Juvenon Health Journal volume 3 number 6 june 2004
By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.
Is exercise really worth the time and energy? For many of us, it’s a bother. Where is the evidence that exercise does more to improve our health than simply burn a few extra calories and tire us out?
OK, order your running shoes, swimsuit or treadmill. The beneficial effects from exercise are real, and they go well beyond weight control.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Recent studies have demonstrated that definitive biochemical changes occur in animals that exercise. Furthermore, very recent evidence suggests the results with animals appear to apply to humans. Even more exciting, these studies, described below, suggest that exercise has a positive effect on inhibiting and reversing the mental decline (cognitive ability) associated with aging. (According to a recent surveysponsored by Juvenon, deteriorating physical condition and loss of mental sharpness are the two age-related conditions that Americans fear most.)
The “Exercise Paradox”
The evidence for the health benefits from exercise in improving cardiovascular fitness is overwhelming. It is clear that exercise helps regulate body weight to some degree, but it hasn’t been so clear why exercise helps prevent disease. A phenomenon commonly referred to as the “exercise paradox” states that although exercise is associated with decreased risk for developing aherosclerosis, it actually increases oxidative stress on the body. This means exercise promotes production of free radicals — the very toxic substances that promote vascular disease.
So how does the body get healthier with an exercise program that produces toxic substances? The key phrase to remember is ‘free radicals in small amounts.’ Exercise produces a small amount of free radicals that oxidize cellular molecules, including lipids comprising our cell membranes. The oxidized lipids in turn act as messengers to signal the cell of their presence. The cells respond by activating a defense system to neutralize free radicals before they can do further damage to the cell. In other words, our bodies respond to exercise-induced toxicity by producing cell-protective molecules.
The immediate effect of the physically tuned-up body is neutralization of the radicals produced during exercise. Hold on, you say. This makes it sound as though you’re no better off than you would be if you simply didn’t exercise! The bigger benefit is that the individual who exercises has a primed antioxidant defense system, trained and ready to neutralize free radicals produced in response to the stresses of daily life… not just those produced during exercise.
Recall again the key phrase, “free radicals in small amounts.” If you are beginning an exercise program, it is important to incorporate into your plan a gradual increase in exercise intensity over time. To jump into a program of intense training, without preconditioning, will result in more than sore muscles. It will produce toxic substances in amounts that overcome the cellular defense system of the untrained person, and produce significant damage to the body. The antioxidant defense system requires time to tune up, and this does not occur with one bout of physical exercise, but several weeks of a program designed to increase the intensity of the physical stress in a graduated manner.
Exercise keeps brain in shape
A report published a few years ago described the effects of exercise on the density of blood vessels supplying the brains of rats. Middle-aged rats placed on a daily regimen of tread wheel exercise developed a dramatic increase in the number of capillary blood vessels in the brain, compared to their sedentary counterparts. The authors speculate the brain grows extra capillaries to supply more oxygen and nutrients needed by the brain neurons because of the increased activity. The authors also speculate human brains would have a similar reaction to exercise, which could offer protection against some age-related afflictions, including Alzheimer’s disease and other age-associated dementias.
A separate study demonstrated exercise-stimulated enhanced learning and neurogenesis (nerve growth) in mice. Microscopic examination of the brain tissues showed an increase in nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory function. The researchers state that their results indicate physical activity can regulate hippocampal neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity (nerve signal strength), and learning… at least in mice.
The studies with rats and mice may well be applicable to humans as well. Aerobic fitness has recently been shown to reduce the loss of brain tissue associated with aging animals and humans. These findings were possible thanks to new non-invasive technology (MRI) capable of detecting pathological changes in brain tissue. The results showed a high degree of correlation between exercise-induced cardiovascular fitness and reduced loss of tissue in specific areas of the brain in those individuals who maintained a regular exercise routine.
In summary, physical activity tunes up the cells of the body and improves their capacity to handle toxic substances produced during strenuous physical activity as well as psychological stress. Furthermore, exercise, especially the aerobic type, has a positive effect on maintaining our mental capacities by promoting nerve regeneration and nerve signal transmission, which translate into sustained cognitive abilities.
On the basis of research conducted in animals, scientists have observed that cardiovascular fitness offsets declines in cognitive performance. The reasons for this occurrence have been traced to increases in cortical capillary supplies, the number of synaptic connections, and development of new neurons. Recent research at the University of Illinois has for the first time demonstrated that the same phenomena occur in humans, and that increased cardiovascular fitness may serve to reduce both biological and cognitive decline in the aging human brain. For more information,click here.
This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement
QUESTION: I noticed that my latest bottle of Juvenon had an additional ingredient listed – biotin 100 mcg.
J.W., via email
ANSWER: Biotin is a B-vitamin and is required for a number of biochemical reactions. Most importantly, it functions as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions that supply the mitochondria (the energy powerhouses) with the nutrients they need to promote a steady production of energy. The compounds in the Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement cannot function optimally if the proper level of these biotin-dependent metabolites is not present in the mitochondria.
Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.