Physiology Helps You Protect Your Health

American Physiology Summit attendees listen to research findings presented at the meeting.

Scientists who study physiology gathered in Long Beach, California, last week for the inaugural American Physiology Summit—a brand-new conference dedicated to sharing discoveries on the cutting edge of bioscience.

Studies highlighted at the Summit span from the effect of cannabis extracts on blood pressure to the surprising medical applications of “scratch and sniff” tests. Three studies featured in a press conference ahead of the Summit covered how time of day affects the benefits of exercise, temperature-humidity combinations that stress the heart and the counterintuitive health benefits of full-fat yogurt.

We all know exercise is good for your blood pressure, but new research conducted at the University of São Paulo in Brazil found that when you exercise influences how much of a benefit you get. Older adults who were taking prescription blood pressure medication used a stationary bike either in the morning or evening for 10 weeks. The participants who exercised in the morning lowered their diastolic blood pressure—the bottom number in a blood pressure reading. The participants who exercised in the evening, however, lowered both their diastolic and systolic—the top number—blood pressure readings.

Leandro Brito, PhD, discusses the benefits of evening exercise on blood pressure control.

You may know the adage “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” but really, it’s the interplay between the two. Perspiration is less effective at cooling the body when humidity is high, but high humidity isn’t going to make you as uncomfortable on a cool day. New research out of Pennsylvania State University found that the heart begins to show strain at lower temperature-humidity combinations than those needed to change the body’s core temperature. This finding could be useful for developing safety guidelines and policies to protect people when temperatures rise, especially when deciding whether to hold or cancel sporting events.

Rachel Cottle discusses temperature and humidity combinations that stress the heart.

We are often encouraged to look for the “fat-free” label when trying to eat healthfully, but new research out of the University of Vermont found surprising benefits from eating full-fat yogurt. Participants at risk of developing diabetes ate three servings of fat-free yogurt for three weeks and then ate three servings of full-fat yogurt over another three-week period. The researchers found that when participants ate full-fat yogurt—but not when they ate fat-free yogurt—their blood glucose dropped to below the prediabetic threshold.

Victoria Taormina explains how full-fat yogurt may help lower glucose levels in people with prediabetes.

That’s three ways physiology is informing your health choices: Letting you know when it is best to exercise, at what point you should take it easy to avoid heart strain and what kind of yogurt best suits your health goals.

Interested in learning about more research presented at the meeting? Visit the Summit Newsroom.

Claire Edwards

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