Food & Fitness After 50: The Scoop on Collagen

Bob bike 2
Dr. Bob enjoying his just desserts after a long bike ride

Survey data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a trade association for dietary supplements) shows that 78% of adults over the age of 55 take supplements. Reasons for supplement use include overall wellness and healthy aging. It is no surprise that people are asking about one of the hottest supplements…collagen. I reached out to my friend and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50 to ask him some of your top questions about collagen. Dr. Bob Murray is an exercise physiologist and is passionate about exercise and health. He consults with many companies on hydration, protein, and supplement use in active populations, including older adults.

Let’s start with the basics. What is collagen and are there different types of collagen in the body?

Collagen-structure.800x345-wWe can think of collagen as the glue that holds us together. Collagen is the name for a large family of proteins found in the body.  In fact, there are so many types of collagen proteins that collagen turns out to be the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen proteins make up connective tissues throughout the body.  The term “connective tissues,” makes many people immediately think of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, three good examples of connective tissues.  Muscles, skin, and bones also contain large amounts of connective tissues and therefore large amounts of the collagen proteins that intertwine to give those tissues the structure, strength, and elasticity required for the many different roles required of connective tissues. It should be obvious that the connective tissue in bone has a different role to play compared to the connective tissue in muscles or skin. That’s why so many different kinds of collagen proteins are needed throughout our bodies.

When I was younger, I remember my friends dissolving Knox gelatin in water and drinking it to strengthen their nails. Is gelatin the same as collagen?

The connective tissues of cows, pigs, and chickens are the primary source of gelatin produced for human consumption.  As a result, gelatin is rich in collagen proteins.

Is collagen a complete protein, that is one that contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body?

Collagen is an incomplete protein and is low in the amino acids that are associated with building muscle mass and strength.  However, collagen proteins are high in two amino acids—glycine and proline—that appear important in stimulating the growth of connective tissues in physically active people.

There are many claims for collagen supplements…from preventing wrinkles and strengthening skin to improving joint flexibility and strengthening muscles and bone. Is there any good human evidence that collagen supplements will help with any of those body systems?

The best way to sum up the current state of affairs is that the benefit claims for consuming collagen are long on theory and short on evidence.  That’s not to say that there isn’t some evidence suggesting benefits to skin, joints and muscles, but that evidence has yet to reach the levels of quality and quantity required to draw comfortable conclusions about the magnitude and reproducibility of the benefits associated with consuming collagen proteins on a regular basis.

It is well known and accepted that protein is needed for muscle protein synthesis, is collagen any better than simply getting more protein from whey protein or other protein-rich sources?

iStock Older man lifting weights smallMaybe, but much more research is needed to either confirm or deny that consuming collagen benefits muscle mass and strength beyond what we know occurs by increasing dietary protein intake. There are a growing number of studies that report benefits to muscle strength, joint pain, and repair of connective tissue, but there are a greater number of studies that report no benefits.  The unsatisfying answer to your question is that we’re going to have to wait and see what future research has to say,

Do you think older adults need to use collagen as a supplement?

Collagen production does naturally decline with age and there are studies that report benefits of collagen consumption in older adults.  Maybe the best news is that there is little to no risk of trying collagen supplements, aside from the possibility of spending money on something that does not work.

There are so many forms of collagen being sold…hydrolyzed, peptides, raw, undenatured and found in various forms from liquids, powders, tablets, chews and even gummies….if someone wanted to take collagen what is the form and dose that is currently recommended?

The current research indicates that the effective dose seems to be 15-20 grams of collagen per day, along with 200-250 mg of vitamin C to aid in collagen synthesis. The body seems to respond best to the presence of collagen peptides—short chains of a few amino acids—and most forms of dietary collagen contain such peptides. Look for products containing hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides on the label.

1800ss_getty_rf_vitamin_cI’m glad that Dr. Bob mentioned vitamin C and its role in collagen production. Vitamin C is most frequently thought of a nutrient that helps our immune system, especially fighting the dreaded winter cold, but it has a fascinating history (well, fascinating to most dietitians!). At the end of the 15th century, a disease called scurvy was the major cause of disability and death of sailors undergoing long sea voyages. Without access to fruits or vegetables, sailors developed bleeding gums, lost their teeth, had poor wound healing, and frequently old wounds would open up (called dehiscence). All because they were deficient in vitamin C and its important role in collagen production. Collagen helps anchor teeth in our gums and jawbone, as well as helping to keep skin healthy and elastic. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a Hungarian scientist, Dr. Albert-Szent-Gyorgyi, discovered and isolated ascorbic acid (a contraction of anti-scorbutic), better known as vitamin C.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Fitness Tips for Getting and Staying Active

In Food & Fitness After 50 co-author and exercise physiologist, Dr. Bob Murray, likes to make the distinction between physical activity and exercise.  He defines the terms this way, “physical activity is body movements that require increased energy expenditure. Exercise is body movements that require increased energy expenditure and are planned, structured, and repeated with the goal of improving fitness.”

Dr. Murray explains that “there is an emotional aspect to these definitions. Some people dislike exercise but are very open to increasing physical activity, such as walking, gardening, bike riding, swimming or golfing.” While we all know that regular exercise or physical activity improves our healthspan, the length of time that we are healthy. Increasing the moments spent being physically active benefits our physical and mental health. “We have a sitting disease in this country. Older adults can spend up to 85% of their waking hours being sedentary. Working in periodic exercise snacks, even 5 minutes every hour, increases physical activity and can lead to health improvements,” says Dr. Bob.

Book Cover 2So, it was timely when I was e-introduced to K. Aleisha Fetters and her recently published book, Fitness Hacks for Over 50  (Simon & Schuster, Inc, 2020). The subtitle of her book is 300 easy ways to incorporate exercise into your life. I interviewed Aleisha to learn about her and how her book can help us to get and stay more physically active.

Tell me about yourself, Aleisha.

I’m a Chicago-based certified strength and conditioning specialist who works with people both in-person and online, and the author of Fitness Hacks for Over 50 and several other books. I came to fitness writing through journalism–I got my undergraduate and master’s degree in journalism and worked primarily in health and science journalism.

I originally pursued certification as a strength and conditioning specialist to be a better journalist in the fitness arena but the more I got into it, the more I wanted to be able to connect with people and work directly with them, not just write about it. I continue to write for many publications including US News & World Report, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, SilverSneakers, AARP, and O, The Oprah Magazine. In addition, I am a personal trainer to people at the gym and through online virtual training.

As you are in your early 30s, what made you interested in writing the book for those over 50?

Aleisha Fetters 2
Author, K. Aleisha Fetters

Vital, healthy aging is important for all us and aging should not be synonymous with loss of function, frailty, or a decrease in quality of life. As a trainer, I enjoy working with those over the age of 50. I find older adults are interested in exercise and movement for intrinsic reasons, whereas younger adults tend to go for looking good. Older adults enjoy the functional health benefits that come from exercise…feeling food, being strong, playing with their grandkids. My older clients are excited when they hit their goals and find they are experiencing less shoulder or back pain or that they can do something in the gym that they once thought was out of reach.

I’m glad to hear you mention functional fitness as that is something we emphasize in our book. Everyone has different functional goals but for me a good life means the strength to walk my big, strong dogs and lift a 50-pound bag of dog food in my shopping cart. 

That speaks to how we are more alike than we are unalike. Afterall, we all need to squat, hinge, push, push, rotate, and carry. We all need to foster strength, balance, mobility, and move in ways that we enjoy and allow us to finish our workouts or daily tasks feeling better than when we started them. We need to stay fit not only for the present but for the future. I, for one, plan to age like a fine wine!

What do you think are the reasons people don’t exercise or engage in physical activity as they age?

iStock-Older couple runningI think the reasons people don’t exercise at 50, 60, 70+ are the same reasons people don’t exercise at 20, 30, 40+. Lack of time, thinking exercise isn’t fun, believing in the “no pain, no gain” idea that exercise hurts, or that exercise is a means to burn calories or fix perceived flaws.

However, as people age, there are some unique challenges. Aches and pains can make exercise seem hard and if an older person hasn’t exercised in the past they might not know why or how to start. Many older adults have chronic health conditions, such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and they don’t know how to find workouts and activities that are right for them and their unique circumstances.

One question I get all the time is what is the “best” exercise I can do? Dr. Bob’s answer to this question is “the one you enjoy doing the most because then you will continue to do it.”

I agree, exercise you enjoy and will help you cultivate a healthier relationship with your body and movement. However, I will add that the deadlift is my definition of a “best” exercise and I’m not talking about being able to lift a massive load. A deadlift is simply picking a dead weight up off the ground–it’s a fundamental movement pattern and strengthens the entire body while focusing on the posterior muscles, which are prone to weaknesses and injury, and have a huge effect on everyday function. It’s the number-one exercise in my book for reducing the risk of lower-back injury! We’ve all heard, “lift with your legs, not your back,” for good reason!

It seems that this book is perfect for exercise instructors, like Silver Sneakers instructors, to give them ideas and creative ways to keep people interested in fitness. Was that one of your goals or was it written for the consumer?

That wasn’t the intention when writing the book, but once it came together, I realized it had that going for it. After all, even the best trainers can benefit from collaboration and what trainer hasn’t wracked his or her brain trying to think of more exercises or active lifestyle tips when training clients? But it really works for the everyday person; training during structured classes and workouts is one thing, but the difference-maker is what people do when they’re not at the gym or taking a class. This book gives a lot of practical solutions for both trainers and the average older adult who want to change things up.

How should people use this book? What type of equipment do you think people should have at home to get and stay fit?

I would encourage people to use it as a movement menu. Every person might not want to perform every exercise in the book, and it was purposefully designed that way. I encourage people to try out different fitness hacks and see what feels good and meets a person’s unique needs.

Within each chapter, the exercises progress upon one another. So, work on mastering a single-leg stand before trying a single-leg sit to stand. There are notes for exercises to illustrate how they can be safely performed and how they build on one another. I would also encourage people to read the full instructions, tips, and recommendations on modifying exercises based on mobility or other unique circumstances.

exercise bandsAs for equipment, most of the exercises can be done with the resistance of your own body weight, simple household items, or resistance bands. Resistance bands are my number-one equipment choice because they are incredibly versatile, space-saving, and inexpensive–and open the possibility of doing a lot of fun exercises.

What are your 3 favorite fitness hacks? 

As I’m answering your questions, I’m doing “Strike a Tree Pose!” The tree pose, usually associated with yoga, is modified in the book using a kitchen countertop for stability. This pose helps both balance and stability. I would say my favorites are:

  • “Do the Deadlift,” for reasons mentioned above.
  • “Do the I, Y, T” for improving upper-back muscles and posture. The I, Y, and T refer to position of the arms, sort of like the movements in the old song, YMCA!
  • “Hollow Your Core” a foundational exercise for core strength.
  • “Pull Apart” using a resistance band to strengthen should and back muscles.

Dr. Bob talks about activity snacks, and Fitness Hacks for Over 50 gives us lots of “snacks” for variety! I’m going to gift this book to my favorite personal trainer….after I learn all 300 hacks!

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Fun with An Air Fryer

It all started at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders. Like a good dietitian, I took stock of what was in my freezer, fridge, and pantry and planned meals around what was on hand. I mentioned to my husband that we had some Wild Alaska Pollock and Wild Caught Cod filets in the freezer. His response? “I wish I could have fried fish. I love fried fish.” I don’t fry foods and when it comes to fish, I prefer grilling. But it made me think of air frying and with one click, the Ninja AF 101 Air Fryer was in my cart and ready to be shipped.

I have no affiliation with Ninja products but after reading some reviews on consumer websites, the product looked good and the price was right. Once it arrived, it was love at first bite. Using the cooking guide that came with the book I found coating almost anything in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs is delicious.

Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies

514G1VUZdAL._SX397_BO1,204,203,200_Then, serendipity! One of my colleagues, Elizabeth Shaw (@ShawSimpleSwaps), posed a question on social media asking about favorite kitchen appliances and I didn’t think twice as I typed in “air fryer.” She had just published a book with, Wendy Jo Peterson (@Just_WendyJo) called, Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2020) and offered to send me a press copy.

So, disclosure, the press copy was free, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the book and the recipes. First, a brief introduction to Wendy Jo and Liz. Wendy Jo is a culinary dietitian, a writer, speaker, and recipe developer. Her clients range from military to musicians and she is known as the “Fuelin’ Roadie” for innovation with recipes. She is the author of numerous books. Liz Shaw is also a registered dietitian and her brand is Shaw Simple Swaps. She is a culinary expert and her mission is getting people to enjoy food and make small changes to reap big rewards. Please visit their websites for amazing recipes and other great food and nutrition information.

Too Many Great Recipes to Choose From!

But, back to the book. The first thing I liked about the recipes is the use of ingredients you are likely to have in your kitchen…important in a pandemic when we are not out shopping in specialty grocery stores and online delivery is hit or miss. You won’t find cold-pressed, double-filtered organic grapeseed oil or any other hard to find (and expensive to buy) ingredient in any of the recipes….thank you Liz and Wendy Jo.

I flipped through the recipes and truly I wanted to try them all, but I settled on one from each section and using ingredients I had in my house. First up was “Crispy Fried Chicken,” and it didn’t disappoint. I had thinly sliced chicken breasts in the freezer, so I cut them into strips for chicken tenders. I found that my 4-quart air fryer cooks a bit faster than the recipe times call for, so some trial to adjust cooking times is in order. I loved how crispy and golden brown the chicken turned out. Each recipe has notes, tips, and suggestion on how to vary it. We made a dipping sauce with honey and mustard, using one of the tips.

fishingOn to that “fried” fish my husband was craving. I got lucky because my brother-in-law hired a fishing guide to take them out on our lake to hook some fresh fish. As you can see in the photo, the trip was a success and we had bass filets ready for the Air Fryer. I tried the recipe, “Lightened Up Breaded-Fish Filets.” It was equally as good as the fresh salmon I had in Alaska last summer. Can’t wait to try it with my frozen filets, too.

AF FD - Tuna Melt 2
Tuna Melt

Next up was another of my husband’s favorite dishes, Eggplant Parmesan, and he declared it excellent, although he suggested we add some gooey, melty fresh mozzarella cheese next time we make it. Last night, for a quick dinner we tried the Tuna Melt and it was grilled to perfection.

Side dishes are a snap in the Air Fryer and there are plenty of recipes for veggies. The Crispy Herb Potatoes beats French Fries any day and I love the chapter on “Ten (or so) No-Recipe Recipes that Make Perfect Sides.” From Brussels Sprout to Zucchini, you can quickly make a tasty side dish to accompany any entrée. I tried the Brussels Sprouts with Bacon this past weekend and I could have eaten the entire dish by myself!

My only “fail” was in the baking section. I tried Cinnamon Sugar Donut Holes, but they were dry. Good flavor, but crumbly texture. I know I will need to adjust temperatures and times to fit my Air Fryer when baking.

Tips and Tricks

In addition to the recipes, the authors give loads of tips and tricks for using an Air Fryer. As a newbie to this device, I found helpful information to get the best results from my Air Fryer. For example, they suggest coating the basket with olive oil instead of using popular cooking sprays. Commercial cooking sprays contain chemicals that can corrode the basket, so I ordered an inexpensive mister and filled it with olive oil to keep foods from sticking.

They also recommend using a meat thermometer to insure proper cooking temperatures. I always recommend using a meat thermometer instead of guessing if the food is done. Not only does using a meat thermometer help you avoid under-cooked food, but it also prevents over cooking.

Additional Benefits for Older Adults

As many older adults find themselves empty-nesters, I think an Air Fryer is a perfect appliance for healthy, quick meals for one or two people Using it for delicious veggie sides or dehydrating veggies for chips (I have not tried the dehydration setting yet!), it is easy to use and easy to clean.

Some people describe an Air Fryer as just another convection oven, but I find it easier to use than the convection oven setting. Cooking times in the Air Fryer are faster than the oven and the food comes out crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.

I live in the south where there is an affinity for fried foods. An Air Fryer gives you the taste of fried food without the excess calories and saturated fat. Another plus is that cooking with an Air Fryer keeps the kitchen cool. No one wants to turn on a hot oven or sweat over a greasy frying pan on a summer day in Georgia.

While I am not an RVer, many of my friends are, and in the Air Fryer Cheat Sheet for Dummies the authors suggest it is a great appliance for the RV lifestyle.

If you’ve got an Air Fryer hiding in a closet, dig it out and try some of these great recipes. And, if you are like me and looking to try something new, I recommend an Air Fryer and Liz and Wendy Jo’s cookbook! A big thanks to Wendy Jo and Liz for showing me all the ways to use my favorite new purchase.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Beware of Online Advice to Take Vitamin D or Zinc to Prevent COVID-19

Dietary supplements can help fill nutrient gaps or be used to treat deficiencies but lately I’ve seen lots of headlines implying supplements of vitamin D and zinc can make you immune to COVID-19. In a word? NO.

To top it off, many well-meaning people are touting these nutrients on their social media feeds with messages like, “wash your hands and take loads of vitamin D and zinc,” or “stock up on vitamins and minerals, they are natural so you can’t take too much.” Ouch. Hemlock is a natural poison, so clearly you can take too much of a “natural” substance.

vitaminddiscVitamin D

What do these headlines have in common?

  • Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to more severe cases of COVID-19.
  • New study claims vitamin D deficiency may impact coronavirus mortality rates.
  • Could vitamin D deficiency and coronavirus be connected?
  • New study suggests vitamin D is linked to COVID-19 mortality.
  • Coronavirus: How vitamin D could keep you healthy during the pandemic.

I’ve underlined the key words to give you a clue. These headlines are from the same study. The study found a relationship, not a cause and effect, with vitamin D and the virus. When you see the words or phrases like “appears to play a role,” “may be linked,” “may impact,” “suggests,” “related to,” or “associated with,” it tells you about a relationship between two things. It doesn’t tell you that one thing caused another. Did you know there is a strong relationship between the increase in bottled water consumption and rising rates of obesity in the U.S.? Clearly, it doesn’t mean that bottled water is “causing” obesity.

In addition to the well-recognized role in bone health, Vitamin D is important in immunity. It helps modulate the immune system, making immune cells less inflammatory. Various groups, from the Institute of Medicine (IOM is a nonprofit organization and part of The National Academies that works outside the framework of government to provide evidence-based research and recommendations for public health and science policy) recommends that all adults age 51 to 70 years get 600 IU (equal to 15 micrograms or mcg) a day and those over the age of 70 get 800 IU a day (20 mcg). The Endocrine Society suggests adults need 1000 to 1500 IU to ensure adequate blood levels of the vitamin.

It is hard to get enough vitamin D from food and older adults are at risk for insufficiency because skin doesn’t make vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently with aging. Many adults turn to vitamin D supplements to get the needed vitamin D.

And, we started this post with suggestions that the vitamin plays a role in COVID-19. At this point, it is only speculation, but there are at least nine clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, exploring various aspects on the vitamin on the virus. A rapid review paper from University of Oxford in the UK (click here for the paper), published May 1, found that currently is there is no clinical evidence to support prevention or treatment of COVID-19 with vitamin D

The Bottom Line?

  • If you have had your blood levels of vitamin D measured by your doctor and she or he has recommended a supplement, continue to take the dose as recommended.
  • If you have not had a vitamin D blood test, don’t self-diagnose and start taking vitamin D.
  • If you take a multivitamin/mineral supplement you may be getting the recommended amount or slightly higher for vitamin D; multis formulated for “seniors” often contain 1000 IU of vitamin D. Don’t take any more than the Upper Limit of 4000 IU/day unless prescribed by an MD.
  • Best food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish; think salmon, tuna, sardines. We know eating fish is good for our health in many ways, so include a fish meal at least twice a week.

Zinc 

Picture1We have no storage site in the body for zinc, so it is needed in the diet every day. Zinc is better known for its role in inhibiting the common cold virus from sticking and replicating in the nose and throat. It can also stop inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of a cold…runny nose and stuffy head.

There is no research on using zinc for COVID-19.

While there are many zinc preparations in the cold and flu cold aisle of your local drug or grocery store, should you use them? The research results are mixed, of course, they often are, but the latest review from the Cochrane Collaboration (a group that reviews medical topics by reviewing many studies on a particular topic) found that when zinc is taken at the first sign of a cold the length of the illness is reduced by about one day.

When using it for warding off a cold, keep in mind the following:

  • Timing and dose are important, try one zinc lozenge at the first sign of a cold and take it every 4 hours (most have 10 to 15 milligrams of zinc per dose).
  • More isn’t better, in fact, in can make things worse; nausea and vomiting can occur if you take too much and it can leave a metal taste in the mouth.
  • Avoid zinc nasal sprays…the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that zinc sprays can lead to changes in the sense of smell and sometimes permanent changes.
  • Zinc can interfere with some prescription medications, like antibiotics and blood thinners, so always consider potential drug interactions.

The Bottom Line?

  • Zinc is important for a healthy immune system but there is no evidence at this time that it will protect against COVID-19.
  • Too much zinc, which is easy to get in supplement form, can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • The Upper Limit for zinc is 40 milligrams so keep that in mind if you use zinc lozenges.
  • Aim for zinc-rich foods every day. Good choices are seafood (oysters, lobster, crab), beef, pork, poultry, baked beans, and fortified breakfast cereals.

I asked Connie Diekman, registered dietitian, food and nutrition consultant, and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help sum it up:

“With this new virus, much is unknown which makes it more important that we depend on the science related to supplements, rather than opinions posted by a variety of people. The body of evidence related to vitamins and minerals is extensive, while the knowledge behind Covid-19 is evolving. Therefore, as an RD, the best advice I’d give is to focus on a well-balanced eating plan and talk to your MD or RD to determine if you would benefit from supplements – don’t go it alone!”

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved