Right Back at it Again with Those Allergies!

   With spring in full swing many of us are enjoying longer days, warmer temperatures, and those pesky yearly allergies. If you re among the 8% of adults and 9% of children who experience allergies then you know how much of a hassle it is to step foot outside on a day riddled with pollen. However, we never stop to ask ourselves why it is that some people experience allergies and others don’t? A new study published in Scientific American helps to outline the real reason why some people get the sniffles during this time of year. Studies conducted on twins for which at least one twin was allergic to peanuts have found that, “in the case of fraternal twins, the other twin has a 7% chance of also having the allergy. Among identical twins, however, both twins were allergic in 64% of cases. Thus, our genetics clearly influence whether or not we will have an allergy.”

So exactly what does this tell us? Simply put those of us fortunate enough to have been born without a disposition to allergies can go about our lives without too much worry about the substances we come in contact without. Those of us not as fortunate do have to proceed with caution as we enter the months infamous for allergies. In the case of identical twins chances are both individuals will experience the same issue, but in the off chance one twin doesn’t it just means they weren’t quite as lucky. Understanding the real cause behind allergies is vital in helping to move forward with possible ways to suppress the real cause of allergies.  In this case it may be some method of gene therapy that can help us all be allergy free and enjoy the warm months a little more. At least for the moment those struggling with allergies can take antihistamines to help their symptoms and breathe a little easier.

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Meditate More, Be Happy

   Last week I discussed some biographical information about the scientist I was looking to interview . Due to scheduling conflicts I was unable to interview Dr. Shawn Arent and instead I Interviewed Dr. Brandon Alderman. This week I will be going in depth about the specific research I discussed with Dr. Alderman this past week. Recently, Dr. Alderman’s work with depression and meditation has helped us to better understand cognitive skills that can help reduce overwhelming negative thoughts. His study, published in Translational Psychiatry this monthfound the combination of body and mind, used twice a week for two months, helped reduced the symptoms for a group of students experiencing depression by 40 percent. 22 men and women studying at Rutgers University suffering with depression, and 30 mentally healthy students reported fewer depressive symptoms.

   The individuals involved in the study began with 30 minutes of focused attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. They were told that if their thoughts drifted to the past or the future they should refocus on their breathing, enabling those with depression to accept moment-to-moment changes in attention.They felt that they did not spend as much time worrying about negative situations taking place in their lives as they did before the study began. In order to fully test the extent of the results the experiment also tested the effects mediation had on young mothers who had been homeless but were living at a residential treatment facility. The women involved in the research had exhibited severe depressive symptoms and elevated anxiety levels from the start, but at the end of the eight weeks reported that their depression and anxiety had eased. They claimed to have they felt more motivated, and they were able to focus more positively on their lives.

Dr. Shawn Arent; A Look at Stress and Performance

   For this week’s blog post I’ll be discussing the research scientist that I am planning on interviewing for the scientist interview. Currently my intended major is exercise science so I thought it was only logical to interview a research scientist in my field to grasp a better understanding of what I can expect in the future. His name is Dr. Shawn Arent; he’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies at Rutgers University.  He is also the Director of the Center for Health & Human Performance in the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health.  He is the Director of the Graduate Program in Kinesiology & Applied Physiology as well as the current Vice President of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. A link to his full biographical page can be found here.

Dr. Arent’s research focuses on the relationship between physical activity and stress and the implications for health and performance, with an emphasis on underlying mechanisms.  His recent work has focused on physiological responses to training-related stressors and their contribution to optimal performance and recovery.  He is specifically interested in the potential efficacy of acute and chronic resistance training for improving functional capabilities. This interests me especially because as a runner I am constantly intrigued in the potential effects that stress and fatigue can have on running performance. Recently I also applied to one of Dr. Arent’s studies that essentially set out to test the effects of a new weight loss drug on performance and body composition of generally active individuals with body fat above the normal range. I suppose it is both good and unfortunate that I did not qualify for the study, but I do look forward to the opportunity to discuss this research further with Dr.Arent if he is able to participate in my interview.