Meet Ernestine Shepherd, The world's oldest female bodybuilder. I was super inspired after I saw a video of her and her bodybuilding journey being shared on Facebook. She is a living proof that fitness is for everybody, no matter what age. She quoted 'discipline, determination and good old fashioned hard work' is what is takes for her to achieve this.
In medical research, there is evidence to suggest that physically fit elderly adults experience less profound declines in cognitive performance that thier less-fit contemporaries (1). It is evident in this study done in 1988 where reaction time and its fractionated components were studied in two groups of older women who differ in their level of regular aerobic exercise. Significant group differences were found in all dependent variables indicating that in older women regular aerobic exercise is an important factor influencing the speed of their reactions to simple and discriminatory stimuli, and in the accompanying premotor time, contractile time, and speed of movement following the reaction response (2).
I am a big believer of you are what you eat and if fitness is your priority, you will work hard to get it, Check out her inspiring video below.
1: Chodzko-Zajko WJ. Physical fitness, cognitive performance, and aging. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 Jul;23(7):868-72. Review. PubMed PMID: 1921681.
2: Baylor AM, Spirduso WW. Systematic aerobic exercise and components of reaction time in older women. J Gerontol. 1988 Sep;43(5):P121-6. PubMed PMID: 3418038.
Do you know that fibre plays a very important role in your diet and your weight?Observational studies show that obesity is less frequent in developing countries where there is high fibre consumption (1). In multi-center population based cohort study carried out over 10 years examining 2909 young individuals, the researchers reported an inverse relationship between total fibre intake, plasma insulin concentrations and body weight gain suggesting that fibre may play an important role in the prevention of insulin resistance and obesity (2). The idea is that fibre slows down digestion by delaying the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full for longer which in turns helps control your weight. This slower stomach emptying also affects blood sugar levels and thus has a positive effect in insulin sensitivity and prevention of Type II Diabetes.
According to UK's National Health Survey, average fibre consumption is a about 14g/day when the target should at least be 18g/day. This signifies that most people do not consume enough fibre in their daily diet.
So how can you increase your fibre intake? It is important to have more knowledge on what foods contain fibres and adding 'functional fibres' to your drinks and food (eg, orange juice, porridge etc) which is really fibres extracted from plants or animals and this is one of the most convenient way to boost your fibre content.
For natural fibres, we have soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibres are found in oatmeal, lentils, apples, oranges, blueberries, nuts, flaxseeds, celery, carrots etc. These fibres draw in water and forms a gel after consumption. For insoluble fibres, they are found in whole wheat, seeds, nuts, barley, broccoli, raisins, grapes, tomatoes, onions etc. these fibres do not dissolve in water and passes through your gastrointestinal tract pretty intact and speeds up the passage of food and waste through your gut. They also provide a laxative effect and helps prevent constipation.
1: Babio N, Balanza R, Basulto J, Bulló M, Salas-Salvadó J. Dietary fibre: influence on body weight, glycemic control and plasma cholesterol profile. Nutr Hosp. 2010 May-Jun;25(3):327-40. Review. PubMed PMID: 20593113.
2. Ludwig DS, Pereira MA, Kroenke CH, Hilner JE, Van Horn L, Slattery ML, Jacobs DR Jr. Dietary fiber, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease risk factors in young adults. JAMA 1999; 282: 1539-46
Staying healthy, keeping fit and staying within the normal weight range could be more important than you think. According to an analysis from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of invasive breast cancer than women of normal weight and breast cancer risk increases as a woman’s weight rises beyond obesity (1).
Researchers followed 67,142 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 years enrolled from 1993 to 1998 across 40 US clinical centers. After a median of 13 years of follow-up through 2010, 3388 invasive breast cancers were observed.
The researchers then analysed the distribution of breast cancer among different weight classes and calculated the risks for women who were overweight (body mass index, or BMI, of 25 to 30), obese (BMI 30 to 35), or very obese (BMI over 35) compared with women of normal weight (BMI 25 or less). They found that the increased risk of developing breast cancer ranged from 17% in women who were overweight to 59% in those with a BMI over 35. Among women who began the study at a normal weight, those who gained at least 5% of their original weight had a 12% higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who maintained their original weight.
You can calculate your personal risk at the National Cancer Institute website,
1: Neuhouser ML, Aragaki AK, Prentice RL, Manson JE, Chlebowski R, Carty CL, Ochs-Balcom HM, Thomson CA, Caan BJ, Tinker LF, Urrutia RP, Knudtson J, Anderson GL. Overweight, Obesity, and Postmenopausal Invasive Breast Cancer Risk: A Secondary Analysis of the Women's Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Oncol. 2015 Aug;1(5):611-21. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.1546. PubMed PMID: 26182172.
The inability to lose weight -- a rather frustrating issue -- has been linked to a lack of calcium. Researchers first observed this “antiobesity effect” accidentally during a study in the 1980s that investigated the antihypertensive effect of dairy products in obese African American men (1). Increasing dietary calcium from ≈400 to ≈1000 mg/d through the consumption of 2 cups (≈437 mL) of yogurt daily for 1 year produced expected decreases in blood pressure that was accompanied by an unexpected 4.9kg reduction in body fat
According to animal and human studies, the calcium stored in fat cells helps regulate the processing and storage of fat in the body. Fat cells that contain the most calcium actually burn more fat, leading to weight loss.
A study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2002 summarized data from 9 studies (including 3 controlled trials and 6 observational studies) of calcium intake in which body weight could be assessed as a secondary outcome (2). Overall, increases in calcium intake were consistently associated with reduced indexes of adiposity (body weight, body fat, and weight gain); each 300mg increase in daily calcium intake is associated with a 2.5-3kg lower weight in adults and a 1kg less body fat in children. Consequently, they suggested that a 600mg/d increase in calcium intake (2 standard dairy servings) could reduce the risk of overweight by as much as 70%.
Of course, you can’t simply add calcium on to a high-calorie diet and expect weight loss. But if you have trouble shedding pounds, extra calcium-rich foods in addition to your lower calorie diet could be of great benefit. In fact, studies have shown calcium supplementation could give an edge on weight loss especially in women. University of Washington researchers reviewed a decade's worth of data on 5,341 women ages 53 to 57. Increasing calcium intake, in the form of calcium supplements, may be beneficial for weight maintenance, especially in women during midlife. Women currently taking a calcium supplement dose of >500 mg/day had significantly lower 10-year weight gain than non-users.
Consider Calcium supplements coupled with Vitamin D for optimal health!
1. Zemel MB, Shi H, Greer B, DiRienzo D, Zemel PC. Regulation of adiposity by dietary calcium. FASEB J 2000;14:1132–8.
2: Heaney RP, Davies KM, Barger-Lux MJ. Calcium and weight: clinical studies. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Apr;21(2):152S-155S. Review. PubMed PMID: 11999544.
I've came across quite a few cases of obese patients who would really like to get pregnant and have read a fair share of pregnancy journey stories on various pregnancy forums. Even though most IVF centres have a 35 BMI cut off line, personally I believe losing weight is a number one priority if you wish to get pregnant and are on the higher side of the BMI. The reason is simple, in order to have a healthy baby, you should be healthy first and to me a BMI of more than 30 is definitely not healthy.
Obesity is associated to a variety of endocrine abnormalities that might lead to chronic anovulation in women. Progesterone on the other hand is an extremely important hormone in supporting the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus as well as help maintain a pregnancy by preventing menstruation. To have a successful pregnancy, progesterone levels should maintain high and sustained throughout the pregnancy. Failure to keep progesterone level high will result in miscarriage.
In this study of 30 anovulatory obese patients between 18 and 35 years old without any thyroid disease, researchers found that with the mean weight loss of 9.5 kg, which represents a weight loss of 10.96% from initial body weight, 26 patients (86.6%) resumed spontaneous ovulation (1). The results demonstrated that with a small weight reduction and a decrease in total body fat percentage, it will improve the hormonal profile and restore ovulation in anovulatory obese women. Thus weight loss should be considered before starting with ovulation induction therapy.
In a more recent study in Singapore, researchers investigated the association between maternal body mass index (BMI) and serum progesterone level in first trimester singleton pregnancies for 194 women at a tertiary maternity hospital in Singapore, from January 2012 to February 2014. Obesity (maternal BMI ≥30 kg/m2) has an increased risk for serum progesterone <35 nmol/L. Results indicate that maternal obesity is associated with low first trimester serum progesterone.
In conclusion, pre-pregnancy weight optimization is beneficial in regulation of serum progesterone level and maintenance of healthy pregnancy.
1: Hernández García IA, Gutiérrez Gutiérrez AM, Gallardo Lozano E. [Effect of weight reduction on the clinical and hormonal condition of obese anovulatory women]. Ginecol Obstet Mex. 1999 Sep;67:433-7. Spanish. PubMed PMID: 10544539.
2. Goh JY, He S, Allen JC, Malhotra R, Tan TC. Maternal obesity is associated with a low serum progesterone level in early pregnancy. Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2016 Jan 9. pii:/j/hmbci.ahead-of-print/hmbci-2015-0030/hmbci-2015-0030.xml. doi:10.1515/hmbci-2015-0030. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26751901
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research