Sunday, February 07, 2010

Exercise 'can fight ageing' (?)

Good to see two commenters express some caution about the direction of causation

Long-term physical activity has an anti-ageing effect at the cellular level, a German study suggests. Researchers focused on telomeres, the protective caps on the chromosomes that keep a cell's DNA stable but shorten with age. They found telomeres shortened less quickly in key immune cells of athletes with a long history of endurance training. The study, by Saarland University, appears in the journal Circulation.

In a separate study of young Swedish men, cardiovascular fitness has been linked to increased intelligence and higher educational achievement.

Telomeres are relatively short sections of specialised DNA that sit at the ends of all our chromosomes. They have been compared to the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces that prevent the laces from unravelling. Each time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten and the cell becomes more susceptible to dying.

The researchers measured the length of telomeres in blood samples from two groups of professional athletes and two groups of people who were healthy non-smokers, but who did not take regular exercise. One group of professional athletes included members of the German national track and field athletics team, who had an average age of 20. The second group was made up of middle-aged athletes who had regularly run long distances - an average of 80km a week - since their youth.

The researchers found evidence that the physical exercise of the professional athletes led to activation of an enzyme called telomerase, which helped to stabilise telomeres. This reduced the telomere shortening in leukocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in fighting infection and disease. The most pronounced effect was found in athletes who had been regularly endurance training for several decades.

Lead researcher Dr Ulrich Laufs said: "This is direct evidence of an anti-ageing effect of physical exercise. "Our data improves the molecular understanding of the protective effects of exercise and underlines the potency of physical training in reducing the impact of age-related disease."

Professor Tim Spector, an expert on genetics and ageing at Kings College London, said other studies had suggested more moderate exercise had a beneficial effect on ageing. He said: "It is still difficult to separate cause and effect from these studies - as longer telomeres may still be a marker of fitness. "Nevertheless - this is further evidence that regular exercise may retard aging."

Professor Kay-Tee Khaw, of the University of Cambridge, an expert on ageing, said: "The benefits of physical activity for health are well established from many large long-term population studies. "Even moderate levels of physical activity are related to lower levels of many heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol and lower risk of many chronic diseases associated with ageing such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers."

In the second study, published in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, a team from the University of Gothenburg analysed data on more than 1.2 million Swedish men born from 1950-1976 who enlisted for military service at age 18. They found that good heart health was linked to higher intelligence, better educational achievement and raised status in society.

By studying twins in the study, the researchers concluded that environmental and lifestyle factors were key, rather than genetics. [An enigmatic statement]

They said the findings suggested that campaigns to promote physical exercise might help to raise standards of educational achievement across the population. Lead researcher Professor Georg Kuhn said cardiovascular exercise increased blood flow to the brain, which in turn might help forge more and stronger connections between nerve cells. However, he said it was also possible that intelligent people tended to do more exercise.


The war on salt is just one battle in a larger war

The war has been going on for thousands of years. It comes up again and again. It manifests itself as a war on drugs, a war on terror, a global warming crisis. It is the war amongst those who would rule everyone else asserting that they know better how to run your life and it is the war against you. The war on salt is just one aspect of this same, tired, ancient, boring, despicable, and horrid war—a war with billions of casualties, a war against human spirit, a war on possibility. It is the war that doesn't give you a walk-on role in the world, only a lead role in a cage.

What I'm talking about is the war on the future we were promised, with flying cars, much longer lives, colonies in space, hotels in the Moon, terraforming of Mars. It is the war which impoverishes nearly everyone, the war which enriches only the cronies of big government, the war which opposes cheap air travel, cheap space travel, food that tastes good, drugs that relieve pain, a free market, free choices, free love, free thought, free people.

It is the same war that sent armies rampaging across Europe to slaughter Protestants and Catholics, the same war that sent Inquisitors to mock Galileo and thwart scientific reason, the same war that imprisons millions of Americans annually for non-violent non-crimes of possessing or selling or making herbs that God granted (Genesis 1:29) to all mankind to be as meat. Plato declared this war in his rotten book "The Republic" and acknowledged that nobility was a lie, that everyone was basically the same, but by diet, training, education, and preferential treatment, perhaps a race of philosopher kings might be bred, he hoped, to savagely rule, rape, and pillage everyone else.

How do I know that Mayor Bloomberg's war on salt is the same war that has been fought time and time again? I remember an album cover from 1972 for the Steeleye Span album Below the Salt. An old and excellent teacher of mine explained that the phrase "below the salt" represented the caste system in England. "At that time the nobility sat at the 'high table' and their commoner servants at lower trestle tables. Salt was placed in the centre of the high table. Only those of rank had access to it. Those less favoured on the lower tables were below (or beneath) the salt," Gary Martin writes. Until the 1600s when salt was mined near Cheshire, the objective of the wealthy classes was to deprive the poor of good tasting food and also deny them an essential nutrient for physical labor.

Why? One would think that better tasting food and necessary nutrients would have motivated more and better work. But it is exactly the same sort of reasoning that one gets from these class system brutes—the "reasoning" applied to depriving people of laudanum, opium, morphine, and other herb derivatives, the "reasoning" used to excuse depriving people of the pain relieving and pleasure giving properties of hemp, the "reasoning" used to claim a false and vindictive "authority" to spy on every telephone conversation in the world simultaneously.

In the death camps in Germany the answer was always the same. "Hier ist kein Warum." Here there is no why.

No, it isn't reasonable for Mayor Bloomberg to announce that restaurants have to cut back on the amount of salt they use in the dishes they serve. It is not reason. It is power madness. He has been told, perhaps, that salt is bad for people. Of course, restaurants use salt, and offer it to their customers on the table, because it makes food taste better. It makes food taste good, just as fat, butter, sugar, and many other ingredients are savory, precisely because the body needs it as an essential nutrient.

Deny salt to people who engage in physical labor, whether gardening, shoveling, walking, running, or "working out" in a gym, and you can kill them. Which is precisely Mayor Bloomberg's objective. He represents the wealthy, the powerful, those above the salt, those who sit at high table. And, of course, he's "educated" by elitists at Johns Hopkins and Harvard to believe that he knows better than everyone else how to live, what to eat, what is good for and bad for others. He's one of the richest men in the world with a net worth of $16 billion.

He made his first golden parachute of $10 million being fired from Salomon Brothers, a Wall Street firm where he was involved in equity trading and systems development. Then he developed systems that are used, today, by traders around the globe. Don't suppose that his fortune is a free market one, though, as the sources of data from the markets and the regulatory environment of those markets are part of what makes his business possible. Nor is he a nice guy in business, having been repeatedly accused of sexually harrassing male and female employees. He's been sued over saying "kill it" about a pregnant woman's baby, he's been sued by the EEOC on behalf of three women, and apparently on behalf of 72 plaintiffs who took maternity leave.

He's been a Republican, a Democrat, and an "independent" at various times in his political career. The evidence against his having any libertarian inclinations include his brutal treatment of subordinates in his company, his vicious attacks on out-of-state gun shops, his involvement as head of one of the largest bureaucracies in any city in the world, and his current fetish war on salt. His city government is as involved as any in the war on terror, routinely violating the privacy and civil liberties of individuals in many parts of the world.

But he isn't exactly the poster boy for the worst evil of the war on salt. Remember, the war on salt is the war over who gets to run your life: you or those who claim to know better.

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