Dr. Tracy Hoeg runs near Lake Tahoe, CA.

Congratulations are in order for Tracy Hoeg, MD, PhD, a former fellow with the Bodor Clinic and researcher with the Napa Medical Research Foundation. She received confirmation last month that the article she was lead author on, “Ultramarathon Plasma Metabolomics: Phosphatidylcholine Levels Associated with Running Performance,” was accepted for publication in Sports scientific journal. The publication summarized research findings that the blood in ultra-marathon runners differs depending on levels of athleticism. During the first year of the study, Dr. Hoeg analyzed the blood of approximately 50 runners of the Western States 100 Marathon, and noticed a difference between the fastest finishers and the slowest finishers. The fastest runners had higher levels of numerous phosphatidylcholine molecules in their blood than the slowest runners.

Previous research had shown that people with neuromuscular diseases have lower levels of phosphatidylcholines than healthy people, but what was not known before was that there are varying amounts of this molecule present in the blood depending on an individual’s fitness level. “Phosphatidylcholine molecules seem to play a role in muscular function and physical fitness,” says Dr. Hoeg.

Hoeg and her team then conducted their study again the next year. This time, they found that the fastest runners had higher phosphatidylcholine levels than slower runners both before and after the race. Additionally, they compared phosphatidylcholine levels in ultra-marathon runners against the levels of non-athletes and found that nearly all phophatidylcholines detectable in the blood were significantly higher in the athletes.

“We also looked at choline, which is something you can get through your diet,” explains Hoeg. “Runners who take choline supplements will do better in races so we think that there’s a relationship between needing choline when you’re exercising and these elevated levels of phosphatidylcholine.”

It is yet to be seen what role these phosphatidylcholines play in physical fitness, but this new discovery is intriguing to say the least, both to the scientific community as well as the athletic community. Hoeg’s findings will no doubt make scientists want to delve into the matter further to find out how and why these molecules exist and if there are ways to increase levels for the purpose of making people healthier or fighting disease.

To view the article in Sports scientific journal, click here.


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