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Running Research News And Events
April 05, 2011
FATS, VITAMINS, AND YOUR SORE ACHILLES
What has Soren Mavrogenis been doing lately?
That question has not exactly been rolling off athletes' lips, especially since Soren's latest published paper - "Pyeloureteral Junction Stenosis and Ureteral Valve Causing Hydronephrosis" (Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology, Vol.35(3), pp. 245-247, June 2001) - has nothing at all to do with athletics. But give the fellow a chance! In addition to his pyeloureteral pursuits, the Dane is currently carrying out extremely interesting research on the treatment of athletic injuries, and his findings may one day help you bounce back from an injury more quickly than expected and as a result set a new personal record or win an important competition. A physiotherapist with Denmark's Olympic Committee, Mavrogenis has effectively treated several hundred cases of recurrent inflammatory injuries with a novel dietary supplement (Reuters Health, April 27, 2001).
Tested for the first time in 1996 on a group of rowers from Denmark's National Rowing Team, Soren's nostrum appears to have remarkable anti-inflammatory properties (research on the overall healing properties of the treatment will be published in a peer-reviewed journal shortly).
Of course, most routine athletic injuries are treated with icing, rest, physiotherapy, and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and Soren does not sermonize against the use of either rest or ice. However, the innovative Dane does leave the NSAIDS on the shelf, instead relying on a combination of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to soothe inflammation and restore injured body parts. He has reportedly found success with a variety of ailments, including both "tennis elbow" and golf elbow."
Soren's supplement does contain fats, so you might be reasonably asking, "Don't golfers already eat enough fat?" That's a reasonable question, but the problem, of course, is that they usually eat the wrong fats (i.e., the ones which seem to be pro-rather than anti-inflammatory). Soren's nutritional supplement contains a rich lode of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil), some omega-6 fats (from borage oil), four vitamins (A, B6, C, and E), and also the minerals selenium and zinc. According to Mavrogenis, most patients respond positively to the treatment in just two to three weeks, although very serious cases may require several months. "The results of this research confirm our clinical observations and leave us with the clear impression that inflammatory injuries can be treated without the use of NSAIDS. I see this as a ......breakthrough in modern physiotherapy.
For the first time, we are able to offer our patients a safe and reliable treatment for stress injuries with chronic inflammatory response. In fact, it is our experience that with this new treatment, as opposed to conventional treatment, athletes are able to train actively while receiving treatment," says Soren. "The bad cases require the use of intensive ultrasound and certain massage techniques in addition to the antioxidants and essential fatty acids, but in the milder cases the use of nutrients alone is adequate," notes Mavrogenis. Norwegian sports authorities have been carefully watching Soren's work (naturally, Norwegians do not want Danes to leave them behind). Since inflammatory injuries to shoulders, elbows, knees, and Achilles tendons account for one-fourth of all job-related absences in Norway, Soren's anti-inflammatory regimen is now being tested by NIMI (no need to mention that this is Norsk Idrettsmedisinsk Institut). one of Scandinavia's foremost treatment facilities for sports injuries. We'll report on NIMI's findings in a future issue of this newsletter.
But isn't this all a little far-fetched? How can a few fatty acids - plus several vitamins and minerals - foster fast healing in an elbow nearly wrecked by overuse on the tennis courts - or in a knee inflamed by hundreds of miles of endurance running? The story just sounds too good to be true.
But it may not be. Bear in mind that scientific research has actually been fairly kind to the idea that omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants can help to control inflammatory injuries. To understand why this is, remember that exercise generates increased quantities of "oxygen free radicals" and increases lipid peroxidation (the oxidative attack on key fats found in cell membranes, including muscle-fiber membranes fall apart and produce leaky, non-functional muscle cells.
As a defense against this disastrous possibility, the human body produces a fairly potent anti-oxidant called superoxide dismutase; superoxide -dismanyus production speeds up when individuals embark on regular and at least moderately strenuous training programs. Evidence suggests, however, that the superoxide-dismantus system is prone to being overwhelmed. Prolonged submaximal exercise has been shown to result in elevated amounts of skeletal-muscle lipid-peroxidation byproducts, indicating significant damage to the muscles (Free Radicals and Tissue Damage Produced by Exercise," Biochem Biophys Res Commun, Vol. 107, pp. 1198-1205, 1982). Clearly, the superoxide-dismutase system lets a significant number of free radicals "through its net."
Before we continue, let's review our story: Exercise can greatly increase the production of cell-damage free radicals. The magnified rates of lipid peroxidation resulting from this oxygen radical production may cause muscle damage. The human body has its own anti-radical defense system, but it doesn't provide complete protection from injury. In addition, the damage produced in the muscles as a result of exercise can "snowball" over relatively short periods of time. For example, in one study researchers found more muscle damage three days after a strenuous workout than they had found one hour after exercise ceased ("Adaptive Response in Human Skeletal Muscle Subjected to Prolonged Eccentric Training, " International Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 4, pp. 177-183, 1983).
This was a bit surprising, since researchers believed significant muscle repair would have occurred during the three-day interim. In another investigation, exercise scientists found that intense exercise produced immediate muscle damage, but the damage actually became much worse 24 and 48 hours after the workout was over, even though no follow-up exercise had taken place ("Ultrastructural Changes after Concentric and Eccentric Contractions of Human Muscle," Journal of Neurol Science, Vol. 61, pp. 109-122, 1983). In other word, in a muscle traumatized by exertion, there is a post-exercise period lasting for up to three days or more in which muscle damage is actually accelerated, rather than minimized, even when no further exercise occurs.
To learn more about how to Fats, Vitamins, and Your Sore Achilles (the full article can be read by purchasing Vol. 17 Issue 3 of Running Research News) and many more running related topics, simply click-on the Back Issues link, and select the volume and issues number, from the drop-down menu. A subscription to Running Research News is another way to receive valuable information about running. BUY NOW.