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Nutrition Requirements for High Altitude Military Operations

Goal: Characterize skeletal muscle, physical and mental performance responses to prolonged negative energy balance, dietary protein and carbohydrate manipulations during high altitude acclimatization (4300 m).

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Stefan Pasiakos
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Background: The erythropoietic cells in the bone marrow require iron to synthesize heme for incorporation into hemoglobin. Exposure to hypoxic conditions, such as extended sojourns to high altitude (HA), results in increased erythropoiesis and an increased physiological requirement for iron. In addition to increasing iron requirements, hypoxic conditions suppress appetite and often lead to decreased energy intake. The objective of this study was to determine the combined effects of severe energy deficit and hypoxia on hepcidin and measures of iron status in lowlanders sojourning to HA. Methods: Iron status indicators and hepcidin were determined in 17 healthy male volunteers (mean ± standard deviation, age 23 ± 6 years, body mass index 27 ± 4 kg/m2) fed a controlled diet (12 ± 1.2 mg iron/day) during a 20-day sojourn to 4300 m above sea level. Results: Chronic exposure to HA during severe energy deficit increased hematocrit by 12% (p < 0.01) and decreased serum hepcidin by 37% (p < 0.01) compared with baseline. Ferritin declined by 18% (p = 0.02) and transferrin saturation and soluble transferrin receptor increased by 55% and 83%, respectively (p < 0.01 for both) compared with baseline. Conclusions: HA acclimatization suppresses hepcidin expression to increase iron availability during severe energy deficit. Registered at ClinicalTrials.gov as NCT02731066.
Background: The ergogenic effects of supplemental carbohydrate on aerobic exercise performance at high altitude (HA) may be modulated by acclimatization status. Longitudinal evaluation of potential performance benefits of carbohydrate supplementation in the same volunteers before and after acclimatization to HA have not been reported. Purpose: This study examined how consuming carbohydrate affected 2-mile time trial performance in lowlanders at HA (4300 m) before and after acclimatization. Methods: Fourteen unacclimatized men performed 80 min of metabolically-matched (~ 1.7 L/min) treadmill walking at sea level (SL), after ~ 5 h of acute HA exposure, and after 22 days of HA acclimatization and concomitant 40% energy deficit (chronic HA). Before, and every 20 min during walking, participants consumed either carbohydrate (CHO, n = 8; 65.25 g fructose + 79.75 g glucose, 1.8 g carbohydrate/min) or flavor-matched placebo (PLA, n = 6) beverages. A self-paced 2-mile treadmill time trial was performed immediately after completing the 80-min walk. Results: There were no differences (P > 0.05) in time trial duration between CHO and PLA at SL, acute HA, or chronic HA. Time trial duration was longer (P < 0.05) at acute HA (mean ± SD; 27.3 ± 6.3 min) compared to chronic HA (23.6 ± 4.5 min) and SL (17.6 ± 3.6 min); however, time trial duration at chronic HA was still longer than SL (P < 0.05). Conclusion: These data suggest that carbohydrate supplementation does not enhance aerobic exercise performance in lowlanders acutely exposed or acclimatized to HA. Trial registration: NCT, NCT02731066, Registered March 292,016.
Stefan Pasiakos
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Our 2016 altitude project was a great success. This single project, led by Dr. Claire Berryman, has led to countless publications and new research studies. Thank you to everyone involved.
 
Lee Margolis
added a research item
Background: Exogenous carbohydrate oxidation is lower during steady-state aerobic exercise in native lowlanders sojourning at high altitude (HA) compared to sea level (SL). However, the underlying mechanism contributing to reduction in exogenous carbohydrate oxidation during steady-state aerobic exercise performed at HA have not been explored. Objective: To determine if alterations in glucose rate of appearance (Ra), disappearance (Rd) and metabolic clearance rate (MCR) at HA provide a mechanism for explaining the observation of lower exogenous carbohydrate oxidation compared to during metabolically-matched, steady-state exercise at SL. Methods: Using a randomized, crossover design, native lowlanders (n = 8 males, mean ± SD, age: 23 ± 2 yr, body mass: 87 ± 10 kg, and VO2peak: SL 4.3 ± 0.2 L/min and HA 2.9 ± 0.2 L/min) consumed 145 g (1.8 g/min) of glucose while performing 80-min of metabolically-matched (SL: 1.66 ± 0.14 V̇O2 L/min 329 ± 28 kcal, HA: 1.59 ± 0.10 V̇O2 L/min, 320 ± 19 kcal) treadmill exercise in SL (757 mmHg) and HA (460 mmHg) conditions after a 5-h exposure. Substrate oxidation rates (g/min) and glucose turnover (mg/kg/min) during exercise were determined using indirect calorimetry and dual tracer technique (13C-glucose oral ingestion and [6,6-2H2]-glucose primed, continuous infusion). Results: Total carbohydrate oxidation was higher (P < .05) at HA (2.15 ± 0.32) compared to SL (1.39 ± 0.14). Exogenous glucose oxidation rate was lower (P < .05) at HA (0.35 ± 0.07) than SL (0.44 ± 0.05). Muscle glycogen oxidation was higher at HA (1.67 ± 0.26) compared to SL (0.83 ± 0.13). Total glucose Ra was lower (P < .05) at HA (12.3 ± 1.5) compared to SL (13.8 ± 2.0). Exogenous glucose Ra was lower (P < .05) at HA (8.9 ± 1.3) compared to SL (10.9 ± 2.2). Glucose Rd was lower (P < .05) at HA (12.7 ± 1.7) compared to SL (14.3 ± 2.0). MCR was lower (P < .05) at HA (9.0 ± 1.8) compared to SL (12.1 ± 2.3). Circulating glucose and insulin concentrations were higher in response carbohydrate intake during exercise at HA compared to SL. Conclusion: Novel results from this investigation suggest that reductions in exogenous carbohydrate oxidation at HA may be multifactorial; however, the apparent insensitivity of peripheral tissue to glucose uptake may be a primary determinate.
Stefan Pasiakos
added 4 research items
Hypobaric hypoxia, and dietary protein and fat intakes have been independently associated with an altered gastrointestinal (GI) environment and gut microbiota, but little is known regarding host-gut microbiota interactions at high altitude (HA) and the impact of diet macronutrient composition. This study aimed to determine the effect dietary protein:fat ratio manipulation on the gut microbiota and GI barrier function during weight loss at high altitude (HA), and to identify associations between the gut microbiota and host responses to HA. Following sea level (SL) testing, 17 healthy males were transported to HA (4300m) and randomly assigned to consume provided standard-protein (SP; 1.1g/kg/d, 39% fat) or higher-protein (HP; 2.1g/kg/d, 23% fat) carbohydrate-matched hypocaloric diets for 22d. Fecal microbiota composition and metabolites, GI barrier function, GI symptoms, and acute mountain sickness (AMS) severity were measured. Macronutrient intake did not impact fecal microbiota composition, had only transient effects on microbiota metabolites, and had no effect on increases in small intestinal permeability, GI symptoms, and inflammation observed at HA. AMS severity was also unaffected by diet, but in exploratory analyses was associated with higher SL relative abundance of Prevotella, a known driver of inter-individual variability in human gut microbiota composition, and greater microbiota diversity after AMS onset. Findings suggest that the gut microbiota may contribute to variability in host responses to HA independent of the dietary protein:fat ratio, but should be considered preliminary and hypothesis-generating due to the small sample size and exploratory nature of analyses associating the fecal microbiota and host responses to HA.
This study investigated how high-altitude (HA, 4300 m) acclimatization affected exogenous glucose oxidation during aerobic exercise. Sea-level (SL) residents (n = 14 men) performed 80-min, metabolically matched exercise ( V ˙ O2 ∼ 1.7 L/min) at SL and at HA < 5 h after arrival (acute HA, AHA) and following 22-d of HA acclimatization (chronic HA, CHA). During HA acclimatization, participants sustained a controlled negative energy balance (-40%) to simulate the "real world" conditions that lowlanders typically experience during HA sojourns. During exercise, participants consumed carbohydrate (CHO, n = 8, 65.25 g fructose + 79.75 g glucose, 1.8 g carbohydrate/min) or placebo (PLA, n = 6). Total carbohydrate oxidation was determined by indirect calorimetry and exogenous glucose oxidation by tracer technique with 13C. Participants lost (P ≤ 0.05, mean ± SD) 7.9 ± 1.9 kg body mass during the HA acclimatization and energy deficit period. In CHO, total exogenous glucose oxidized during the final 40 min of exercise was lower (P < 0.01) at AHA (7.4 ± 3.7 g) than SL (15.3 ± 2.2 g) and CHA (12.4 ± 2.3 g), but there were no differences between SL and CHA. Blood glucose and insulin increased (P ≤ 0.05) during the first 20 min of exercise in CHO, but not PLA. In CHO, glucose declined to pre-exercise concentrations as exercise continued at SL, but remained elevated (P ≤ 0.05) throughout exercise at AHA and CHA. Insulin increased during exercise in CHO, but the increase was greater (P ≤ 0.05) at AHA than at SL and CHA, which did not differ. Thus, while acute hypoxia suppressed exogenous glucose oxidation during steady-state aerobic exercise, that hypoxic suppression is alleviated following altitude acclimatization and concomitant negative energy balance.
A recently published meta-analysis in this journal analyzed findings from studies comparing substrate use during exercise at the same relative intensity (i.e., % V̇O2max) in normoxic and hypoxic conditions. The primary conclusion was that hypoxia had no consistent effects on the contribution of carbohydrate oxidation to total energy expenditure. However, findings from studies comparing exercise at the same absolute intensity in normoxic as hypoxic conditions were not considered in the meta-analysis. Assessment of substrate oxidation using matched absolute intensity leads to different conclusions regarding hypoxic effects on fuel use during exercise, and that experimental model, (i.e., comparing responses to exercise at matched absolute intensity) has more practical application for developing nutritional recommendations for high-altitude sojourners. This commentary will discuss those differences.
Andrew John Young
added a research item
Intramuscular factors that modulate fat-free mass (FFM) loss in lowlanders exposed to energy deficit during high-altitude (HA) sojourns remain unclear. Muscle inflammation may contribute to FFM loss at HA by inducing atrophy and inhibiting myogenesis via the tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) and its receptor, fibroblast growth factor-inducible protein 14 (Fn14). To explore whether muscle inflammation modulates FFM loss reportedly developing during HA sojourns, muscle inflammation, myogenesis, and proteolysis were assessed in 16 men at sea level (SL) and following 21 days of energy deficit (-1862 ± 525 kcal/days) at high altitude (HA, 4300 m). Total body mass (TBM), FFM, and fat mass (FM) were assessed using DEXA. Gene expression and proteolytic enzymatic activities were assessed in muscle samples collected at rest at SL and HA. Participants lost 7.2 ± 1.8 kg TBM (P < 0.05); 43 ± 30% and 57 ± 30% of the TBM lost was FFM and FM, respectively. Fn14, TWEAK, TNF alpha-receptor (TNFα-R), TNFα, MYOGENIN, and paired box protein-7 (PAX7) were upregulated (P < 0.05) at HA compared to SL. Stepwise linear regression identified that Fn14 explained the highest percentage of variance in FFM loss (r2 = 0.511, P < 0.05). Dichotomization of volunteers into HIGH and LOW Fn14 gene expression indicated HIGH lost less FFM and more FM (28 ± 28% and 72 ± 28%, respectively) as a proportion of TBM loss than LOW (58 ± 26% and 42 ± 26%; P < 0.05) at HA. MYOGENIN gene expression was also greater for HIGH versus LOW (P < 0.05). These data suggest that heightened Fn14 gene expression is not catabolic and may protect FFM during HA sojourns.
Lee Margolis
added a research item
Muscle loss at high altitude (HA) is attributable to energy deficit and a potential dysregulation of anabolic signaling. Exercise and protein ingestion can attenuate the effects of energy deficit on muscle at sea level (SL). Whether these effects are observed when energy deficit occurs at HA is unknown. To address this, muscle obtained from lowlanders ( n = 8 males) at SL, acute HA (3 h, 4300 m), and chronic HA (21 d, -1766 kcal/d energy balance) before [baseline (Base)] and after 80 min of aerobic exercise followed by a 2-mile time trial [postexercise (Post)] and 3 h into recovery (Rec) after ingesting whey protein (25 g) were analyzed using standard molecular techniques. At SL, Post, and REC, p-mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR)Ser2448, p-p70 ribosomal protein S6 kinase (p70S6K)Ser424/421, and p-ribosomal protein S6 (rpS6)Ser235/236 were similar and higher ( P < 0.05) than Base. At acute HA, Post p-mTORSer2448 and Post and REC p-p70S6KSer424/421 were not different from Base and lower than SL ( P < 0.05). At chronic HA, Post and Rec p-mTORSer2448 and p-p70S6KSer424/421 were not different from Base and lower than SL, and, independent of time, p-rpS6Ser235/236 was lower than SL ( P < 0.05). Post proteasome activity was lower ( P < 0.05) than Base and Rec, independent of phase. Our findings suggest that HA exposure induces muscle anabolic resistance that is exacerbated by energy deficit during acclimatization, with no change in proteolysis.-Margolis, L. M., Carbone, J. W., Berryman, C. E., Carrigan, C. T., Murphy, N. E., Ferrando, A. A., Young, A. J., Pasiakos, S. M. Severe energy deficit at high altitude inhibits skeletal muscle mTORC1-mediated anabolic signaling without increased ubiquitin proteasome activity.
Andrew John Young
added a research item
Karl, J. Philip, Renee E. Cole, Claire E. Berryman, Graham Finlayson, Patrick N. Radcliffe, Matthew T. Kominsky, Nancy E. Murphy, John W. Carbone, Jennifer C. Rood, Andrew J. Young, and Stefan M. Pasiakos. Appetite Suppression and Altered Food Preferences Coincide with Changes in Appetite-Mediating Hormones During Energy Deficit at High Altitude, But Are Not Affected by Protein Intake. High Alt Med Biol. 00:000-000, 2018.-Anorexia and unintentional body weight loss are common during high altitude (HA) sojourn, but underlying mechanisms are not fully characterized, and the impact of dietary macronutrient composition on appetite regulation at HA is unknown. This study aimed to determine the effects of a hypocaloric higher protein diet on perceived appetite and food preferences during HA sojourn and to examine longitudinal changes in perceived appetite, appetite mediating hormones, and food preferences during acclimatization and weight loss at HA. Following a 21-day level (SL) period, 17 unacclimatized males ascended to and resided at HA (4300 m) for 22 days. At HA, participants were randomized to consume measured standard-protein (1.0 g protein/kg/d) or higher protein (2.0 g/kg/d) hypocaloric diets (45% carbohydrate, 30% energy restriction) and engaged in prescribed physical activity to induce an estimated 40% energy deficit. Appetite, food preferences, and appetite-mediating hormones were measured at SL and at the beginning and end of HA. Diet composition had no effect on any outcome. Relative to SL, appetite was lower during acute HA (days 0 and 1), but not different after acclimatization and weight loss (HA day 18), and food preferences indicated an increased preference for sweet- and low-protein foods during acute HA, but for high-fat foods after acclimatization and weight loss. Insulin, leptin, and cholecystokinin concentrations were elevated during acute HA, but not after acclimatization and weight loss, whereas acylated ghrelin concentrations were suppressed throughout HA. Findings suggest that appetite suppression and altered food preferences coincide with changes in appetite-mediating hormones during energy deficit at HA. Although dietary protein intake did not impact appetite, the possible incongruence with food preferences at HA warrants consideration when developing nutritional strategies for HA sojourn.
Stefan Pasiakos
added a research item
In this 2-phase randomized controlled study, we examined whether consuming a higher-protein (HP) diet would attenuate fat-free mass (FFM) loss during energy deficit (ED) at high altitude (HA) in 17 healthy males (mean ± sd: 23 ± 6 yr; 82 ± 14 kg). During phase 1 at sea level (SL, 55 m), participants consumed a eucaloric diet providing standard protein (SP; 1.0 g protein/kg,) for 21 d. During phase 2, participants resided at HA (4300 m) for 22 d and were randomly assigned to either an SP or HP (2.0 g protein/kg) diet designed to elicit a 40% ED. Body composition, substrate oxidation, and postabsorptive whole-body protein kinetics were measured. Participants were weight stable during SL and lost 7.9 ± 1.9 kg ( P < 0.01) during HA, regardless of dietary protein intake. Decrements in whole-body FFM (3.6 ± 2.4 kg) and fat mass (3.6 ± 1.3 kg) were not different between SP and HP. HP oxidized 0.95 ± 0.32 g protein/kg per day more than SP and whole-body net protein balance was more negative for HP than for SP ( P < 0.01). Based on changes in body energy stores, the overall ED was 70% (-1849 ± 511 kcal/d, no group differences). Consuming an HP diet did not protect FFM during severe ED at HA.-Berryman, C. E., Young, A. J., Karl, J. P., Kenefick, R. W., Margolis, L. M., Cole, R. E., Carbone, J. W., Lieberman, H. R., Kim, I.-Y., Ferrando, A. A., Pasiakos, S. M. Severe negative energy balance during 21 d at high altitude decreases fat-free mass regardless of dietary protein intake: a randomized controlled trial.
Stefan Pasiakos
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Stefan Pasiakos
added a project goal
Characterize skeletal muscle, physical and mental performance responses to prolonged negative energy balance, dietary protein and carbohydrate manipulations during high altitude acclimatization (4300 m).