Exercise May Protect Against Breast Cancer

February 9, 2018 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

walkingEpidemiological evidence suggests that exercise reduces breast cancer rates and rates of breast cancer recurrence. However, it is not well understood why this is true.

Exercise that is intense enough to increase the heartrate and induce heavy breathing can increase the hormone epinephrine in the blood. A 2017 article by researcher Christine Dethlefson and colleagues in the journal Cancer Research reported that this elevated level of epinephrine in the blood of breast cancer patients after one intense exercise session stopped their breast cancer cells from growing in vitro and reduced tumor growth by half.

Senior author Pernille Hojman told Reuters that while exercise could not be expected to replace anti-cancer treatments, it is a great supportive strategy that has the added benefits of increasing patients’ quality of life and sense of empowerment.

The study looked at human breast cancer tumor cells in test tubes, and the same type of tumor cells implanted into mice. Only 45 percent of the mice implanted with the cancer cells collected after vigorous exercise developed tumors, compared to 90 percent of the mice who received cancer cells collected before exercise or with no exercise.

Exercise May Improve Memory

February 7, 2018 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

exerciseA recent study suggests that exercising vigorously 20 minutes per day may improve “interference memory,” a type of memory that involves reconciling new learning with information one already knows. (Sometimes older information “interferes” with new learning.) In a 2017 article in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, researcher Jennifer Heisz and colleagues report that performance on a high-interference memory task improved when participants engaged in 20-minute daily sessions of interval training for six weeks.

Heisz and colleagues compared three groups of students: one did interval training, another did both interval training and cognitive training, and a control group did no special training. Both exercise groups performed better on the high-interference memory task than the control group. Those who exercised also had higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth of new synapses and is crucial for long-term memory.

The researchers suggest that this finding could be useful to seniors facing memory deficits, since only six weeks of exercise improved memory performance. Interference memory tends to decline with age.

Previous research has linked aerobic exercise to better academic performance.

Exercise in Childhood Decreases Depression Symptoms Two Years Later

January 8, 2018 · Posted in Risk Factors · Comment 

A 2017 study in the journal Pediatrics found that higher rates of moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages six and eight was linked to fewer symptoms of depression at age 10.

The study included 795 six-year-olds who were tracked for four years. Their physical activity was measured by accelerometry, the same type of technology found in smartphones and other consumer products that can track a person’s daily steps. Depression symptoms were assessed via interviews with the children and their parents.

While exercise seemed to reduce depression symptoms, sedentary behavior did not predict later depression.

Even Light Exercise Prevents Future Depressions

December 22, 2017 · Posted in Risk Factors · Comment 


A 2017 article in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that regular leisure-time exercise of any intensity can protect against future depressions.

The study by Samuel B. Harvey and colleagues followed a group of 33,908 healthy adults for 11 years. The researchers found a link between regular leisure-time exercise and reduced incidence of future depression (but not anxiety). This link occurred regardless of the intensity of the exercise, and most of the effect occurred at low levels of exercise. Analysis suggested that 12% of future cases of depression could be prevented if all participants fit one hour of physical activity into their week.

A small part of the benefit came from the social and physical health benefits of exercise.
Harvey and colleagues suggested that from a public health perspective, increasing population levels of exercise modestly could lead to a substantial decrease in depressions.

Editor’s Note: Alongside maintenance treatment, in the form of antidepressants for unipolar depression or mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics for bipolar disorder, exercise could provide some benefits in preventing future depressions.

Tart Cherry Juice Improved Recovery from Exercise in Soccer Players

October 28, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

cherry juice aids muscle recovery

A recent study found that tart cherry juice helped soccer players recover after muscle-damaging exercise better than a placebo.

The 16 athletes in the study were randomly assigned to receive either a Montmorency tart cherry concentrate mixed with water twice a day for four days prior to and three days following exercise, or a drink with the same number of calories but less than 5% fruit content on the same schedule.

The semiprofessional male soccer players (aged 21 to 29) showed better performance on sprints, jumps, and agility tests; less inflammation; and less muscle soreness when taking tart cherry juice compared to the placebo drink.

Editor’s Note: Tart cherry juice is rich in polyphenols, chemicals found in plants with anti-oxidant effects. The juice also has melatonin-like effects, improving sleep in people with insomnia.

In Rats, Mother’s Exercise Habits Affect Those of Offspring

October 10, 2016 · Posted in Genetics · Comment 

mothers who exercise more have offspring who exercise moreA recent study suggests that when a mother rat exercises during pregnancy, her offspring will exercise more too.

In the study, published by Jesse D. Eclarinel and colleagues in The FASEB Journal, pregnant mother rats were placed in cages that each contained an exercise wheel. One group had access to a working wheel on which they could run. The other group had the same wheel, but it was locked so that they couldn’t use it for running. Daughters of the rats who ran during pregnancy ran more in adulthood (both at 60 days and 300 days after birth) than daughters of the rats who couldn’t run during pregnancy.

While it is a mystery why this occurs, it is consistent with other data about the ways that a parent’s experiences can influence the next generation, even when the offspring don’t grow up with the parents.

For example, father rats conditioned to associate a specific smell with fear of an electric shock have offspring that also fear that smell (but not other smells).

Drug use is another example. Father rats given access to cocaine have offspring that are less interested in cocaine. Interestingly, father rats exposed to marijuana have offspring that are more interested in opiates.

Experiences with drugs or stress are thought to affect the next generation via ‘epigenetic’ marks on ova or sperm. These marks change the way DNA is packaged, with long-lasting effects on behavior and chemistry. Most marks from a mother’s or father’s experiences are erased at the time of conception, but some persist and affect the next generation.

The nature versus nurture debate is getting more and more complicated. Parents can influence offspring in a number of ways: 1) genetics; 2) epigenetics in the absence of contact between parent and offspring after birth; 3) epigenetic effects of behavioral contact—that is, parents’ caring and warmth versus abuse and neglect can affect offspring’s DNA expression too. All these are in addition to any purely behavioral influence a parent may have on their offspring via discipline, teaching, being a role model, etc.

Editor’s Note: The moral of the story is, choose your parents wisely, or behave wisely if you yourself become a parent.

Yoga Therapy Improves Depression and Inflammation

July 12, 2016 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

Sudarshan Kriya yoga

Drug treatment for major depression can produce remission in 35–50% or patients. The others may need additional interventions, and some mind-body techniques have been successful. A recent randomized study by Anup Sharma and colleagues found that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) decreased depression at one and two months when added to participants’ regular treatments. Participants who received the yoga treatment also showed reductions in inflammation in the blood, including lower levels of the inflammatory proteins TNF-alpha, IL-10, and CRP.

Music, Mindfulness and Exercise Improve Brain Functioning

March 4, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

boy playing violin

Psychiatrists should take the lead in endorsing general wellness and encouraging healthy behaviors, says researcher James Hudziak. He suggests that opportunities to practice music, mindfulness, and exercise should be made available to all school children to increase brain health, and that more intensive efforts are necessary for children in families that are at risk for mood and behavioral difficulties or in children who show some dysfunction in these areas. Hudziak has implemented a statewide program in Vermont that encourages families to engage in these healthy practices.

Hudziak and colleagues analyzed brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18, looking for relationships between cortical thickness and musical training. They found that practicing an instrument such as the piano or violin increased working memory, gray matter volume in the brain, and the ability to screen out irrelevant noise. Practicing mindfulness increased white matter volume and reduced anxiety and depression. Exercise also increased brain volume and neuropsychological abilities.

Now Hudziak urges parents to advocate for the teaching of music, mindfulness, and exercise in schools as a way of improving general health, especially since music and gym are often the first programs to be cut when schools face budget shortages. Hudziak suggests that opportunities for athletics should be provided to all children, independent of their skill level, rather than only for the best athletes who “make the team.” Intramural teams should be open to all children, including those with less ability or minimal athletic skills. Exercise, teamwork, and friendships benefit all children.

For more information about the programs Hudziak implemented in Vermont, use the internet to search for the Vermont Family Based Approach, see his book Developmental Psychopathology and Wellness: Genetic and Environmental Influences, or call the University of Vermont Medical Center at (802)847-0000 or (800)358-1144.

Another tool that may be useful to parents of children aged 2 to 12 who are at risk for mood disorders is our Child Network, a secure online portal where parents can complete quick weekly ratings of their child’s mood and behavior, which is then graphed over time and can be used to show the child’s doctors how his or her symptoms are fluctuating and how well any treatment is working.

Exercise Improves Cognition and Normalizes Brain Activity

February 12, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

exercise improves cognition

Exercise isn’t just good for the body—new research suggests it can improve cognition and normalize brain activity.

At the 2015 meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researcher Benjamin I. Goldstein reported that 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on a bike improved cognition and decreased hyperactivity in the medial prefrontal cortex in adolescents with and without bipolar disorder.

At the same meeting, researcher Danella M. Hafeman reported that offspring of parents with bipolar disorder who exercised more had lower levels of anxiety.

A plenary address by James J. Hudziak also suggested that exercise, practicing music, and mindfulness training all lead to improvements in brain function and should be an integral part of treatment for children at high risk for bipolar disorder and could be beneficial for all children.

Editor’s Note: Recognizing and responding to mood symptoms is key to the prevention and treatment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents at high risk for the illness. For these young people, exercise, a nutritious diet, good sleep habits, and family psychoeducation about bipolar disorder symptoms may be a good place to start. Joining our Child Network may also be helpful.

Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle

December 21, 2015 · Posted in Course of Illness, Risk Factors · Comment 

healthy lifestyleIn a talk at the 2015 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorder, researcher Michael Berk suggested that a healthy lifestyle may improve mood disorder symptoms.

Diet is important. A study of more than 20,000 mothers revealed that those with unhealthy diets had children with more externalizing disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder, and mania. Diets high in fat and sugar were linked to depression. The Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term epidemiological study of 50,000 women, showed that people who exercised more were less likely to be depressed, while lower muscle mass was associated with greater depression. Exercise also has anti-inflammatory effects.

Avoiding smoking has benefits, too. A study by Pasco and colleagues showed that people who smoke are at increased risk for a new onset of a mood disorder. Smoking is associated with onset of a more severe mood disorder earlier in life, suicide attempts, alcohol and substance abuse, and decreased response to treatment. Fortunately, quitting smoking can reverse some of these risks.

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