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Some interesting new studies from an endocrinology meeting

As this is being written, the 91st annual meeting of the Endocrine society is underway in Washington, D.C. For those of you not familiar with the term “endocrine,” this refers to hormones, and physicians who specialize in the study of hormones are endocrinologists. Among the many studies presented at this meeting of hormone doctors, a few show particular significance for those engaged in bodybuilding and physical activity. For example, one study compared eating the usual 55% carbohydrate diet to a lower intake of carbs, 43% to be exact. The lower carb diet contained more fat (39% versus 27%)  than the conventional higher carb diet. The protein intake was identical on both diets, comprising 18% of total calories. While the study authors suggest that his level of protein intake helps to increase feeling of satiety, in truth, most low-carb diets contain over twice that level of protein. Consuming higher protein intakes while on low-carb diets helps to preserve lean tissue, as well as decrease appetite. The results after four weeks showed that eating a lower carb diet led to lower insulin and lower blood glucose levels after a meal. More importantly, those eating the lower carb intake reported far greater feelings of fullness, which would translate into greater dieting compliance.

Another study at the meeting presented evidence that a form of the protein, ghrelin, may offer potent anticatabolic effects in muscle. Ghrelin is a potent appetite stimulant, especially for dietary fat intake, but it also promotes growth hormone release. Italian researchers found that a form of ghrelin called des-acyl ghrelin, when provided to mice potently protected the rodents against induced muscle atrophy. How it does this isn’t yet known, but  the effect doesn’t work through stimulating other anabolic hormones, such as IGF-1 or testosterone.

Myostatin is a protein that works to inhibit muscle growth. Animals lacking genes for myostatin show huge muscles and a lack of bodyfat, an ideal scenario for bodybuilding purposes. A study presented at the meeting had mice genetically altered to produce a high rate of atherosclerosis breed with other mice also altered to lack the myostatin gene. After 10 generations, they wound up with mice that had both characteristics. Control mice in the study had the genetic predisposition to atherosclerosis, but lacked the myostatin deletion gene. All the mice consumed a high fat diet for 12 weeks. Compared with the control mice, the specially-bred mice showed much less bodyfat, 30% lower fasting blood glucose levels, and 80% lower fasting insulin levels. They also showed 50% lower levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol, the type most linked to cardiovascular disease, along with 30-60% lower levels of total cholesterol and  blood triglycerides. This is a healthy cardiovascular profile that would prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease. One of the study authors commented that he doubts that the supplemental myostatin blockers sold to bodybuilders would have any effect at all.

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