Monthly Archives: March 2015

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about a superfit 80-y-old, exercise and cancer, Health Canada endorsing pseudoscience, skinny rice, the myth of high-protein diets, and more.

Case Study: How to be 80-year-old with the VO2max of 35-year-old

80-year-old Norwegian performing his strength training program. (from Fig 1., Case Reports in Medicine Volume 2015 (2015)).
80-year-old Norwegian performing his strength training program. (from Fig 1., Case Reports in Medicine
Volume 2015 (2015)).

Norwegian researchers describe the physiology of an 80-year-old man with a very high VO2 max (50 mL·kg−1·min−1), similar to most 35-year-olds. They attribute the man’s exceptional fitness to a lifelong history of physical activity, that included endurance training and regular strength training. Though case studies don’t have the power of research investigating many individuals to draw conclusions, research does support lifestyle choices as critical to maintaining vitality, health, and fitness  (endurance exercise and strength training see key), and a large body of research shows that exercise keeps us young. (Case Reports in Medicine Volume 2015 (2015)).

How Exercise May Aid Cancer Treatment. A new study suggests that aerobic exercise during cancer treatment may make chemotherapy more efficient and slow the growth of breast tumors.  Researchers conducted a series of experiments in mice predisposed to breast cancer: mice  who ran on a treadmill were more responsive to chemotherapy and had smaller tumors than sedentary mice. The researchers believe that the increased blood flow to tissues during exercise is in part responsible for the benefits observed. (Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, reporting on  J Natl Cancer Inst., March 2015).

Rice Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories.  The method causes chemical changes in the rice, that turn the “digestible” starch (quickly digested) into “resistant” starch, which is generally healthier and less caloric (it “resists” digestion, so it isn’t fully broken down or absorbed, acting a bit like soluble fiber).  They cooked rice normally, but when the water was boiling added fat (coconut oil – 3% of the weight of the rice – although other fats would work). Once the rice is ready, it must cool in the refrigerator for 12 hours for the starch to change.  (Washington Post, reporting on meeting of the 249th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society).

Although the authors infer that this could be a food-based solution to the obesity epidemic, I think it’s better to view the research as a fascinating chemical discovery.   Better to focus on ways to get people to consume healthful foods in the right portions, or if you’re interested in resistant starch, consume more beans/legumes, starchy fruits and vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, bananas), and whole grains.

Health Canada is complicit in peddling pseudoscience.   Health Canada’s approval of natural health products with no science to back up efficacy or health claims deceives consumers and puts people’s health at risk.  As an example, CBC Marketplace developed a bogus homeopathic fever remedy, put in the paperwork, and the product was approved by Health Canada. Another product approved by Health Canada are “nosodes,” marketed as alternatives to vaccines, with no proven efficacy (National Post).

Fiber-Famished Gut Microbes Linked to Poor Health. While probiotics are popular and much, eating fiber seems to be most important for gut health.  (Scientific American)

Sheila_CTV Live1Check me out on CTV Morning Live.  I appeared on CTV Morning Live this week discussing recovery for runners, in view of the Ottawa Race Weekend in May. I prepared yogurt berry parfaits and 3- ingredient granola (all that in 4 minutes!).  I chose the berry parfaits because it’s a simple dish that is quick to make: and timing of food intake IS important for optimal recovery.  The recipe features  healthful carbs to replenish muscle glycogen (oats/granola and berries),  protein to help muscle repair (Greek yogurt), and almonds for the healthful fats and other benefits. Read more about eating for optimal performance here.

The Fitness Guru of the Trucking Industry.   How someone in one of the most unhealthiest professions creatively gets his exercise. (The Atlantic)

Myth of High-Protein Diets. Stanford’s Dean Ornish‘s rebuttal against the “carbs are bad” trend. Ornish looks at the research behind whole-foods and plant-based diet to prevent disease. (New York Times).


Rice picture by FASTILY (Own work) [CC%20BY-SA 3.0}, via Wikimedia Commons

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Ski Nationals Wrap-Up

The week of racing at Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay is over, and it’s back to reality! Overall the event was a great success. Plenty of snow and cool temperatures helped the Lappe Nordic trails remain in amazing shape for the week of racing.  The number of committed athletes, coaches, volunteers and clubs was impressive, and bodes well for the future of skiing in Canada.  And Nakkertok Nordic (where I help coach) won its 6th consecutive club championship title.

Personally the races went well: I was pretty consistent throughout the event and finished 17th in the aggregate open women’s division.  The final 30 km skate race was a good one for myself and my XC Ottawa teammates. The conditions were fast, and some of tricky downhills a bit more challenging with some ice patches. The only disappointment of the day was that the Lappe kitchen had run out of Finnish pancakes!

Here are some pictures of the 30 km from the talented crew of Ski Nationals photographers.

Open Women - 30 km Mass Start
Open Women – 30 km Mass Start – the “Leader” bib is two-time Olympian and Nakkertok athlete Perianne Jones – she’s retiring this year, so this was her final race, capping off an amazing career (Martin Kaiser Photo).
First corner after the mass start, followed by fast downhill first kilometer - that was fun!
Corner after the mass start, followed by fast downhill for the first kilometer – that was fun!  Our XC Ottawa women skied parts of the race with American skiers from the St Scholastica  Nordic team (blue stripes on legs) – Bib # 275 is Anita Kirvesniemi, daughter of Finnish ski legends Marja-Liisa and Harri Kirvesniemi (she won the sprint qualifier event, but Perrianne Jones was the eventual winner in the heats). (Anna Buske photo)
My teammate Steffan grabbing some sports drink. The men raced 50km, so race nutrition was critical.
My teammate Steffan grabbing some sports drink (eload). The men raced 50km, so race nutrition was critical. (Anna Buske Photo)
mass start corner Sheila busc (640x427)
Another turn – the Lappe Course is full of turns and corners – many opportunities to gain (or lose!) time. (Anna Buske photo)
The finishing stretch!
The finishing stretch! (Anna Buske photo)
The teams behind the athletes at Ski Nationals is incredible. My team had incredible wax support from Craig Storey and Nic Clifford. Here Nakkertok impresses getting over 50 pairs of skis ready.
The teams behind the athletes at Ski Nationals is incredible. XC Ottawa had amazing wax support from XC Ottawa alumni Craig Storey, Carleton University coach Nic Clifford, with help from John Langstone. Here Nakkertok impresses getting over 50 pairs of skis ready to race. (Ian Austen photo)
Some happy Nakkertok Juvenile girls that I help coach
Some happy Nakkertok Juvenile girls that I help coach (Anna Buske photo)

Usually Ski Nationals ends the year of racing, but not this season! I’ll be heading to Val Morin/Far Hills for the Quebec Cup final this weekend, racing another team sprint with my teammate Ingrid, and a 10 km classic race.


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This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about cooking shows making people fat, why heavier athletes don’t need more carbs during activity, how fonts influence health behavior, a questionable diet soda and weight study, limiting food waste with ugly but tasty produce, and more.

cookingshowsDo TV Cooking Shows Make Us Fat? 

Researchers from Cornell’s Food and Brand lab investigated how women obtained information on new recipes, and asked a series of questions about their cooking habits, their weight, and height.  Researchers found that women who obtained recipes and food information from TV cooking shows and those viewers who cooked from scratch had a higher BMI [body mass index] that those who didn’t watch Food TV.  These findings suggest that it’s a good idea for cooks to look beyond TV for recipes.  “Because many cooking shows normalize overconsumption and gratification, it comes as no surprise that viewers’ culinary habits are negatively influenced,” says study author Pope. The authors encourage promoting healthy foods on cooking shows to positively influence the weight status of viewers.  (NPR reporting on Appetite, March 2015).

Drinking Diet Soda Linked to a Widening Waistline with Age.  A new study published this week showed that older people who drink diet soda daily increased their waist circumference compared to their peers who drank other beverages. The study controlled for factors like physical activity, diabetes and smoking. Authors speculate that people who drink diet soda may be more likely to overeat in other areas. (Scientific American reporting on Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, March 17). The study was criticized by Yoni Freedhoff on his Weighty Matters blog here, because it didn’t control for diet as a whole. The issue might not with the diet soda, but drinking diet beverages might just identify people who eat more caloric foods overall.

A Badly Flawed New York Times Story Trumpets Cell Phone Health Dangers.  A story in the New York Times this week on the dangers surrounding cellphones and new wearable gadgets was poor science reporting in many ways. At least editors changed the original headline “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?” You’ll find another good look at the poor science reporting by Andrew Maynard of the University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center here, and another excellent piece by Nick Stockton of Wired Magazine here. I think Stockton nails the main issue with this:

“This article is about science, and how conspiracy-miners like Bilton misrepresent science to manufacture support for controversial ideas. . . Bilton’s argument follows a familiar formula: Make a provocative claim, back it up by cherry-picking from the scientific literature, throw in commentary from an “expert” or two, and season throughout with attacks on less-than-complete scientific data.”

Food Safety: researchers find towels to be a top source of cross contamination in the kitchen.  Kansas University researchers observed areas of weakness when it comes to consumers’ kitchen behavior. It’s a good idea to wash cloth towels frequently! Other tips include good hand washing and not using sponges (see article for a full list).  (Medical Health Express, reporting on Food Protection Trends, January 2015).

Study finds being near greened vacant lots lowers heart rates. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania explored the connection between city environments and stress, using heart rate as a marker of stress. Study participants walked through two randomly selected Philadelphia neighborhoods on a prescribed path.  One neightbourhood had vacant lots with a “greening treatment,” while the other neighborhood had neglected vacant lots. The “green” lots elicited lower heart rates, suggesting less stress. (American Journal of Public Health)

Healthy diet based on UK dietary guidelines reduces risk of cardiovascular disease by a third in over-40s. A study published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that following the UK dietary guidelines (compared to the normal British Diet) could significantly reduce heart attack and stroke risk.  The UK guidelines diet involved eating more fruits and vegetables, oily fish once/wk,  replacing refined grains with whole grains, swapping high-fat dairy products and meats for low-fat alternatives, limiting salt and sugar intake, and replacing cakes and cookies with fruit and nuts. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2015).

MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH) may significantly protect against Alzheimer’s disease More research showing that what’s good for the heart, is also good for the brain. (Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, March, 2015).  Find out more about the DASH and Mediterranean diets here.

The power for fonts: the right font can help sway health behavior (clear & simple=good; ditch comic sans & complex). (The Atlantic)

Do heavier athletes need more carbs during activity?  Although larger athletes need more calories and carbs in general, during activity, weight doesn’t matter: recommendations are the same for a 50 kg (110 pound) female athlete and a 90 kg (198 lbs) athlete. This is because the limiting factor is absorption in the intestine, and you can only use what you are able to absorb. For activity > 2 hours, carb intake of 60-90 grams/hour is often recommended.(, reporting on Jeukendrup Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2010 Jul; 13(4):452-457)


Coke a healthy snack? How company gets its message out.  Company pays dietitians and others to endorse the product. (Medical Express)UglyAndTasty

Don’t insist on perfect looking produce! We’re throwing away tons of fruits & veggies for not being pretty enough. (Washington Post). In Canada, Loblaws is starting an ugly fruit line called Naturally Imperfect – read more about it here.  Second Life (@iMoches) is a campaign started by students in Canada to get “uglies” into retailers (read more about it here). You’ll find more information on ending food waste here.

Why ‘BPA-Free’ May Be Meaningless. Chemicals that replace BPA (often Bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF)) may have nearly the exact impact on the human body (hormone disruption) as BPA.  Using less plastic (BPA free or not) is generally a good idea anyways. To minimize exposure, drink from steel/glass containers, don’t microwave anything in plastic, and be aware that BPA substitutes may still contain unhealthy chemicals (Time, reporting on Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2015).

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5 Races in 8 Days: Ski Nationals at Lappe Nordic

Reiho Puiras, Lappe Nordic founder chatting with me and Ingrid
Reijo Puiras, Lappe Nordic founder chatting with me and Ingrid

I’m at the 2015 Haywood Ski Nationals,  a yearly end of season championship that attracts over 650 elite skiers from across Canada.  This year we are at Lappe Nordic Ski Center, which offers fabulous trails and Finnish charm (the ski center has saunas in the change room, and serves up delicious Finnish pancakes!).

The trail network, designed by Lappe Nordic founder and former Olympian Reijo Puiras, is popular with everyone.  It has great flow, is fun to ski, and the trails have entertaining names that make you smile as you ski past (e.g., Toilet bowl, Humpty Dumpty, Leena’s Leap, and the long climb at the end of most courses is called “the Grunt”).

The event is typical of other xc ski championships, with a variety of races – there are 5 races over 8 days.  The first day of racing was Saturday – a skate team sprint event I did with XC Ottawa partner Ingrid on a fast 1km course (we had fun, wore glitter — courtesy of Chelsea Nordiq athletes — and came 9th).

Sharing race stories with Katie after the team sprint (she teamed up with Logan). Katie is impressing us here with her dual roles of coaching Chelsea Nordiq and competing in all five events! (Ian Austen Photo)
Sharing race stories with Katie after the team sprint (she teamed up with Logan). Katie is impressing us here with her dual roles of coaching Chelsea Nordiq and competing in all five events! (Ian Austen Photo)

Sunday we got to skate again, in an individual start 5 km race.  Conditions were hard packed and very fast, not quite my forte but I put in a good effort and finished 22nd senior woman.  The race was won by Whitehorse’s Darhia Beatty and Olympian and Nakkertok athlete Perianne Jones was second.

StPatricksDay (640x393)
Ingrid, excited with the variety of St. Patrick’s day stuff we found

Today was our first day off, and tomorrow we’ll be racing 10 km classic on two loops of a challenging 5 km course (so we get to ski up the Grunt twice . . . ).  And it’s St. Patrick’s day! My Irish heritage and childhood memories of having to wear green on St Patrick’s day prompted a trip to Dollarama to celebrate and race in style.

Wednesday we’ll be racing classic sprints, and then we have 2 days off before my favourite event on March 21st- a 30 km mass start skate race.
welcome to Lappe (597x640)
With Ingrid and Logan after the team sprints
You’ll find more Racing Updates here.
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