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Frankly Health

By Students for Students

Nutrition and Exercise

Diet, Exercise, and Dementia

By: Victoria Vargas

March 5, 2020

The elderly population experiences cognitive impairments, putting them at risk for developing dementia as they continue to get older. Additionally, this same population has risk factors for cardiovascular disease that parallel risk factors associated with dementia (1). Alice Park of TIME Magazine published an article to TIME’s website about a study using diet and exercise as an intervention for reversing brain aging in the elderly population. This study, “Lifestyle and neurocognition in older adults with cognitive impairments” conducted by primary investigator, James Blumenthal, studied the relationship between diet and exercise and cognitive function by measuring performance on cognitive tests before and after a six-month diet and exercise intervention plan.

This study, originally published in Neurology, hypothesized that if dementia and cardiovascular disease share similar risk factors, the same strategies used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease may be successful in reversing cognitive impairments (1). Diet and exercise as interventions are expected to improve executive functioning in the brain which will then ultimately prevent the development of dementia in the elderly population. TIME Magazine simplifies this idea by stating that diet and exercise show “a big benefit they can have on the brain, by possibly reversing some of the effects of aging” (2). This is an experimental, randomized control trial conducted on a cohort over age 55. Participants of this cohort were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (1) aerobic exercise (AE), (2) Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, (3) AE and DASH combination (AE+DASH), and (4) the control group only receiving health education (HE) (1). According to TIME, the cohort generally performed poorly on cognitive tests as they were testing at a brain function 28 years older than their own (Park, 2018. Participants all lead a sedentary lifestyle, were over age 55, and had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (1). Additionally, participants all had complaints associated with their memory and showed evidence of cognitive impairments (1). These participants were recruited by newspaper articles, television advertisements, physician referrals, and patient mailings from a national database (1). This study focused on primarily measuring executive cognitive functioning; however, they also made sure to measure variables such as memory, language and verbal fluency, and the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) for each participant (1). These secondary outcome measures were not mentioned by TIME Magazine in their article.

The primary literature breaks down results for each group of the cohort. The findings of this study state that aerobic exercise showed significant improvements in executive functioning, contrary to what TIME summarized in their article (1). This study mentions no significant improvements in cognitive functioning for those only on the DASH diet and the largest improvement in cognitive functioning was in with the group who completed aerobic exercise and the DASH diet (AE+DASH) (1). This AE+DASH group also showed younger predicted age after being tested for cognitive function after the six-month trial period (1). The control group only receiving health education actually showed to be worse in cognitive functioning by about six months when tested at the end of the trial period (1). In summary, this study suggests that increasing aerobic fitness may reduce one’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease and, in turn, increasing executive cognitive functioning.

Limitations of this study included a small sample size of about 160 that was only tested at a single site (1). A larger cohort studied at multiple locations may have posed different results. Additionally, this study design may not have had enough power to determine true results in cognitive functioning for the groups completing either aerobic fitness or DASH alone (1). Finally, this study was considered short term as it only recorded data for a six-month period and did not include a follow-up with participants (1). Fortunately, by the end of the study no participants had developed dementia after the six-month period (1).

The information provided is intended for factual purposes only, not to suggest or provide medical advice to you, the reader. Consult a medical professional with further questions or concerns regarding the information listed.

Works Cited:

(1) Blumenthal, J., Smith, P., & Mabe, S. (2018). Lifestyle and neurocognition in older adults with cognitive impairments. Neurology92(3). doi:

(2) Park, A. (2018). Diet and Exercise Might Reverse Aging in the Brain. Retrieved from

How Can You Beat the Freshman 15?

by Cole Dorman 

February 14, 2018


Are you afraid of gaining the notorious “Freshman 15” during your first year of college? If so, you are not alone, because thousands of other freshmen are in the same position as you! There is both good and bad news. Avoiding the “Freshman 15” may be easier than most students think. The idea of gaining the full 15 pounds is an exaggeration and is not as common among college freshmen as we are led to believe. However, avoiding smaller amounts of weight gain tends to be challenging for many college freshmen. The lifestyle transition for freshmen creates the perfect opportunity to pack on the unwanted pounds, and making changes to your everyday eating and exercise habits can be inconvenient during the strenuous schedule of the school year (1). 

Although it is uncommon for incoming freshmen to gain 15 pounds throughout their first year of college, studies show that weight gain is a prevalent theme throughout college for these students. A meta-analysis study (results of multiple scientific studies) shows that 60.9% of students experience weight gain during their freshman year of college. Of the 60.9% of students who did gain weight during their freshman year, it was a surprising 7.5 lbs (3.38 kg). Only 9.3% of first year university students actually acquired the well-known “Freshman 15”. Contrary to popular belief, men are not more susceptible to the “Freshman 15” than women, as there was no significant gender difference found in the analysis. While this shows that the “Freshman 15” isn’t as prevalent as some thought, it does show that the minute a student signs up for their freshman classes they are also unknowingly signing up for a couple extra pounds. This can be seen in a study that was conducted close to home for Franklin Pierce students.  

 Daniel P. Champigny conducted a study on weight gain in college freshman at Franklin Pierce University in 2012. This study showed that Franklin Pierce freshman gained on average 5.01lbs throughout their first year. With the high percentage of athletes at Franklin Pierce, it is surprising that the weight gain was higher than studies at other schools. The study included both athletes and non-athletes, in which there was no significant difference in weight gain among the two. The study suggested that the reason behind the weight gain was most likely excessive cafeteria use, not being conscious of nutritional information that is available, and increased consumption of alcohol. There may also be some component of homesickness and increased level of depression or anxiety associated with these changes.2  

Why is it so easy to gain weight during your freshman year? What can you do about it? These questions are frequently asked by incoming first-year students. There’s no single answer to these questions, but a mixture of lifestyle changes can make the perfect opportunity for your body to add weight. Compared to the general population, college freshmen have a much higher rate of weight gain. An increase in stress, availability of junk food, alcohol consumption, and a decrease in physical activity are just some parts to the equation of gaining weight. Many colleges offer buffet-style eating, with tons of high caloric food options and drinks with high fructose syrup, tempting each student. Copious amounts of homework can stress students out, not giving them enough time or energy to maintain the amount of exercise they did before college. A mix of the dramatic lifestyle changes in college can lead to easy weight gain that can creep up on even the most health conscious college students. 

While the “Freshman 15” may be more avoidable than previously thought, first year university students are destined for weight gain. Although the college lifestyle, which many freshmen are not accustomed to, may be perfect for gaining weight, being conscious about what you are putting into your body and staying active are keys to staying fit. Gaining weight can be very easy for a college freshman, but it doesn’t have to be. 


The information provided is intended for factual purposes only, not to suggest or provide medical advice to you, the reader. Consult a medical professional with further questions or concerns regarding the information listed.


(1) Claudia Vadeboncoeur*, Nicholas Townsend and Charlie Foster. “A meta-analysis of weight gain in first year university students: is freshman 15”. BMC Obesity (2015). Accessed October 1st, 2017. 

(2) Daniel P. Champigny. “Factors Conductive to Weight Gain in College Freshman”. Senior Thesis. Franklin Pierce University. (2013) Accessed October 6th, 2017. 



About the Author




Cole Dorman is a member of the class of 2021 at Franklin Pierce University. He is a Health Sciences major with intentions of a pathway to Physical Therapy. Cole is from Farmington, Maine and enjoys playing and watching sports, along with fishing and hanging out with friends. 

cup of coffee with coffee beans.

How is Caffeine Affecting Your Body?

by Casey Wayrynen

November 2, 2017

Coffee is good for you, right? Many adolescents and young adults, especially college students, consume a lot of caffeine throughout their years, but what they don’t know is how it helps them to survive those late-nights studying or long days at work. Caffeine occurs naturally among several plants such as coffee bean, kola nut, tea leaf, and cacao seed (1). Just about 80% of adults in the United States consume caffeine, whether it is in foods, drugs, or beverages (2). According to the FDA, it is considered both a drug and a food additive (3).

Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant which causes alertness and gives a boost of energy when consumed (4). What causes these feelings is the release of neurotransmitters and their chemical effects on the brain.  Adenosine is one of these neurotransmitters and it acts as the “brakes” in the CNS so when its effects are blocked, in this case by caffeine, stimulation happens (1). Within an hour after consumption, the caffeine is rapidly absorbed into the circulation of the body and its effects last about 3-5 hours (2). Along with energy and alertness, there are some drawbacks such as feeling tired, jittery, having headaches, and dehydration (4). Dehydration is a very common side effect because caffeine is also a diuretic that causes the body to lose water (3). To sum it up, caffeine’s purpose is to prevent the body from slowing things down (1).

Many factors are involved when it comes to determining how much caffeine is enough. There is a wide variety of benefits and risks that are attributed to caffeine. For healthy adults, daily consumption of up to 400 mg will not present any health risk (2). When it comes to keeping you up after sleepless nights, studies have shown that caffeine consumption in low doses will help increase alertness whether someone is fatigued or well-rested. High doses of caffeine are more likely to result in anxiety, while low doses are more beneficial (2). Lifestyle, age, and weight have an influence on an individual’s response to caffeine (2). Sensitivity differs between age groups when it comes to caffeine consumption.

Aside from keeping you awake when you are sleep deprived, caffeine has been shown to enhance some cognitive performances such as attention, vigilance, and reaction time (2). When it comes to physical performance, studies have shown impacts of reducing effort perception and lowering pain sensations when caffeine is consumed before an activity (2). For both cognitive and physical performance, moderate doses can be suggested for optimal results (2). A moderate amount of caffeine is about 100 to 200 mg a day, which is around one to two 5-ounce cups of coffee (3). When this drug/food additive is consumed, its effect is based on the concentration. The concentration of caffeine can vary depending on the type of food or beverage.

Energy drinks are the most common beverage consumed that contain caffeine among adolescents. Some drinks have a range of 50-505 mg of caffeine in each bottle or can (5). Dependence and withdrawal has become very prominent in many children and adolescents with the most common side effect of headaches (5). Other side effects can include fatigue, drowsiness, dysphoric mood, difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability, nausea, and muscle aches or stiffness. Caffeine is not as addictive as other types of stimulating drugs, but it can cause mild physical dependence which, just like any other drug, will lead to withdrawal when stopped suddenly (6). It triggers some of the same neurotransmitters that are associated with other stimulant drugs. There are many foods and beverages that contain different doses of caffeine nowadays so it is hard to get away from it. Caffeine’s effects on the body are influenced by: age, sex, weight, height and many other factors. This isn’t going to tell you that caffeine is good or bad for you, but are you still going to drink that extra cup of coffee?

Each of these Contain 400 mg of Caffeine



           2- 5oz cups of coffee                                                            

                11 Cans of Coca-Cola

  5.5 Shots of Espresso

  2.5 Cans of Monster     





The information provided is intended for factual purposes only, not to suggest or provide medical advice to you, the reader. Consult a medical professional with further questions or concerns regarding the information listed.





Neurotransmitter: (noun) a chemical substance that is released at the end of a nerve fiber by the arrival of a nerve impulse and, by diffusing across the synapse or junction, causes the transfer of the impulse to another nerve fiber, a muscle fiber, or some other structure.

Diuretic: (adjective) causing increased passing of urine.

Dysphoric: (noun) uneasy about life or similar to the feeling of anxiety





(1) Andrews, R. All About Caffeine. PrecisionNutrition: 2017

(2) McLellan, TM., Caldwell, JA., & Lieberman, HR. A review of caffeine's effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2016;71: 294-312.

(3) FDA. Medicines in my Home: Caffeine and Your Body. FDA: Food and Drug Administration: 2007.

(4) MedlinePlus. Caffeine. U.S. National Library of Medicine: February 23 2017.

(5) Reissig, CR., Strain, EC., & Griffiths, RR. Caffeinated energy drinks--- A growing problem. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2009;99:1-10.

(6) WebMD. Caffeine Myths and Facts.WebMD: 2005-2017.


About the Author






Casey Wayrynen is a second year Franklin Pierce student majoring in Health Sciences. Wayrynen grew up not far from Rindge, New Hampshire, so she commutes. She plans to pursue a career in Diagnostic Medical Sonography which entails a 2-year training program after her 4 years here at FPU.