In the difficulties of the global pandemic, one of the biggest health concerns besides the coronavirus has been that we have been having fewer general health check ups, which could lead to health conditions being missed. This week’s Nutrition News looks at ways we can keep an eye on our general health and indicators that could suggest we make an appointment to see a healthcare practitioner.

How to test your heart health

Heart health is incredibly important, with heart disease standing as the leading cause of death in the human population worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It can be difficult to monitor heart health and while home blood pressure monitors can track certain indicators, a recent study published by Science Daily has shown that something as simple as climbing the stairs could test your heart health proficiently.

The study, which was conducted by a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), established that if a person were able to climb four flights of stairs under a minute, this is relatively accurate indicator of good heart health. The study looked at 165 participants who had been referred for exercise testing due to known or suspected coronary artery disease. The participants were tested on a treadmill first and then, after a 15-20 minute break, were timed climbing four flights of stairs (60 steps) at a fast, but not running, pace.

The results showed that 58% of the participants who took more than 1.5 minutes to climb the stairs had abnormal heart function during the initial exercise test, conversely, just 32% who climbed the stairs in less than a minute had abnormal heart function.

While the correlation between heart health and this exercise test is likely to be more favourable to the general population than those with coronary artery disease, the study’s authors hail the exercise as an easy test that can act as an indicator of whether there may be underlying health concerns.

Alpha lipoic acid supports muscle repair

A recent study has found that alpha lipoic acid could have beneficial effects on muscle recovery after exercise. The study by researchers associated with the German Sports University in Cologne, reported by NutraIngredients, looked at 17 male participants who weight trained regularly and assessed the impact of alpha lipoic acid supplementation on their capabilities.

The research took the form of a placebo controlled, double-blinded, crossover study and monitored the effects of alpha lipoic acid supplementation on the participants whilst they carried out over a week’s worth of training. The researchers found that more of the participants in the alpha lipoic acid supplemented group were able to increase or maintain the maximum weight they were able to lift than the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that the results indicated the possible benefits of alpha lipoic acid supplementation in intensive training periods, illustrating a reduction in muscle damage, inflammation and increase in recovery. While they admit further research is needed to establish whether supplementation enhances performance and it is worth noting the small sample size in the study, the results are promising.

What is l-theanine?

As a nonessential amino acid, there may be fewer resources and less widespread information about Theanine than its essential and more common counterparts. This article by Examine, delves into the benefits and background of theanine in an attempt to answer some questions the general public may have about this particular amino acid.

Theanine is mostly found in tea or food supplements, with its primary effects being in brain health support and stress management. Numerous studies have shown the amino acid to have a calming effect on the brain, promoting relaxation and acting as a form of sleep support.

Research into other potential benefits of theanine are ongoing as more researchers evaluate its potential. The Examine article goes further and has created a “human effects matrix”, listing out potential benefits and how strong the research is behind these benefits and whether further study and assessment is needed.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.