OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

heath and nutrition

ACL injuries may be prevented by different landing strategy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Women are two to eight times more likely than men to suffer a debilitating tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee and a new study suggests that a combination of body type and landing techniques may be to blame.

In two new studies published online this week in the Journal of Athletic Training, lead author Marc Norcross of Oregon State University documents how women who were asked to undergo a series of jumping exercises landed more often than men in a way associated with elevated risk of ACL injuries.

Both men and women tended to land stiffly, which can lead to ACL injuries, but women were 3.6 times more likely to land in a “knock-kneed” position, which the researchers say may be the critical factor leading to the gender disparity in ACL tears.

“We found that both men and women seem to be using their quad region the same, so that couldn’t explain why females are more at risk,” Norcross said. “Using motion analysis, we were able to pinpoint that this inability to control the frontal-plane knee loading – basically stress on the knee from landing in a knock-kneed position – as a factor more common in women.

“Future research may isolate why women tend to land this way,” he added, “but it could in part be because of basic biology. Women have wider hips, making it more likely that their knees come together after jumping.”

Norcross, an assistant professor of exercise and sport science in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, is a former collegiate athletic trainer dedicating his research to the prevention of ACL tears.

“You see ACL injuries in any sport where you have a lot of jump stops and cuts, so basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and volleyball are high-risk sports,” said Norcross. “We know that people who hurt themselves tend to look stiff when they land and that the combined ‘knee loading’ from multiple directions is likely causing the injury event. But it wasn’t clear initially why women had more injuries than men.”

The researchers used motion analysis software to monitor the landing strategies of 82 physically active men and women. They found that both males and females had an equal likelihood of landing stiffly – likely from tensing the muscles in their quads before landing – putting them at higher risk of ACL tears. Women, however, were more likely to land in a “knee valgus” position, essentially knock-kneed.

Norcross said his next research project will focus on high school athletes, looking at a sustainable way to integrate injury prevention into team warm-up activities through improving landing technique.

“We are trying to create a prevention strategy that is sustainable and will be widely used by high school coaches,” he said. “A lot of athletes do come back from an ACL injury, but it is a long road. And the real worry is that it leads to early onset arthritis, which then impacts their ability to stay physically active.”

This study was supported by the NATA Research & Education Foundation Doctoral Grant Program.

Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Greensboro contributed to this study.

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Marc Norcross, 541-737-6788

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ACL jumping landing
Biomechanical model of a female using a “knock-kneed” technique and experiencing high frontal plane knee loading during a jump landing.

Cognitive decline with age is normal, routine – but not inevitable

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you forget where you put your car keys and you can’t seem to remember things as well as you used to, the problem may well be with the GluN2B subunits in your NMDA receptors.

And don’t be surprised if by tomorrow you can’t remember the name of those darned subunits.

They help you remember things, but you’ve been losing them almost since the day you were born, and it’s only going to get worse. An old adult may have only half as many of them as a younger person.

Research on these biochemical processes in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University is making it clear that cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, and scientists are tracking the problem down to highly specific components of the brain. Separate from some more serious problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, virtually everyone loses memory-making and cognitive abilities as they age. The process is well under way by the age of 40 and picks up speed after that.

But of considerable interest: It may not have to be that way.

“These are biological processes, and once we fully understand what is going on, we may be able to slow or prevent it,” said Kathy Magnusson, a neuroscientist in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and professor in the Linus Pauling Institute. “There may be ways to influence it with diet, health habits, continued mental activity or even drugs.”

The processes are complex. In a study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that one protein that stabilizes receptors in a young animal – a good thing conducive to learning and memory – can have just the opposite effect if there’s too much of it in an older animal.

But complexity aside, progress is being made. In recent research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, OSU scientists used a genetic therapy in laboratory mice, in which a virus helped carry complementary DNA into appropriate cells and restored some GluN2B subunits. Tests showed that it helped mice improve their memory and cognitive ability.

The NMDA receptor has been known of for decades, Magnusson said. It plays a role in memory and learning but isn’t active all the time – it takes a fairly strong stimulus of some type to turn it on and allow you to remember something. The routine of getting dressed in the morning is ignored and quickly lost to the fog of time, but the day you had an auto accident earns a permanent etching in your memory.

Within the NMDA receptor are various subunits, and Magnusson said that research keeps pointing back to the GluN2B subunit as one of the most important. Infants and children have lots of them, and as a result are like a sponge in soaking up memories and learning new things. But they gradually dwindle in number with age, and it also appears the ones that are left work less efficiently.

“You can still learn new things and make new memories when you are older, but it’s not as easy,” Magnusson said. “Fewer messages get through, fewer connections get made, and your brain has to work harder.”

Until more specific help is available, she said, some of the best advice for maintaining cognitive function is to keep using your brain. Break old habits, do things different ways. Get physical exercise, maintain a good diet and ensure social interaction. Such activities help keep these “subunits” active and functioning.

Gene therapy such as that already used in mice would probably be a last choice for humans, rather than a first option, Magnusson said. Dietary or drug options would be explored first.

“The one thing that does seem fairly clear is that cognitive decline is not inevitable,” she said. “It’s biological, we’re finding out why it happens, and it appears there are ways we might be able to slow or stop it, perhaps repair the NMDA receptors. If we can determine how to do that without harm, we will.”

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Kathy Magnusson, 541-737-6923

Athletes need to be careful to monitor diet, weight to maintain muscle mass

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Athletes seeking a healthy performance weight should eat high fiber, low-fat food balanced with their training regimen in order to maintain muscle while still burning fat, according to a report by an Oregon State University researcher.

The United States now has a record number of overweight athletes, a population many think of as untouched by the obesity crisis. Nationally, more than 45 percent of high school linebackers are obese, and the number of overweight students entering college level-sports is increasing.

In a peer-reviewed literature review published this summer in the Nestle Nutritional Institution Workshop Series, OSU researcher Melinda Manore looked at the benefits of teaching athletes how to consume what she calls a low-energy-dense diet, or high-fiber, high-water, but lower-fat foods. She said too many athletes are pushed into fad diets or try to restrict calorie intake too much in a way that is unhealthy and unsustainable.

“Depending on the sport, athletes sometime want to either lose weight without losing lean tissue, or gain weight, mostly lean tissue,” she said. “This is very difficult to do if you restrict caloric intake too dramatically or try to lose the weight too fast. Doing that also means they don’t have the energy to exercise, or they feel tired and put themselves at risk of injury.”

Manore is professor of nutrition in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU. She said the overwhelming body of research shows that just counting calories does not work. What does work is a healthy lifestyle that can be maintained, even during breaks or when not in training. She said an athlete’s optimum body weight should include the following criteria:

  • Weight that minimizes health risks and promotes good eating
  • Weight that takes into consideration genetic makeup and family history
  • Weight that is appropriate for age and level of physical development, including normal reproductive function in women
  • Weight that can be maintained without constant dieting and restraining food intake

In the paper, Manore outlined some strategies that athletes can use to maintain a healthy weight and remain performance-ready. It’s important, she said, to adopt a low-energy-dense diet, which includes a large amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, and low-fat dairy. Avoid beverages high in sugar, especially soda and alcohol. Manore said half of a plate of food should be filled with fruits and veggies, and processed food should be avoided.

“Always opt for the food over the drink, don’t drink your calories,” Manore said. “Instead of drinking orange juice, eat an orange. It has more fiber, and fills you up more.”

Other key points:

  • Eat breakfast. Data from the National Weight Control Registry shows that 80 percent of people who lost at least 30 pounds in a year and kept it off were breakfast eaters. Eat a breakfast rich with high-fiber whole grains, fruit, high-quality protein such as egg whites, and low-fat dairy. Skip the processed cereals.
  • Get plenty of protein. Most athletes get plenty of protein, but they may not be strategic about making sure to refuel after exercise, and spreading their protein intake throughout the day. Depending on the goals, some athletes may need to get as much as 30 percent of their calories from protein, but many get that in one large meal. Spreading that protein out throughout the day is a better strategy; and nuts, beans and legumes are a great source of protein, not just meat.
  • Exercise regularly. This may seem obvious for an athlete, but many seasonal athletes can pack on pounds during off-seasons, making it that much harder to get performance-ready.
  • Avoid fad diets. Combining severe calorie restriction with intense training can result in metabolic adaptions that actually can make it more difficult to lose weight. Severe weight loss also makes an athlete stressed out and tired, and that is never good for sport.

While her paper is aimed at competitive and recreational athletes, Manore said all of these tips can apply to anyone who wants to change their diet and head in a healthier direction.

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Melinda Manore, 541-737-8701

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OSU soccer playing
Students playing soccer at Legacy Park in Corvallis. April 2013. (photo by Jan Sonnenmair)

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Melinda Manore

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OSU study suggests reducing air-polluting PAHs may lower levels of lung cancer deaths

CORVALLIS, Ore. – High emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be linked to lung cancer deaths in the United States and countries with a similarly high socioeconomic rank, including Canada, Australia, France, and Germany, according to a study by Oregon State University.

Researchers reviewed a range of information from 136 countries, including average body mass index, gross domestic product per capita, the price of cigarettes, smoking rates, and the amount of PAHs emitted into the air. PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested. They most commonly come from vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood.

OSU researchers calculated how measures of health, wealth and pollution related to lung cancer deaths in each country.

"Analyzing data on a global scale revealed relationships between PAH emissions and smoking rates on the lung cancer death rates in each country," said Staci Simonich, a co-author of the study and toxicologist at OSU. "Ultimately, the strength of the relationships was determined by the country’s socioeconomic status."

While the link between smoking and lung cancer is well-established, OSU researchers did not find a correlation between cigarette smoking rates and lung cancer death rates in countries with high levels of income. Researchers attribute this conclusion to previous studies showing high-income smokers tend to light up less often.

OSU's study also suggests that reducing smoking rates could significantly lessen lung cancer deaths in countries with a lower socioeconomic status, including North Korea, Nepal, Mongolia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and many others. Researchers found that lung cancer mortality rates in these countries negatively correlated with price – meaning cheaper cigarettes are often associated with higher levels of deaths from lung cancer.

Detectable lung cancer can take 20 years to develop, and the poorest countries in the study had an average age of death of 54. OSU researchers suggest heavy smokers in these countries can sometimes die before tumors attributable to lung cancer become apparent.

"If the life expectancies were the same in all of the countries we reviewed, it's possible we would see a consistent relationship between PAH emissions and lung cancer," said Simonich, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology.

The study, "Association of Carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions and Smoking with Lung Cancer Mortality Rates on a Global Scale," was recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Toxicology.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Richland, Wash. assisted with calculating the statistical associations between data used in the study. The National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences funded the research through OSU’s Superfund Research Program.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. Lung cancer accounts for 12 percent of all cancer diagnoses and is the leading cancer killer of men and second among women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Note to Editors: To request a copy of the study, please email Daniel Robison at daniel.robison@oregonstate.edu.

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Staci Simonich, 541-737-9194

Cost of child care continues to rise in Oregon; majority not in centers or organized care

The report this article is based on can be found at: http://health.oregonstate.edu/sbhs/family-policy-program/occrp-childcare-dynamics-publications

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The cost of child care in Oregon continues to rise even as wages decline, especially for the state’s most fragile families.

According to a new Oregon State University report looking at child care in the state and in every Oregon county, child care prices increased 13 percent from 2004 to 2012 while household incomes declined 9 percent.

The average annual cost of toddler care in a child care center in Oregon is now $11,064, up from $10,392 in 2010. Nationally, the cost of child care continues to rise, with child care expenditures taking a higher percentage of household income in 2011 than in 2005. Child Care Aware of America lists Oregon as the third most expensive state for infant child care (price as a percentage of income) in the nation.

“Families struggle to provide children the experiences they want for them,” said Bobbie Weber, a faculty research associate at the Family Policy Program in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and author of the report. Weber issues a new report every two years on child care in Oregon.

Survey findings show the majority of Oregonians rely on a parent, relative or close friend to care for their children. This is even the case for preschoolers (ages 3 to 4), which is the group with the highest rate of “organized care,” or care in a center or family child care home. More than 55 percent of those children are either at home with a parent or in an “informal” setting, such as with a relative or friend of the family.

“There is a perception that the majority of our kids are in a child care center or preschool, and it simply isn’t true,” Weber said. “For policy reasons, we need strategies to support children who are in home settings with parents, relatives, or others. Parents and caregivers need to have easy access to information and strategies for making children successful if we are to reach the goal of all children being ready for kindergarten.”

Weber said interventions have shown that home visiting programs, where an educator visits a home and provides information and resources to the adult and child alike, as well as Play and Learn groups, or community-based settings for child providers and kids to come together and work with a trained educator, have proven successful.

While there are subsidies available for those earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, parents have to pay part of their child care fees and that amount rises as incomes rise. Over the last few years, budget cuts have constrained how many families can be served. In 2012, approximately 13,000 children were served each month by the Employment Related Day Care Program, slightly more than half the number served in 2009.

“A lot more people are getting engaged and becoming aware of the struggles facing parents,” Weber said. “We are seeing increases in some of the programs that support children and families. It is likely that funds will be restored to the child care subsidy program and there will be an increase in Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten. Both programs enable low income families to access learning opportunities for their children.”

This year, an interactive map is available that allows people to find out about child care and education in their elementary school area, school district, or county. The map is available at: http://health.oregonstate.edu/occrp-map. Maps were produced by Jes Mendez of the Oregon Employment Department.

Weber is a member of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s Early Learning Council, which has been tasked to design the most effective early-childhood system, one that will ensure children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn.

A full report and map for each county in Oregon can be found at: http://bit.ly/13DzxbL

Some of the county findings include:

  • Child care prices have continued to rise while incomes have dropped. It is 24 times harder (measured by increase of prices combined with decrease in income) for a family to purchase care in 2012 than in 2004. It is 33 percent harder for single parents in 2012 than in 2004.
  • The most expensive county in Oregon for child care was Washington County, where the average annual cost was $12,348 for toddler care. Multnomah, Benton and Clackamas counties followed closely as the most expensive.
  • Rural counties in general suffer from a lack of resources. Many rural areas do not have enough family day care providers or child care centers to meet the needs of the communities.
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Bobbie Weber, 541-737-9243

German researcher receives Linus Pauling Institute Prize

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Dr. Helmut Sies, a pioneer in the study of carotenoids and flavonoids, today was awarded the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research, one of the leading honors of its type in the world.

This is the seventh time the award has been made, which recognizes excellence in research relating to the roles of vitamins, essential minerals and phytochemicals in promoting health, and preventing or treating disease. It was presented at the Diet and Optimum Health conference in Oregon, and includes a medal and $25,000 honorarium.

Sies, a physician and biochemist at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf in Germany, has more than 600 original research articles and book chapters on many topics in nutrition and cancer prevention. In a landmark 1985 publication he first coined the term “oxidative stress.”

Sies is a leader in the study of carotenoids in plants that can give them the ability to help protect the skin and other organs from cancer-causing free radicals, and flavonoids in cocoa that improve blood vessel function and reduce cardiovascular risk.

“Dr. Sies helped explain how some of the carotenoids and flavonoids found in vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots can help prevent the oxidation or cell damage from free radicals, which is an important causal factor of cancer and many other human diseases,” said Balz Frei, professor and head of the Linus Pauling Institute, located at Oregon State University.

“Research on nutrition, phytochemicals and optimal diet is truly global, and it’s an honor for us to present Dr. Sies this award as the first international recipient of the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research,” Frei said.

Sies has also done important work with essential fatty acids that can prevent inflammation, cellular signaling pathways in cancer development, and the role of nitric oxide in cancer- and heart disease-related events. His colleagues also cited him for bringing his findings out of the laboratory and into public awareness to “enhance public health and reduce suffering from disease,” which is one of the criteria on which this award is based.

“Helmut has built a bridge between nutrition science and health sciences,” said Enrique Cadenas, professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Southern California. “Helmut’s work transcended the scientific community to the general public, addressing health issues driven by diet and lifestyle.”

The conclusion of the Diet and Optimum Health Conference this weekend will include a free public session on Saturday, May 18, at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center on the OSU campus, from 9 a.m. to noon. Topics of discussion will include dietary and health approaches to help prevent cancer, metabolic syndrome, childhood obesity and other health concerns. More information is available online at http://bit.ly/15tPuXg

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Balz Frei, 541-737-5078

OSU creates new health promotion program, seeks participants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new health promotion program aimed at people with physical mobility issues seeks participants from the Corvallis area.

Simon Driver, an associate professor in exercise and sport science at Oregon State University, is creating the program based on a successful model he created at a medical facility in Texas. The eight-week program is aimed at people ages 18 to 75 who have limited mobility – defined as having difficulty walking one block, or using an assistive device such as a walker, cane or wheelchair.

In addition, participants must be able to communicate in English.

The eight-week program is part of a research project by Driver to determine the effectiveness of the program on increasing physical activity for people with a mobility disability. The program will take place in the Health Promotion for People with Disabilities Lab in the Women’s Building on the OSU campus. Participants must be able to attend the program once a week for 90 minutes during an eight-week period.

The program helps people learn social and behavioral skills to become healthier. Participants will learn about setting goals, rewarding themselves for making their goals, and overcoming barriers to being healthy and active.

To learn more information on qualifications for the program and to sign up to participate, email health.disability@oregonstate.edu or call 541-737-5927.

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Simon Driver, 541-737-3263

Generic OSU

About Oregon State University: OSU is one of only two U.S. universities designated a land-, sea-, space- and sun-grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions and its prestigious Community Engagement classification. Its more than 26,000 students come from all 50 states and more than 90 nations. OSU programs touch every county within Oregon, and its faculty teach and conduct research on issues of national and global importance.