George Thouas & Blogs
Dr George Thouas
BSc, MRepSc, PhD (Monash University)
George Thouas is an experienced biomedical senior scientist, who has worked in academic research for almost 20 years. He has been involved in a diverse range of fields, including clinical IVF, reproductive and developmental biology, stem cell biology, molecular immunology, tissue engineering, biotechnology and medical device development, and has a comprehensive list of achievements.
Academically, George has lectured to undergraduates and post graduates in biomedical sciences, including reproductive biology, IVF technology and stem cell biology, having co-supervised 12 post-graduate students, including 4 PhD candidates, and trained clinical embryology post-graduates. As an independent researcher, George has worked on ARC and NHMRC funded basic research projects, listed as a co-investigator on 12 successfully funded projects, totalling almost $4M. George has authored and co-authored over 50 publications, including a text-book, seven book chapters, over 30 peer reviewed papers and several conference proceedings. He has been an invited speaker at several national and international conferences. As a commercially funded R&D scientist, George has been associated with several biotechnology companies, including Mesoblast, Vitrolife AB, Cell Care P/L and Cytomatrix Ltd, currently listed as a co-inventor on 6 patents.
George now joins the Max Biocare R&D team, with a keen interest in improving well-being through improved nutrition, specifically in relation to male and female reproductive health, but also in generic health areas such as musculo-skeletal function, metabolic balance and immunity. For this he draws a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and human anatomy; a doctoral degree in cellular physiology and development; specifically in mitochondrial biology, and post-doctoral training in glucose and amino acid metabolism. George is passionate about written communication, innovation and thinking outside the box.
We’ve heard for years now about the health benefits of moderate exercise, especially in our later years. But in the case of bone condition, this is actually true.
There is actually more to bones than just a mechanical framework for our bodies allowing us to move, breathe and do stuff. Without going into the biological intricacies, here are some interesting facts to think about.
Bone structure is complex
When a fracture occurs, bone cells begin to deposit or “knit” new hydroxyapatite (HA), a special form of calcium phosphate that “fills the gaps”. This is the mineral component that provides toughness, a bit like a ceramic. Drop a plate, and it breaks into pieces. But drop a bone, and it will bounce across the floor. This is because about one-third of bone is comprised of collagen, which allows it to bend slightly. Long bones are tubular, a structure which can resist bending, and can take quite an impact. The cortical layer is also porous but highly organized, making them light but reinforced internally where it is needed. In short, healthy bones are light and strong.
Bones are constantly turning over
Bone cells cycle, laying down new hydroxyapatite on a regular basis. There are two basic types of cells that live in bone – the “building” cells (osteoblasts) and the “eroding” cells (osteoclasts). Osteoblasts make new bone cells, which make new minerals. But the osteoclasts “eat” bone around the edges, which creates the pores. Both remain in a kind of balance, although the balance can favour the osteoclasts in some health conditions, resulting in loss of bone density.
Bone density responds to gravity
As we walk or run, the shock that travels through a leg, pelvic and spinal bones can actually stimulate bone cell growth. This is a very special mechanism. Cells respond to the microscopic pressures that travel through the bone with each step, and the more steps or loading, the more pressure is created. This stimulates osteoblasts to make more cells and more mineral. Limited loading and mobility during after a fracture has also been shown to accelerate healing.
Using muscles can strengthen bones and joints
When babies learning to balance their heads on their own, they’re neck muscles begin to strengthen. This, in turn, increases the density of the bone where the muscles are attached. Similarly, strengthening muscles around joints is believed to be beneficial in supporting the joint itself. The forces that travel through bones during a light weight session can also improve the strength of the bones to which the muscles, tendons and ligaments are attached.
Bones need nutrients to stay healthy
Optimal health of the bone cells requires optimal nutrition. The cells require energy from carbohydrates, and amino acids from protein, to make more cells and support the active population at any one time. They also need micronutrients, the most important of which are calcium and phosphorus, which cells use to make new HA. Bone cells also need micronutrients like, zinc, magnesium, vitamins D and K, as you have already read about in NextG cal. And, don’t forget to stay hydrated.
And finally… rest your bones!
Recovery from physical exertion, heavy or light requires sleep. This is especially for the spine, which holds up your body from morning to night. A lack of suitable repair time, especially after regular exercise, means that bones might be more susceptible to damage, such as micro-fractures. The same applies to muscles, joints and connective tissue, and recovery periods are often incorporated in sports training programs for these reasons.
Okay, so you’ve heard the usual facts. Vitamin D is good for healthy bones and teeth, and you need calcium as well, you get it from sunlight and fish, and it might improve your mood. It is even good for expecting mums and baby health. Well, this is all true. But biologically, Vitamin D does a whole lot more. Here, we explore in a bit more depth the lesser known roles that vitamin D plays in brain and body health. Vitamin D is a hot topic in natural health at the moment, so it is worth spending some time to think about how it might benefit your health.
Vitamin D – a bit like a hormone
Well, it is actually a lot like a hormone, in the way it travels through the blood and goes to different tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, intestine, pancreas, muscles, bones and skin. Only it has more localized effects. The vitamin itself is a unique type of cholesterol, and is fat soluble. This allows it to stay in your tissues for long periods of time, but it also takes a long time to build up. The vitamin can easily enter cells and bind to special regions of DNA in your chromosomes. So vitamin D binding has direct genetic effects, making it very important in a lot of different biochemical processes.
Vitamin D and your skin
Yes, it is true, vitamin D lives in skin (epidermis) and becomes an active form by action of UV light produced by sunlight, when it then enters the bloodstream. So short daily exposures to sun can increase vitamin D availability in your body, but it not recommended for prolonged periods due to cancer risks. Your body also still requires a dietary source of vitamin D. In the skin itself, vitamin D has been shown to regenerate epidermal layers [ref] and keratinocytes [ref]. Vitamin D deficiencies may also be associated with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and can occur when there is less available sunlight. People with darker skin are more prone do Vitamin D deficiency, because of the ability of the skin pigment melanin in blocking out UV rays.
Vitamin D in immunity and infection
Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies are all due to problems with your immune system. Vitamin D is believed to be preventative of many of these types of problems. One particular region of DNA that the vitamin D binds to has been found to block production of some types of inflammatory proteins by white blood cells1. Amazingly, Vitamin D also helps fight off infection by inducing the production of antibiotic peptides in the blood. These are proteins made your own immune system that can actually kill bacteria directly2, much like chemical antibiotics drugs prescribed by doctors.
Vitamin D and metabolism
Insulin is an important hormone released by your pancreas to control glucose levels in your blood, especially after you eat. It is now known that vitamin D induces insulin production3. This suggests that the vitamin may be involved in diabetes or metabolic syndromes and chronic obesity. Indeed one clinical study found a direct correlation between increased vitamin D levels and reduced body fat in women.4
Vitamin D and cardiovascular health
Of course, the reverse is true, in that control body fat levels can have long term benefits on cardiovascular and metabolic health, and reduces the risk of acquiring lots of different health problems, including type II diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Some research suggests that Vitamin D supplements may improve these indicators of cardiovascular health people with deficiency.5
Vitamin D during pregnancy and lactation
Due to the high growth rate of the baby during late pregnancy, expectant mothers have a much higher demand for Vitamin D than normal. Vitamin D deficiency during this time is linked to a variety of perinatal complications, such as high blood pressure (pre-ecclampsia) and gestational diabetes, preterm birth and low birth weight. This also extends to post-partum life, when deficiency can lead to increased risks of infections6. This, ironically, is thought to be due in part to the induction of antibiotic peptides.
Vitamin D in mood and depression
There is some speculation that Vitamin D status may be associated with brain health, and this is often in the context of seasonality. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depressive condition associated with lack of sunlight, and supposedly, lack of vitamin D levels, although the jury is still out on that. The same theory applies to vitamin-D depleted women during late pregnancy and after birth, in relation to post-natal depression. Again, there is still insufficient evidence of this. Interestingly, one observational study described an improvement in mood reported by subjects that took a vitamin D supplement during winter7. Also, vitamin D levels in vary over the course of 24 hours8, so It remains to be seen whether the circadian rhythm and length of daylight hours plays a role in your state of mind.
In summary, Vitamin D does a lot more than just improve bone health. You may want to consider incorporating it in your daily nutritional regimen, especially if you suspect you may be deficient. In the meantime, take a short walk in the sun – it’s free!
1. Zhang Y et al. The Journal of Immunology, March 1, 2012 188(5):2127-35
2. Gombart AF. Future Microbiol. 2009 4(9):1151-65.
3. Alvarez J & Ashraf A. Int J Endocrinol. 2010: 351385
4. Salehpour A et al. Nutr J. 2012 11:78(1-8)
5. Dalbeni A. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Aug;24(8):861-8.
7. Lansdowne A & Provost S. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998 Feb;135(4):319-23.
8. Rejnmark L et al. Eur J Endocrinol. 2002 May;146(5):635-42.