Jan 23, 2013
Balancing Stress and Restoring Vigor: What You Should Know for Optimum Health
I’m just back from the International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (ISENC) meeting in Newcastle England where we enjoyed three days of fantastic lectures about nutrition for sports performance and healthy lifestyles. It was a truly international faculty with participants from around the world and only a handful of Americans—so it was an interesting global perspective about some of the leading “nutrition solutions” to the public health issues discussed.
The conference ran in two simultaneous tracks. One focused on improving sports performance and the other focused on promoting healthy lifestyles. The only drawback to the conference was the difficulty in choosing which lecture to attend in which track because they were all so good.
One of the common themes that I noticed among the speakers was the growing realization among researchers across the globe that so many aspects of metabolism are intricately related and interconnected. For example, my own presentation focused on the relationship between stress, stress hormones (cortisol/testosterone), and psychological mood state (how we feel)—basically, that being under stress changes our stress hormone levels and leads us to feel tired/depressed.
Other presenters talked about how both psychological and physical stress (e.g., too little sleep or too much exercise) can increase oxidation and suppress immune system function. There were presentations about how inflammation (from injury or poor diet) could damage cells and tissues directly, as well as lead indirectly to further oxidative damage in various tissues throughout the body. Still other presentations focused on the link between blood sugar disruptions and inflammation. None of these findings are necessarily “new” on their own, but the dawning realization that they are all linked is what gets me excited (especially since I’ve been writing about it and developing natural products to help address such problems for the last 15 years)!
While all of the presentations were excellent, there were a few that stood out for me as particularly relevant to the unique “metabolic stressors” that so many of us are faced with on a daily basis. My own presentation about stress hormone balance and Vigor (especially interesting to me!) described how even moderate levels of chronic stress (including inadequate sleep, dieting for weight loss, and worry about bills) can disrupt stress hormone balance (elevated cortisol and suppressed testosterone) and lead to lower vigor scores (low energy, poor mood, and foggy mental function). I talked about a number of natural solutions for rebalancing stress hormones and restoring vigor—including traditional adaptogens such as magnolia (for cortisol and stress), eurycoma (for testosterone and energy), cordyceps (for oxygen utilization and stamina), and BCAAs (for muscle metabolism and recovery).
Dr. David Nieman, an expert in immune system function from Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Research University, talked about new research showing how flavonoids might be the key for optimal immune system function. Importantly, some of his latest research points to the bioactivity of flavonoids being potentiated when provided as a cocktail of small amounts of several different flavonoids, rather than as large amounts of any single flavonoid. This means that a small dose of several complementary flavonoids can provide a superior benefits for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as immune system support, compared to a large dose of any single flavonoid. Dr. Nieman even suggested that specialized combinations of flavonoids and low-glycemic carbohydrates might even someday serve as a replacement for dangerous painkillers such as ibuprofen. That sounds pretty good—getting antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pain-killing, immune supporting benefits in an all-natural blend of naturally derived flavonoids and natural sugars from fruit. Where do you think we might find such a natural fruit?
Another fantastic presentation was delivered by Dr. Mark Davis from the University of South Carolina. Professor Davis talked about the unique benefits of flavonoids for improving brain function and possibly treating conditions related to chronic stress and inflammation such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. In Dr. Davis’ research, it seems that small amounts of caffeine can enhance the brain-protecting benefits of flavonoids (because caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain)—so the brain-performance effects of flavonoids plus caffeine extend to reduced inflammation, increased mitochondria, and improved endurance—almost like “exercise in a pill” in certain ways.
Imagine if you could find all of these amazing health benefits in one place—immune support, improved antioxidant protection, lower stress, improved energy, and enhanced mental and physical performance. It sounds like a magic bullet doesn’t it? Well, it’s not at all “magic.” Instead, it's the latest science supporting the health benefits of properly-balanced flavonoids and related antioxidants. Since its founding, MonaVie has been the leader in providing well-balanced flavonoids (from açai and other exotic rainforest superfruits) as part of an overall approach to supporting antioxidant nutrition. Again and again, we find that the science is on MonaVie’s side and the numerous presentations from this most recent ISENC is yet another example.
In addition to these presentations, were outstanding lectures by Dr. Emma Stevenson (Northumbria University, Newcastle UK), an expert in glycemic index and mental/physical performance; Professor Victor Matsudo (University Gama Filho, Sao Paulo, Brazil), an expert in promoting physical activity; and Professor Romain Meeusen (Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, Belgium), an expert on the effects of exercise on the brain. Collectively, these global experts in nutrition, exercise, and health promotion provided one of the most outstanding scientific conferences in recent memory (and I attend a LOT of research conferences).
Look for future blogs and newsletters to cover some of the highlights from other presentations at ISENC, American College of Nutrition (ACN), and other scientific conferences.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Shawn Talbott is MonaVie’s Chief Science Officer. He holds a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry (Rutgers), MS in Exercise Science (UMass Amherst), and EMP in Entrepreneurship (MIT). His work focuses on natural products to restore metabolic balance and help people feel, look, and perform better.