those missed man days are huge setbacks to teams.

"The next big thing is energy," Ellis added. "Athletes who don't know what they're doing with their diets can come to work and put in a mediocre day. Physically and mentally, their coach-ability is down. Too many of those days, and you lose."


R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at
Training & Conditioning.

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