Happy New Year!

I want to welcome you to our monthly health and wellness newsletter/blog (blogletter?). This newsletter will feature student work as well as wellness information. 

Our first edition is in the form of a Frequently Asked Question page. I get many health-related questions from students, which is wonderful and I enjoy answering these questions. In order to give students the opportunity for extra credit, I posed some of the questions I receive for them to answer. This issue features FAQs answered by Jack Armstrong, Michelle Jiang, David Schlmick, James Sturtz, and Ivy Wang. The sources are listed at the very end, organized alphabetically by author. 

All the best,
Ms Russell

Should Athletes Take Creatine as a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Answered by Jack Armstrong

Several case studies have proven creatine to improve short, power oriented performance in athletes. One of the most thorough investigations into this topic has been conducted by Rice University in Houston Texas, who concluded the following: “Since creatine supplementation increases muscle creatine levels, the next logical step would be to see if this helped athletic performance. One might expect that power athletes would benefit, and endurance athletes, not. Indeed, the exercise studies to date have confirmed that supposition” (Jenkins). It is now clear that long distance runners and endurance oriented athletes do not benefit from creatine use.

However, when taking a step back to see the bigger picture, creatine bears substantially more severe consequences than just being detrimental to marathon runners. Creatine use has been previously attributed to weight gain, muscle cramps, muscle strains and pulls, stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, kidney damage (University of Maryland).

For those who don’t know how creatine works, it is rather simple. If you think back to biology and discussing cellular respiration, a high energy molecule by the name of “ATP” may ring a bell. These molecules are supercharged with energy because of the string of phosphates they contain. When a phosphate breaks off from the chain, energy is released. At the cellular level, ATP helps all cellular functions such as mitosis and meiosis, but ATP is also used when muscles need energy to operate. When athletes use creatine, they are simply solving this issue. Creatine is a molecule that has an extra phosphate attached to it that can be given off to an ADP molecule, which is an ATP molecule with only two phosphates in the chain instead of three. Since power oriented training requires a significant amount of ATP in a relatively short period of time, creatine can aid in quickly “repairing” ADP molecules that need another phosphate to become ATP again (Axis Labs). Haven’t taken biology yet, or forget what an ATP molecule is? Think of creatine as the mechanic who adds necessary fuel to an F1 speed car. If the F1 needs energy to race again but doesn’t have a lot of time to regain key ingredients, it will go to its pitstop to get a QUICK refuel to run fast again.

Creatine can be extremely useful for power oriented athletes who do not have to time to gain energy through normal foods. To conclude, the choice is up to the athletes. If they are willing to risk setbacks such as muscle cramps and diarrhea, then creatine may be a viable solution to quick energy. For the rest of the athletes who may have had previous trouble with high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, or kidney issues, sticking to traditional pre workout super foods like bananas, raisins, and eggs may be most beneficial without doing unneeded harm to their bodies (Garden Spices). Also, as far as duration, athletes should consult with their doctor.

What Are the Differences Between the Left Hemisphere and Right Hemisphere of the Brain, and Which Side of the Body Does Each Side Control?

Answered by Michelle Jiang

The hemispheres of the brain were extensively researched by Roger Sperry and his colleagues in the 1960s (Roger Sperry). He discovered that the two hemispheres had different functions – the right hemisphere controlled the left side of the body and emotions, while the left hemisphere controlled the right side of the body and logical thinking.

The right side of the brain is for writing, art, music, and in general, creativity (Lifestyle Planning: Are You a Left-Brain Thinker or a Right-Brain Thinker?). More function of the right side of the brain includes visual construction, like architecture (Roger Sperry) and the recognition and memory of spatial relationships – that is, where things are in relation to each other. The left brain is responsible for language, speech, and analysis (Right brain.). When something is analyzed, or someone takes a systematic approach towards a task, their left brain is active (Lifestyle Planning: Are You a Left-Brain Thinker or a Right-Brain Thinker?).

People who are right-brain dominant tend to like things that are not written in stone; they like creative things like storytelling and are more unpredictable than left-brained thinkers. On the other hand, left-brain dominant people tend to be more logical; they like things like math, things that were orderly, planned, or organized. They can also stay focused for longer periods of time, and prefer very structured activities rather than very open-ended ones such as creative writing (Lifestyle Planning: Are You a Left-Brain Thinker or a Right-Brain Thinker?).

Although there is research saying that brain dominance does not exist and people use each side of their brains equally, it is still accepted that certain regions of the brain tend to be used for different purposes (Wanjek).

What Is Lactate and How Does It Impact Exercise?

Answered by David Shlimak

Lactate, or lactic acid is the product of anaerobic fermentation. To discover how it impacts exercise it must be understood what anaerobic fermentation is. Anaerobic fermentation is the creation of energy without oxygen.

The two key “ingredients” to create lactic acid are glucose and pyruvic acid. Once these two substances “mix”, lactic acid is produced. All of this sounds like complete nonsense, but during exercise this is far from trivial. “The working muscle cells can continue this type of anaerobic energy production at high rates for one to three minutes, during which time lactate can accumulate to high levels” (Roth). To put this into context, during a run it is easy and fairly painless at the beginning, but as your muscles fatigue it gets harder and more painful. For most people when they start running they can keep a constant speed until anaerobic threshold is reached. Anaerobic threshold is when your body begins to produce lactic acid. After anaerobic threshold is reached and lactic acid is in your system everything becomes significantly harder and painful. If the same speed is kept even after reaching anaerobic threshold an excess of lactic acid will be produced and a searing burn will be created. The generation of lactic acid will make the muscle more acidic. This lower pH is what causes the burn.

What many athletes do not know is that “lactic acid buildup is not responsible for the muscle soreness felt in the days following strenuous exercise” (Roth). This means that the only time lactate will affect you is during exercise. This has changed the way many athletes view training, especially sprinting, and are now willing to push themselves further without having to worry excessively about pain following the workout, but that does not mean it is not there during the exercise. Obviously pain is something that all athletes have to deal with while getting faster, better, or stronger, so it becomes crucial to deal with lactate by delaying one’s anaerobic threshold in order to improve.

How Can You Survive with One Kidney?

Answered by James Sturtz

A person could actually be born with one kidney, this is called renal agenesis. Kidney dysplasia is a condition where someone is born with two kidneys, but only one works. This is more common in males. Other reasons for having one kidney include donating it or having it removed due to it being diseased.

People with one kidney are able to live completely healthy lives. Though no special diet is needed, extra precautions is necessary in activities like sports in order to prevent injury to the kidney. “The single normal kidney will grow faster and get larger than a normally paired kidney. For this reason, the single kidney is larger and heavier than normal and so is more vulnerable to injury” (N.P). Kidneys filter blood and produce urine. One kidney can function similar to two. A single kidney will grow more and be heavier than if a person had two.

Though there are little to no short term effects, long term effects include abnormal function of the kidney. “In some people who were born with a single kidney, or had a kidney removed during childhood, there is a chance of some slight loss in kidney function later in life. This usually takes 25 years or more to happen. There may also be a chance of having high blood pressure later in life. However, the loss in kidney function is usually very mild, and life span is normal. Most people with one kidney live healthy, normal lives with few problems” (N.P). This can cause a large amount of protein in urine. The lifespan of a kidney donor is unchanged after donation. Having two kidneys just acts as extra security because one kidney can keep one's body absolutely fine.

 Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad for You?

Answered by Ivy Wang

One of the most popularly, debated questions about health is whether or not cracking your knuckles is bad. In order to know the health effects, the entire process must be explained as well. The science behind what happens when you crack your knuckles is also debatable and is because of the cracking sound. The assumption was always that bubbles of carbon dioxide either formed or popped in the synovial fluid, a substance that lubricates and cushions joints (Feltman). A recent study done by University of California, Davis radiology professor Robert D. Boutin shows that the sound is most likely due to the formation of a bubble. Using an ultrasound machine, they recorded 40 people cracking their knuckles (30 were regular knuckle-crackers, 10 had never in their life). They unexpectedly found a bright flash like a firework exploding at the joint. Because the flash was always seen after the sound of the crack, Boutin hypothesizes that it is a bubble forming (Kluger).

Research from older experiments shows that there is no direct link of bad effects to knuckle cracking. People who cracked their knuckles frequently were observed as well as people who didn’t and there was no connection whatsoever between those who did more frequently and having a higher chance of developing a joint problem.

Arthritis, in its most common form, osteoarthritis, is an inflammation caused by the deterioration of the articular cartilage that normally cushions joints and is usually caused by direct damage to the joint (Shen). Cracking your knuckles will not lead to arthritis and there has not been any connection found between with how much you crack your knuckles and arthritis. Furthermore, studies in knuckle cracking already show that there are no negative side-effects, in fact, after cracking your knuckles the range of motion increases significantly, maybe having a positive side-effect but more evidence and research is needed (Feltman).


Works Cited, Sorted by Author

Jack Armstrong

Ehrlich, Steven D., NMD. "Creatine." University of Maryland Medical Center.

University of Maryland, 26 June 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

 Jenkins, Mark A., M.D. "Creatine Supplementation in Athletes:

Review."Creatine Supplementation in Athletes: Review. Sports Medicine, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

"How Does Creatine Work?" YouTube. Axis Labs, 16 Jan. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

"Super Foods." Garden Spices Magazine. GSM, 04 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Michelle Jiang

 “Lifestyle Planning: Are You a Left-Brain Thinker or a Right-Brain Thinker?” Investors India 4 Dec. 2015. General OneFile. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"Right brain." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2015. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

“Roger Sperry.” PBS. WGBH, 1998. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.         

"Video Player". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 15 Dec 2015.    

Wanjek, Christopher. “Left Brain vs. Right: It’s a Myth, Research Finds.” LiveScience. Purch, 3 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

David Shlimak

"Burn Baby Burn: The Truth About Lactic Acid and Exercise - Mind the Science Gap." Mind the Science Gap RSS. N.p., 01 June 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.”

"Exercise-Related Lactic Acidosis: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, and More." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.”

"Muscle Soreness on" MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.”

“Roth, Stephen M. "Why Does Lactic Acid Build up in Muscles? And Why Does It Cause Soreness?"Scientific American. N.p., 23 January, 2006. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.”

James Sturtz

"Living with One Kidney." Solitary Kidney Problems, Medicines & Diet. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"Living With One Kidney." The National Kidney Foundation. N.P., 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"How Can People Live with Just One Kidney?" How Can People Live with Just One Kidney? N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

Ivy Wang

Feltman, Rachel. "Science gets one step closer to ending the brutal debate on knuckle cracking."Washington Post 1 Dec. 2015. Science in Context. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

Klugar, Jeffrey. "Here's Why Your Knuckles Crack." Time. Time, 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

Shen, Francis H. "Arthritis." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.