Researchers at Rutgers University have boldly gone where no person has gone before: into the brain of a woman during orgasm. The Wall Street Journal reports that when psychologist Barry Komisaruk monitored neural activity of a volunteer inside an fMRI scanner every two seconds, he and colleagues found heightened neural responses in 80 brain regions. During arousal, the paper reports, the stimulation activated neural circuits of pleasure, pain, reward, emotion and muscle control. Wait, there’s more: at orgasm, activity peaked in a reward area called the nucleus accumbens, an area that also responds to cocaine, nicotine, caffeine and yes, chocolate. The video below shows what happens inside a woman’s brain during orgasm. Seriously.
You gotta love the name: TestoJack100. And many people no doubt love the claims: that the supplement "supports male reproductive function and healthy testosterone levels." And while TestoJack100 marketeers don't actually claim that their product boosts testosterone, that message is hard to miss, particularly in the assertion that it is helpful for virility. What's harder to love is the evidence that the stuff does what it's supposed to do, mainly because that evidence is extremely hard to find. The Los Angleles Times reports that TestoJack100 contains a blend of herbs, including Eleutherococcus senticosus, Tribulus terrestris and Eurycoma longifolia, along with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6, among other ingredients. Men, who pay pay roughly $20 to $30 for a bottle of 60 capsules, are advised to take two capsules once or twice a day. The paper reports that some of the ingredients in TestoJack have been tested, with less-than-impressive results. In a 2007 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Australian researchers found that giving rugby players daily doses of Tribulus terrestris for five weeks had no effect on their testosterone levels. Wait, there's more. The Times quotes Dr. John Morley, a testosterone expert and director of geriatrics at St. Louis University, who says there's not a lot of scientific evidence for any supplement that claims to boost or "promote" testosterone.
Is there anything, anything at all, that is not genetic? It doesn't seem so. Researchers at McMaster University have identified a gene whose absence appears to make naturally energetic animals unnaturally lethargic. Medical News Today reports that the researchers made their unexpected finding while working with healthy, specially-bred mice, some of which had two genes in muscle essential for exercise removed. The genes control the protein AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that is switched on when you exercise. "While the normal mice could run for miles, those without the genes could only run the same distance as down the hall and back," said Gregory Steinberg, associate professor of medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Metabolism and Obesity. "The mice looked identical to their brothers or sisters but within seconds we knew which ones had the genes and which one didn't." The researchers found the mice without the muscle AMPK genes had lower levels of mitochondria and an impaired ability for their muscles to take up glucose while they exercise.
After the age of 20, older generally means weaker and slower; and after the age of 60, older means quite a bit weaker and slower. The Los Angeles Times reports on what, exactly, happens to our bodies: motor neurons die, which causes connections between muscle fibers to wither, wait, there's more, large, elastic arteries including the aorta (which shuttles blood from the heart) and the carotid artery (which feeds blood to the brain) get stiffer; wear and tear builds up on the joints, connective tissue becomes less elastic, and lubricating fluids decline; and on which exercises are most useful for preventing the weakening and slowing. Michael Joyner, a professor of anesthesiology and an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, tells the Times that cross-training — doing a mix of high- and low-impact exercises such as weight training, yoga and cycling — works different muscle groups and can reduce the risk of orthopedic injuries from overuse. And to prevent artery stiffening, Douglas Seals, a physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says exercise is as good as anything known to science. The Times reports that, for 21 years, researchers at Stanford University have studied the effects of consistent exercise on 284 runners 50 and older. In a 2002 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine, they reported that — 13 years into the study — a control group of 156 similar people who exercised much less on the whole than the runners had a 3.3 times higher death rate than runners as well as higher rates of disabilities. In 2008, they reported that after 19 years, 15 percent of runners had died, compared with 34% of the control group. After 21 years, runners had significantly lower disability levels than non-runners; their death rates from cardiovascular events, cancer and neurologic disorders were much lower than in non-runners — 65 of the runners had died of cardiovascular, neurologic and cancer events compared with 98 deaths in the control group.
Is it better to look good than to feel good? Is there a correlation between looking good and feeling good? Washington Post writer Carolyn Butler seems to think so. Butler is a recent convert from ratty T shirt to shiny and costly "athletic apparel," and she reports on the surprising rewards of just looking more fit. Butler also finds backup in academia, in the form of exercise physiologist Thomas Altena of Missouri State University. "There’s no doubt that better-quality, more comfortable athletic clothing can have benefits, from both a physical and psychological standpoint,” Altena tells her. “It’s like cars: Until you get into the high-tech gear, you don’t really know what you’re missing.” Delia Roberts, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine, tells Butler that the right material will help regulate your body temperature, which can affect heart function, which in turn influences how difficult you perceive an activity to be. Roberts points out that compression garments, alleged to improve blood circulation, may also boost athletic performance — although probably not for the reason manufacturers state. She points to research published this year in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, which found no evidence that positive effects of compression tights are due to increased blood flow. Rather, she says, benefits may stem from the fact that these tight pants, shorts and other clothes reduce muscle vibration and provide additional muscle support during a workout.
As life goes on, so apparently do some of its more intimate pleasures, contrary to popular wisdom. Medical News Today reports that researchers at the Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego were surprised to learn that, in a study of 1,235 women between the ages of 60 and 89, sexual satisfaction was not significantly associated with age. Which could mean one of two things: sexual satisfaction is so diminished by the of 60 that it can't get worse, or, as the researchers put it, "many older adults retain their ability to enjoy sex well into old age." The researchers found that satisfaction with overall sex life in three age cohorts studied: 60 to 69; 70 to 70; and 80 to 89, was not all that different. Approximately 67 percent, 60 percent, and 61 percent of women in these three age groups, respectively, reported that they were "moderately" to "very satisfied" with their sex lives. But while satisfaction with sex remains fairly constant, the researchers found, unsurprisingly, that frequency declined. Of the women who were married or in an intimate relationship, 70 percent of those aged 60 to 69, 57 percent of those aged 70 to 79, and 31 percent of those aged 80 to 89 reported having had some sexual activity in the previous six months. More importantly, the study found that feeling satisfied with your sex life – whatever your levels of sexual activity – is closely related to your perceived quality of life.
First, a caution: the tool described here was designed for research purposes, not as a weight loss guide. Second, a reality: there's no harm in readers doing a little research of their own. Science Daily reports that scientists at the National Institutes of Health have created a mathematical model — and an accompanying online weight simulation tool — of what happens when people of varying weights, diets and exercise habits try to change their weight. And what happens disproves the commonly held belief that eating 3,500 fewer calories — or burning them off exercising — will always result in a pound of weight loss. That's because, among other things, the commonly subcribed to theory fails to account for how metabolism changes. The computer model does that, and more. To test the model, the researchers compared predicted weight changes to actual changes in people. They found that people's bodies adapt slowly to changes in dietary intake, and that heavier people can expect greater weight change with the same change in diet, although reaching a stable body weight will take them longer than people with less fat. One more warning: the tool is complicated. Try it out here.
First, guess in which country the research was done that found beer to be the near-perfect beverage for recovery from endurance events. If you guessed Germany, open a cold one. Tara Parker-Pope reports in the Well column that researchers at the Technical University of Munich recruited 270 volunteers, male runners who were training for the Munich Marathon, to drink two to three pints of beer, albeit non-alcoholic beer, every day starting three weeks before the race and ending two weeks after the race. Sadly, only half of the recruits were given beer, and half were given a beer-like placebo. As reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the men drinking the nonalcoholic beer reported far fewer illnesses than the runners swallowing the placebo beverage, and the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections was 3.25-fold lower in the nonalcoholic beer drinkers. Parker-Pope tells us that the beer drinkers also showed significantly less evidence of inflammation, as measured by various markers in their blood, and lower counts of white blood cells than the placebo group, an indication of overall better immune system health. What's that about? The researchers hypothesize that it involves the beverage’s abundant polyphenols, which can suppress virus action. Which begs the question: shouldn't alcoholic beer do the same thing? The answer, researchers say, is Yes indeed, but the deleterious effect of alcohol could wipe out any benefit. The good news: more research is needed.
The key word is "moderate" drinking, meaning two drinks a day for men, and one for women, and one benefit is a better chance of remembering if you've been moderate in your drinking. Web MD reports that when reseachers at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. reviewed 143 studies comprising more than 365,000 participants from 19 countries, they found that moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop signs of memory problems or Alzheimer's disease.The researchers found that he benefit was the same among men and women, and that wine seemed to be more protective than beer or spirits. They also found that heavy alcohol consumption or more than three to five drinks per day did show a trend of increased risk for memory problems and dementia in the study, but this finding did not reach statistical significance.
File under "Cause or Effect?" Researchers at Cornell University have concluded that when an older man's wife or girlfriend has a stronger bond with his friends than he does, his performance in the bedroom tends to suffer. HealthDay reports on the research, which analyzed a survey of more than 3,000 people ranging in age from 57 to 85, and found that men who find themselves in this situation "are more likely to have trouble getting or maintaining an erection and are also more likely to experience difficulty achieving orgasm during sex," compared to couples where there's a clearer line between his friends and hers. The researchers believe that when a female partner comes between a middle-aged or older man and his best friends, it may undermine his feelings of independence and privacy. Ultimately, the researchers argued, this scenario leads to significant problems with the couple's partner satisfaction, in terms of sexual attraction and the man's own sense of his masculinity.