Run To Improve Your Quality & Quantity of Life


Spring is around the corner and many of us fitness junkies are eager to make our annual migration from the treadmill to the sidewalk. It’s no hidden truth that going for a morning run is much more enjoyable when you’re breathing in fresh air under the glorious sun. However, not all days bless us with the opportunity to jog outside, especially in Canada. To help you stay motivated, we have written this blog post outlining two of the major benefits that come from aerobic exercise. Understanding these benefits may give you the boost you need to stay running through the last few weeks of winter

#1: Improves Cognition

Cognition can be defined as the way in which our minds process thought. Many believe that having high quality thoughts is the key to having a high quality life, so let’s all make an effort to improve our cognition! In 2010, a meta-analytic review was conducted on several randomized controlled trials examining the association between aerobic exercise and neurocognitive performance. In total, 2,049 participants were included in this meta-analysis from 29 individual studies. A meta-analysis is simply a way in which the data from a variety of similar studies can be pooled together to derive an overall conclusion for a group of findings. The results from this meta-analysis demonstrated associations between aerobic exercise and cognitive function(processing speed , executive function and memory) in adults. We have organized the results from this study into this easy to read chart:

Function Average Increase In Function Hedge’s G (95% CI) P-Value
Processing Speed 15.8% .158 [95% CI: .055 to .260] .003
Executive Function 12.3% .123 [95% CI: .021 to .225] .018
Short Term Memory 12.8% .128 [95% CI: .015 to .241] .026

The majority of the studies defined aerobic activity as reaching 70% of peak VO2 max levels 3 times per week (prescribed in accordance with the American Heart Association recommendations for cardiac rehabilitation) for a minimum period of 1 month. Although the duration of each session was not specified in the review, we looked into the individual studies and saw that the sessions lasted for 30 to 60 minutes on average. The review also concluded that an increase from the base workout time/intensity was not associated with an additional increase in cognition. Listed below are the tested used by the studies to measure cognition.

Cognitive Test Studies Function Hedge’s G (95% CI) P-Value
Digit Symbol Substitution 8 Attention / Processing Speed .146 (−.002 to .294) .052
Complex / Choice Reaction Time 8 Attention / Processing Speed .112 (−.064 to .288) .898
Simple Reaction Time 8 Attention / Processing Speed .088 (−.118 to .295) .116
Ruff 2 & 7 Test 2 Attention / Processing Speed .052 (−.224 to .327) .715
Trail Making Test Section A 2 Attention / Processing Speed .169 (−.144 to .482) .291
Stroop Interference 7 Executive Function .027 (−.149 to .204) .761
Trail Making Test Section B 5 Executive Function .234 (.042 to .426) .017
Animal Naming / Verbal Fluency 4 Executive Function .275 (.006 to .545) .045
Controlled Oral Word Association Test 2 Executive Function −.015 (−.239 to .229) .894
Logical Memory, Immediate Recall 5 Memory .151 (−.050 to 352) .140
Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test 4 Memory .113 (−.082 to .308) .255
Digit Span 6 Working Memory .065 (−.079 to .209) .373
WAIS Letter-Number Sequencing 2 Working Memory −.134 (−.469 to .202) .435

These tests were used to determine the effects that aerobic activity had on memory, executive function and processing speed. Processing speed is the ability to automatically and fluently perform over learned tasks. Think of this as the brains natural reflex when familiar tasks are thrown at it. By improving the rate at which you process your surroundings you are essentially “thinking quicker on your feet”. Being able think quick has a variety of benefits, especially when you’re at the bar! Other than processing speed and memory (we won’t get into it’s since its pretty straight forward), this study also looked at the effect aerobic exercise had on executive functions. Executive functions include a whole slew of functions that are used to in conjunction to organize and accomplish tasks. An increase in executive function can lead to an increase in goal setting, self control and overall success. So, do your self a favor, muster up all the executive functionality you have and go for a run!  It will only get easier and become more beneficial with time!


#2: Increases Longevity

Some may say that we are here for a good time and not a long time, but why not have both? The following study examined the association between physical activity and longevity. The data was pool from six prospective cohort studies in the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium. This consortium is comprised of 654,827 individuals, indicating that data is reliable. The study concluded that an increase in leisure time activity was associated with longer life expectancy, regardless of age (21 – 90 years), activity level and BMI. In general, performing physical activity equivalent to brisk walking for up to 75 minutes , once per week, is associated with a 1.8-year gain in life expectancy. For those of us who can handle a more intense workout, increasing intensity or frequency to 22.5+ MET-h/wk (equivalent to 450+ minutes of brisk walking a week) is associated with a 4.5 year gain in life expectancy.

For those of us who are just starting their fitness journey, this study has some relevant findings for you as well. An association was made between Individuals with a normal weight (BMI of 18.5 – 24.9) exerting (7.5+ MET-h/wk) of physical activity and an increased lifespan of 7.5 years over those who are obese (BMI of 35.0+) exerting no physical activity. Overall, this study applies to people of all ages and fitness levels, so get moving! There are a variety of bad habits the majority of us indulge in that shorten our lifespan but help some of us have a good time. We are not all perfect. What better way to compensate for that extra glass wine then to go for a leg crushing run or even a brisk walk the day after. Finding balance is the key to living a good life and a long life!

Thanks For Reading!




At Healthy Helix, our aim is to provide our readers with the most accurate and reliable information on health and wellness, which is why we must disclaim some uncertainties in the results of the cognition paper referenced in this blogpost. There was a lack of high quality studies included in the meta-analysis, meaning that the methods of obtaining and tracking data varied substantially between individual trials. There was also not enough range in exercise prescriptions the majority of studies prescribed the same level of aerobic activity (70% VO2 max, 3 times a week). The results of this review would have been more conclusive if there was a range in exercise prescriptions in order to observe a linear effect on neurocognition. The last point we would like to mention is that the population size for this review was very small for a meta-analysis. The larger the population size in a study, the more reliable the results are in most scenarios. Despite the small population size, lack of variation of aerobic activity and lack of high quality studies, this review has some merit. A meta-analysis is considered by many to be the gold standard of research, so we feel comfortable in believing that aerobic activity, especially running, can improve cognition.


Smith, P.J.; et al. (2010). “Aerobic Exercise and Neurocognitive Performance: a Meta-Analytic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials”. Psychosom Med. 2010 Apr; 72(3): 239–252. Published online 2010 Mar 11. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d14633  Impact Factor: 3.968 (2011)

Moore, S.C.; et al. (2012). “Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: A large pooled cohort analysis”. PLoS Medicine. 9 (11): e1001335. Published online 2010 Nov 6. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335 Impact Factor: 13.585 (2015)

3 Foods that help in fat loss, muscle growth and longevity!

We all know that plants provide an array of benefits from the nutrients they are composed of. In addition to fiber, vitamins and minerals they can also contain molecules utilized by essential biochemical pathways within the human body. Did you know that plants can provide us with the equipment to increase fat loss, muscle growth and our longevity? I would like to help you with your New Year’s resolution by sharing some knowledge about these effects. I will save you the trouble of reading this whole post by simply listing the three important tidbits of information from this blog-post:

  1. If you want to burn more vascular fat, you can go into a fasting state in the morning and eat ½ of a grapefruit with your coffee. The grapefruit contains a molecule called naringin, this molecule inhibits the enzyme CYP1A2, which metabolizes caffeine, so caffeine will last longer in your body. Caffeine has shown its ability to metabolize fat in many papers.
  2. If you want to develop more muscle, eat more tomatoes because they contain a molecule called tomatidine, which inhibits enzymes that stop muscle synthesis.
  3. Lastly, eat broccoli sprouts for more sulforaphane, this molecule increase expression in over 200 genes in your body which aid in detoxification.

If you want to know more about the science of how these processes work, enjoy the following information and check out the reference links listed below. Learning about the benefits of food and our genes will certainly help you create an optimal nutrition plan so you can achieve your health goals in 2017!

Grapefruit and Naringin

We started research about Grapefruit and its effects with coffee because of two fitness icons Tim Ferris and Jim stoppani referencing this action in both of their fitness programs. Unfortunately we found that the effects may have been exaggerated (but not irrelevant) based on the information we found. Grapefruit juice has been shown to prolong the half life of caffeine molecules in humans (1). This is because the caffeine molecule is metabolized by an enzyme called CYP1A2 (Cytochrome P450 1A2). This enzyme is inhibited by the molecule naringin which is found in relatively large amounts in grapefruit and grapefruit juice (2). The effects of the inhibition increase the half life of caffeine by 31% (3) thus increasing the availability of caffeine for yours cells. The metabolism of caffeine results in a variety of effects within our body. Some beneficial effects from caffeine consumption include an increase in energy, perception and fat metabolism. Multiple studies have shown that caffeine can oxidize fat tissue. Fat oxidation is the process that enables stored body fat to be broken down into smaller fat molecules (triglycerides) which are readily metabolized or used in synthesizing biological molecules (4).   The study showed that individuals in a fasted state who consumed an amount of coffee equivalent to 4mg of caffeine per kg of body weight increased their rate of fat metabolism by 12%  for up to three hours after consumption (5). The average 8 oz brewed cup of coffee contains 95mg of cafienne according to the USDA.(6) To give an example of how much coffee must be consumed to replicate this experiment, an individual weighing 80kg (176 pounds) must consume nearly three and a half cups of coffee in one sitting. That’s a lot of coffee and we at Healthy Helix do not advocate attempting this! However, the results from this paper are interesting nonetheless and can implemented into your daily routine. Perhaps try combining grapefruit and coffee (if you’re a coffee drinker) at your next breakfast to see for yourself if their is increased benefit!

Tomatoes and Tomatidine

Tomatidine is a molecule found in abundance in the plant it was named after, the tomato. The nutrients within tomatoes proved our bodies with a variety of nutrients that are beneficial to our cells. Tomatidine is a compound found exclusively in tomatoes and its consumption results in increased expression of the TORC1 gene.  This gene is responsible for stimulating skeletal muscle cell growth because of its role in protein synthesis and mitochondria production. Tests have been performed on human skeletal muscle cells and mice where TORC1 gene expression was induced which led to benefits including “reduced skeletal muscle atrophy, enhanced recovery from skeletal muscle atrophy, stimulated skeletal muscle hypertrophy, and increased strength and exercise capacity” (7).  Another study with similar results has shown that tomatidine reduces the expression of a gene called ATF4. The expression of ATF4 results in some inhabitation of  muscle growth, thus eating more tomatoes can possibly promote muscle growth (8).

Brocolli sprouts and Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a biological molecule that can be obtained from consuming raw green vegetables such as broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and kale (9). A variety of studies have shown that sulforaphane has potent antioxidant abilities, aids in detoxification of carcinogens and even improves brain function. The fantastic functions of sulforaphane are highlighted in an amazing video by Dr. Rhonda Patrick (10), who is a pioneer and true legend when it comes to science backed facts about health and wellness. Please check out her website at to see more awesome content. The reason why sulforaphane can do so much is because it stimulates the expression of over 200 genes, including glutathione transferases, NADPH, quinone reductase, epoxide hydrolase, heme oxygenase, UDP- glucuronosyltransferase. These genes are important in inhibiting oxidation and promoting detoxification (11).

Thank you for reading this post, lets continue to learn and truly optimize our health

By: Nathan Cawte

Direct Reference Links: 


All Hale Kale! Optimize Your Nutrient Intake With This Superfood

Are you always tired? Finding it hard to think some days compared to others? Feeling like it’s harder to work out compared to last week? One sneaky culprit for all of these problems could be a micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrients are nutrients that are absorbed in small quantities by our cells and are utilized by various metabolic pathways within the body. Optimal function of these metabolic pathways is important in regards to maintaining health. Micronutrient deficiencies occur when we do not consume enough of the nutrients required for our metabolic pathways to function properly. The result micronutrient deficiencies can be severely impacting your energy levels and cognition. Studies have shown that micronutrient deficiency can lead to decrease in optimal nervous system function (1), depression (2), fatigue (3), reproductive impairment (4) and decrease in cognitive ability (5).

The average Canadian diet does not allow for adequate intake of some essential micronutrients. . If that was not bad enough, our genes have a MAJOR influence on how these micronutrients are utilized by our pathways. Gene mutations can result in an inability to properly metabolize certain micronutrients that we ingest. So eating the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of each nutrient your body needs may not be enough if you have one of these gene mutations. These gene mutations are more common then you would think and they are responsible for a lot of common micronutrient deficiencies.  Don’t panic! There are plenty of ways to achieve adequate levels of certain nutrients despite our genetic makeup. One super food that can deliver you with many essential nutrients in one powerful serving is kale.

Magnesium is a micronutrient that  47% of Canadians from ages 19-71 are deficient in.  (6). This number is staggering since magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems within the body, so it is crucial to ingest an adequate amount.  A contributor to magnesium deficiency might be caused by a mutation in the MRS2 gene(7).  MRS2 is responsible for the transportation of magnesium across cell membranes and into the mitochondrial interspace.(8). Gene mutations in MRS2 impact the rate in which magnesium is transportation thus resulting in a lower circulating levels of magnesium. It was found that about 14.5% of the population can suffer from this genetic disposition (7). The result of the magnesium absorption was variant among studies but one study using a microbial cell model showed that “values were reduced by a factor of two or increased by 50% relative to wild‐type cells when Mrs2p was absent or overexpressed, respectively” (9). This deficiency also significantly decreased the person’s ability to do physical activity. Magnesium is involved in numerous processes that affect muscle function including oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance (10). It is especially significant in the ATP (molecule used for cell energy) synthesis in mitochondria, and enhancing oxidative capacity. Having higher magnesium give the body the ability to synthesize new mitochondria, which is induced while exercising. But to do this magnesium is required because it is a cofactor for mitochondria genetic expression, and magnesium is needed to repair mitochondria from oxidative stress (11).

Kale has over 23 mg of magnesium in a 130g serving size (17). If you eat 17 cups of kale everyday, then you can meet your magnesium requirements (400mg)! Wow… seems like too much kale, it is a good thing that you will eat other dark green vegetables to achieve this goal as well. Magnesium is prominent in green vegetables because it is required in chlorophyll to produce energy, chlorophyll gives plants their green color (12).

Another big deficiency in Canada is vitamin A levels which about 45% of Canadians have (6)! Vitamin A is critical in maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, vision and skin (14). On top of that, vitamin A was shown to have a very significant genetic disorder in the retinol binding protein 4 gene with genotype rs1667255 and rs10882272 (13). You also have a 46% (15), and 37% (16) chance of getting this disposition which can decrease your absorption by 0.04 ug/L (13)! But don’t worry, kale literally has 354% of your RDA in just 130 grams serving (17) …perfect!

Other benefits of eating kale for micronutrients is to get more vitamin C, in 130 grams of kale it has 89% of the RDA (17). Vitamin C has on average a 50% deficiency in the adult population of Canada (6). Vitamin C is critical for healing wounds, repairing muscle, and bone + teeth maintenance (19).  Other benefits of kale are a large array of dietary fiber (great for gut microbiota) and a lot of vitamin K, some vitamin E, good fibrous slow digestion carbs, and calcium (17)!

Of course, I am not saying only eat kale, I am saying kale is helpful for aiding in these deficiencies. It is known that incorporating a mixed variety of fruits, vegetables and supplements into your diet can significantly increase your micronutrient levels and improve the quality of your life. It is important to keep track of the number of nutrients you are ingesting from the foods you eat to ensure that you are achieving your personal RDA’s. Kale is a great superfood that helps us achieve our RDA’s for a variety of different nutrients. In some upcoming articles, we will discuss how to effectively determine your personalized RDA for a variety of different nutrients to help you achieve optimal health. Have a great day and thank you for reading this article!

Written by: Nathan Cawte


At Healthy Helix, our aim is to provide our readers with the most accurate and reliable information on health and wellness, which is why we must disclaim some uncertainties in the results of some of the genetic polymorphism presented. MRS2 polymorphism was seen to be effective on microbe models, but I could not find evidence of it in humans or GWAS, making us skeptical of the actual relevance. Kale is awesome and is said to have great health benefits, here we just outline what some of those benefits might be. That being said we do not imply taking a drastic change on your diet with kale. Lastly, science is awesome but these findings are not definite more research is needed to truly find some of these genomic impacts. Thanks!