VoedingsMagazine - nummer 4, december 2011, 24e jaargang
NutritionMagazine, No.4, 2011, Vol.24
‘Sports, Nutrition and Lifestyle’ lecturers bid farewell
Why much of ought is good for nought and it’s better to wear out than to rust out
Prof. Gertjan Schaafsma said: ‘In research and education the relation between nutrition and physical activity has rarely been addressed. We should do better in the years to come.' During a farewell seminar Schaafsma also paid attention to the ambition of the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) to turn the Netherlands into a genuine sports nation, with more attention to recreational sports. Schaafsma: ‘We also could promote optimal dietary habits for sportspeople.'
Until recently, the nutritionist Prof. Gertjan Schaafsma was a lecturer at the HAN University of Applied Sciences in Arnhem and Nijmegen. Together with his colleague Dr Victor Schreurs, he bade farewell in September 2011 in a seminar with the theme ‘Waarom overdaad schaadt en rust roest' [Why much of ought is good for nought and it's better to wear out than to rust out]. Schaafsma spoke about the challenges in future research regarding sports, nutrition and lifestyle. Physical activity is an important factor for research. However, ‘In research and education the relation between nutrition and physical activity has rarely been addressed. We should do better in the years to come.' The importance of physical activity is evidenced by its relation to prevention of chronic diseases. Obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis are examples of that relation. ‘We should realize that physical activity furthers performance and well-being. More physical exercise improves the immune system, intestinal function, cognition, mood and also, for example, skin health.'
Fit & Vital projects Gertjan Schaafsma discussed the balance between nutrition and physical activity. ‘There is a lot of discussion about the obesogenic society, but individual factors play a role as well.' We could think of attitudes, knowledge, spending power, behaviour and genetic predisposition. ‘Actually, the activities of the lectureship focus around these elements (see also the frame text).' In recent years, we have seen the Fit & Vital I and II projects, for example. ‘These two projects were intended to stimulate physical activity of children accommodated by day-care centres.' In the Fit & Vital I project HAN students developed tool boxes for children aged 0—12. In the Fit & Vital II project the materials were implemented in crèches. Healthy lifestyle training programmes for pedagogical workers were offered in addition to knowledge transfer for parents and effect assessments (knowledge, behaviours and attitudes) for pedagogical workers as well as parents and children both before and after the intervention. ‘That project has run for two years. I can say that, as a result, children now eat more vegetables and fruit than before the intervention.'
Sports is business Schaafsma also paid attention to the ambition of the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF) to turn the Netherlands into a genuine sports nation. In 2009, NOC*NSF launched the Olympic Plan, which describes how the Netherlands can be a real sports nation by 2016. How can a favourable climate for top-class sports be realized? To promote public health in the Netherlands, the aim is to increase the participation in recreational sports to at least 75%. ‘Nutrition is important. We think that the regional “Nutrition & Sports" knowledge institutions can help to better collaborate with companies around the nutrition and sports theme. For these companies recreational sports are also an interesting issue. After all, what happens in top-class sports is readily adopted by recreational sports. There is a lot of business to be created in this field. We also could promote optimal dietary habits for sportspeople. That is why we wished to establish a Nutrition & Sports Network.' One of the objectives of the network partners is to make clear that healthy nutrition is indispensable and to improve the nutrition knowledge in the sports sector. ‘Knowledge of the nutrition subject is currently insufficiently implemented in that sector. Few coaches know much of nutrition.' Other network partners apart from HAN, departments of Wageningen University and NOC*NSF are, for example, Nijmegen University Medical Centre, NIZO Foodresearch and the Netherlands Institute for Sport and Physical Activity (NISB). Together, they intend to focus in particular on general sports dietetics and the development of sports-specific foods and food supplements in order to enhance the performances, the sportspeople's health and recovery and to prevent inflammations. For the Sports, Nutrition and Lifestyle lectureship Schaafsma envisages in particular opportunities for optimization of the sportspeople's basic diet. ‘Generally speaking, their basic diet is very poor.' He added: ‘We are aware only now that vitamin D provision on a population level in the Netherlands is suboptimal. That holds true for sportspeople too. We also know that the immune system simmers after an episode of strong physical exertion. Our opportunities lie exactly there, in addition to exploration of the possible role of prebiotics and probiotics in improvement of the intestinal health of endurance sportspeople. The question is to what extent these products can act beneficially and thus can have a positive effect on the intestine's action.' Schaafsma also calls for more attention to the quality of foods offered to sportspeople. ‘Not almond paste cake and candy bars but well balanced convenience foods with a long shelf life in sports canteens. That will be highly desirable for sportspeople.'
Modern hunter-gatherers in the supermarket The issue is polishing up dietary habits, both for (to-class) sportspeople and for the physically less active Dutch. Let us look back to ancient times and think of what we can learn from the hunters and gatherers. The clinical chemist Prof. Frits Muskiet (Groningen University Medical Centre): ‘Culturally we are people of the 21s century, but genetically we are still living in the Palaeolithic. Modern hunter-gatherers hunt in the supermarket.' He reasoned from an evolutionary perspective what an optimal diet is for people in Western societies. ‘I treat evolution in broad outlines. That implies learning from Darwin, who wrote in particular about adaptation to living conditions.' Life's biological match is just about adaptation to life's conditions. Our environment causes epigenetic changes, which have our phenotype adjusted to living condition both on the short and the longer term. These changes leave deep marks in individuals as well as in their progeny. About 160,000 years ago, the first people fed on vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts and, from time to time, some meat. That eating pattern has changed drastically over the past 10,000 years and even more so in the past century. Since genetically the human body hardly changed relative to ancient times our body has great difficulty at coping with our current dietary patterns. An inventory of various studies led Muskiet to a clear-cut conclusion: ‘We have brought on a conflict between our environment and our genome aged millions of years.' Many factors in our diet have changed since the agricultural and industrial revolutions. We could think in that context, for example, of our foods' macronutrient composition, glycaemic index, fatty acid composition, fibre content, sodium/potassium ratio, acid-base balance and micronutrient density. To overcome current (chronic) diseases, we should develop a lifestyle with the character of the prehistoric diet, the Paleo Diet. Muskiet argues strongly in favour of such a development: ‘Choose predominantly basic foods like vegetables, fruit, animal products, nuts, seeds and eggs. The animal products should preferably come from the land-water ecosystem since that is the econsystem where we became what we still are.'
Metabolic health is not a matter of course In the past few years the lectureship ‘Sports, Nutrition and Lifestyle' has paid much attention to a new energy concept in which the physiology of lactate (lactic acid) is the central point. Exercise physiologists have shown that lactate metabolism can proceed in diverse ways and leads in some cases to enhanced energy expenditure. The nutritional physiologist Dr Victor Schreurs told that we will make in practical situations optimal use of the characteristics of lactate metabolism, not only to enhance sporting achievements but also to realize a healthy body weight or to counsel patients who undergo surgery. Schreurs emphasized that our metabolic health is under great pressure. ‘That stress is caused by our lifestyle, which incites our metabolism more and more to glucose breakdown and lactate formation, even in periods of physical rest. The ‘menu' of our metabolism is deviating more and more from our body's ‘menu'. Our metabolism has much trouble with the lactate formed. As a result, manifold logistic problems arise which disturb both the carbohydrate and the fat metabolism in our body. Lactate metabolism in insulin-sensitive tissues gives rise to insulin resistance with an ensuing loss of metabolic flexibility in those tissues.' Schreurs took people with a healthy body weight as an example. ‘In a fasting state early in the morning, their body is inclined to fat metabolism. A subsequent breakfast causes a shift to carbohydrate metabolism. That shift is indicative of metabolic flexibility. Our metabolism can adapt to the current availability of nutrients. Obese people have largely lost that flexibility. Their body is inclined to carbohydrate metabolism even in fasting state.' That condition is called ‘metabolic inflexibility', which is associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Victor Schreurs has also paid attention at HAN to height simulation and weight control. Many mountaineers lose body weight during climbing. What is the nature of the weight lost: fluid, proteins (lean body mass) or fat? ‘When we know that fat metabolism is enhanced at great height, height simulation could offer a bonus during slimming attempts.' Schreurs told on the basis of the new energy concept that an acute increase in energy expenditure is expected as the body's response to height simulation. Lactate formed during height simulation as a by-product of anaerobic glycolysis is subsequently recycled into glucose through gluconeogenesis. That process eventually results in enhanced energy expenditure. Finally, Victor Schreurs presented to the audience some popular lifestyle suggestions. He stated that it is a matter of acting like the three wise monkeys (‘see all, hear all, say nothing'): ‘Listen to all stories told, absorb them and see what happens in society. Look also at your own scales, be honest and draw your conclusions. First the sour, then the sweet. After all, when your physical condition is capable of get rid of lactate, you can allow yourself some tasty bite. Live consciously, for metabolic health is not a matter of course.'
The lectureship ‘Sports, Nutrition and Lifestyle' of HAN University of Applied Sciences intends to contribute to both health promotion in society at large and achievement enhancement in sports. The main focus is on nutrition and physical activity. There are four core themes focused explicitly on daily practice: sportspeople and their performance, the lifestyle of youth, the quality of life of older people, and the strength of vulnerable people. All of these themes relate to lifestyle and its influence on the body's energy metabolism. The lectureship focuses not only on physical achievements but also on overweight, type 2 diabetes, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, COPD and recovery after surgery. See also http://blog.han.nl/lectoraatsvl.
Lactate The first phases if breakdown of glucose leads to formation of lactate, which has to be metabolized to glucose, CO2 or saturated fat. Resting lactate formation can be stimulated by factors associated with lifestyle (e.g. stress, hypoxia of adipose tissue and excess intake of carbohydrates). In a state of physical rest the lactate formed finds its way in metabolism, which may lead to insulin resistance. Moderately intensive physical activity can prevent that effect from occurring.
All speakers during the seminar See http://blog.han.nl/lectoraatsvl for the video and PowerPoint presentations of all speakers during the seminar ‘Waarom overdaad schaadt en rust roest' [Why much of ought is good for nought and it's better to war out than to rust out].