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ECU researchers weigh in on new physical activity guidelines

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Employees enjoy a health fitness walk around ECU’s Lake Laupus in 2017.


By ECU News Services

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Some exercise — even in small doses — is better than nothing at all, according to East Carolina University researchers and updated guidelines for physical activity from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“People have the idea that you have to engage in physical activity for a long time, like 30 minutes, and if you cannot do that then it is not worth it. We have an all-or-nothing mentality,” said Dr. Bhibha Das, assistant professor of kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Performance.

But the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans released in November shows some activity – even a few minutes at a time – provides health benefits and is better than being sedentary. Nationally, 8 percent of preventable deaths are caused by physical inactivity, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

New key guidelines include:

■ Encouraging adults to sit less and move more. “Take short active breaks if you sit for over an hour,” said Dr. Katrina DuBose, director of the Activity Promotion Laboratory at ECU.

■ Removing the previous recommendation of at least 10-minute bouts of physical activity. Evidence shows people can benefit from small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day.

■ Recommending light, moderate or vigorous activity for three hours each day for children ages 3 to 5. DuBose is conducting a study at ECU to identify the types of sedentary activities that preschool-aged children do during the day.

■ Exercising consistently over time can lead to additional long-term health benefits such as improving cognition and reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and depression.

The major message with the revised guidelines is to engage in some physical activity rather than being sedentary, Das said. “Even if someone is doing light physical activity, that is better than being sedentary. Everyone was a beginner at one point, so we all have to start somewhere,” she said.

Brody Brothers grants help ECU researchers expand health studies

Several ECU medical researchers recently got a funding boost to expand their studies of common health issues, thanks to the Brody Brothers Foundation.

This year, the Brody Brothers Foundation Endowment Fund awarded $144,915 to be divided among four grant proposals focusing on cancer, liver failure, bladder dysfunction and intestinal diseases. The Brody Brothers grants are often an invaluable stepping stone to acquiring even larger federal grants, according to past and current recipients.

Biochemistry and molecular biology research professor Dr. Myles Cabot’s $41,015 grant will be used to continue his study of chemotherapy resistance. Drug resistance is a major cause of cancer treatment failure in patients. While many researchers are working on developing new chemotherapies, Cabot is using a different approach to help patients with cancer and extend their lives.

“We’re familiar with flu strains that become resistant to vaccines. Cancer cells can become rapidly resistant to therapies, too,” he said. “If we don’t treat resistance when we treat the patient, we’re not doing a complete job.”

ECU is collaborating with the University of Virginia and the Penn State Cancer Institute on a $12 million leukemia grant that Cabot said they are in the process of renewing.

“This Brody Brothers money will help us do the experiments needed to make this renewal application strong,” he said. “If we don’t have this type of early funding, it’s very difficult to get good preliminary data. These funds allow us to acquire compelling preliminary data that are necessary to be successful in today’s grant environment.”

The Brody Brothers Foundation was established in 1999 when the Brody family of eastern North Carolina donated $7 million to fund research projects at the medical school. Since awarding its first grants in 2005, the foundation has provided more than $1.1 million to support work related to diseases that most impact the lives of North Carolinians.

The other ECU researchers to receive funding this year are:

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology professor Dr. Yan-Hua Chen, who, along with professor Dr. Qun Lu, is studying various intestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer, both prevalent in eastern North Carolina. This project is the first to explore the impact of a certain type of protein on intestinal stem cell functions, potentially identifying new treatments for human intestinal diseases.

Dr. Darrell Neufer, physiology professor and director of the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, is studying problems in the liver associated with fructose intake in one’s diet. Fructose is a simple sugar found in sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, which in high quantities can negatively affect the body and increase the risk of developing obesity and diabetes. Neufer’s research is part of a larger project with colleagues at Boston University.

Assistant physiology professor Dr. Johanna Hannan is trying to understand the underlying mechanisms of bladder dysfunction, a common symptom in obese and Type 2 diabetic men and women. Hannan is working to develop therapies to reverse its progression by examining how mitochondria—the powerhouses of cells—are contributing to obesity-induced bladder dysfunction. Further understanding of mitochondrial physiology in bladder dysfunction could lead to better therapeutic treatments.

ECU social work students collect luggage for Washington community center

Last semester, students in the ECU master of social work program selected Open Door Community Center in Washington as the recipient of their class project.

The students were asked to reach out to local communities in surrounding areas and set up a project that would help a specific agency or the community in some way.

The students wanted to do something that would help the women and children in the shelter and decided to request donations of new or gently used luggage. The luggage was presented before ECU’s holiday break.

“Once the women are ready to leave ODCC, they will have luggage for their belongings, which will help them as they transition into their new homes,” said executive director Marcia Norwood. “ODCC appreciates the work of these students and the help they will be providing to the women and their children.”

For information about Open Door Community Center or to donate, email edodcc@yahoo.com or call 252-833-8514.