The importance of athletes sharing their mental health stories

The great basketball writer Jackie MacMullan recently stood at the front of a hotel ballroom in Tampa taking questions after collecting a career achievement award from the Association for Women in Sports Media.

I was in the audience that day. Initially, the questions focused on her early days in basketball as a reporter. But then someone brought up a series of stories MacMullan had written for ESPN last summer on NBA players’ mental health problems. MacMullan called it “probably the most important thing I’ve ever done,” and a nearly 10-minute discussion followed.

The package featured All-Stars Kevin Love and Paul Pierce, among others, discussing their struggles with depression and anxiety. Other big names backed out at the last minute, concerned about the stigma of mental illness and whether it might hurt their ability to land a good contract in free agency, a point MacMullan emphasized when we spoke after the session ended. She said a league source called the problem “rampant.”

It’s not just the NBA where athletes’ struggles with mental health are under scrutiny, either. As the director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, I’ve noticed that mental health and sports is a topic gaining attention among athletes and the journalists who cover them.

Wanting to explore why it’s happening now and why it matters, I talked to some experts in the field.


inRead invented by Teads
Listing every publicly known example of an athlete dealing with a mental health issue would be a tough task, but it’s clear that neither the particular sport nor an athlete’s gender makes someone immune.

Michael Phelps—a swimmer with more medals than anyone in Olympic history—has spoken candidly for years about his struggles with depression. Longtime NFL receiver Brandon Marshall has gone public with his mental health issues, as has 2012 Olympic silver medalist in high jump Brigetta Barrett. Fox Sports has written about the frequency of eating disorders among female college athletes.

Experts I spoke with for this story pointed to a couple of reasons professional athletes are particularly susceptible to mental health issues.

Many “are high-achieving perfectionists,” said David Yukelson, the retired director of sports psychology services for Penn State Athletics and a past president of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology.

That’s great when it all comes together in victory or a terrific performance, but the toll of perfectionism can be tough when the results don’t match an athlete’s own expectations, Yukelson said.

The visibility of today’s elite athletes exacerbates the pressure.

Scott Goldman, president-elect of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, told me it’s hard for fans to understand what it’s like to constantly be in the spotlight. He recalled watching a pro football player prepare to run onto the field and wonder aloud whether anyone else in the building had people howling at them when they went to work.

Add social media to the mix and all the armchair experts that brings to any sports discussion. Earlier this year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: “We are living in a time of anxiety. I think it’s a direct result of social media. A lot of players are unhappy.”

The NBA has responded to the problem with a series of initiatives designed to help players cultivate mental wellness. Beyond compassion, the efforts make business sense: Happier players lead to better-performing players, which leads to more wins.

Attention to mental health issues in sports also seems to be on the uptick in the United Kingdom, said Professor Matthew Smith, a historian at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Smith, whose research focuses on medicine and mental health, has been tracking sports-mental health articles on the BBC for the past couple of years and noted the count recently topped 100 stories.

He highlighted the suicide of Wales national men’s soccer team manager Gary Speed in 2011 as a watershed moment that catalyzed the country’s awareness and that still makes headlines.

Fast forward to this May, when England’s Football Association revealed a campaign to show that “mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness,” with Prince William making the public announcement.

Back in the United States, some wonder whether athletes are opening up about mental health issues because rates of such problems are rising among young adults, or if it’s simply become more acceptable to talk about the issue.

Yukelson said times certainly have changed from the 20th century, when athletes were expected to absorb every setback and insult on their own. There’s more support now. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology, a group for sport psychology consultants and professionals who work with athletes, coaches, and non-sport performers, was founded only in 1985. It now has 2,200 members worldwide, according to Emily Schoenbaechler, the group’s certification and communications manager.

Goldman, meanwhile, compared the situation to not knowing you have a cockroach problem until you turn on a light. In other words, drawing attention to an issue makes more people aware it exists.

But it’s also true that nearly one in five American adults has a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s more than 46 million people.

Both Goldman and Yukelson noted that only good things can come from athletes opening up about the issue. The more athletes talk, the more fans might feel inspired to seek help on their own.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness lists talking openly about mental health as the first way to reduce stigma. And an early advocate for speaking out about players’ mental health, Metta World Peace—who changed his name from Ron Artest in 2011—notes that when he first talked about his struggles, the media thought he was “crazy.” Now the default is to call for getting the athlete some help, he says.

It all points to changing attitudes in sports—and society.

Or as Phelps put it in a recent tweet, “getting help is a sign of strength, not weakness.”
— Read on

Amare Research Q&A (Audio)

Here is the recoding of a call I did recently where I answered several questions from a very knowledgable physician (Laurel) about microbiome, gut-brain-axis, and Amare product/ingredient research.

Please take a listen and let me know if you have any questions of your own?

Amare Science/Product Overview – July 2, 2019

Here is the video from my Amare Science/Product Overview last night (July 2, 2019) – it runs about 45min – at which point the video freezes because we had a massive power surge and lost all power – but I was able to cover all the important stuff about how restoring microbiome balance and optimizing gut-brain-axis signaling can dramatically improve mental wellness and enhance mental fitness. Please check it out and let me know what you think?

Gut microbiota may contribute to autism symptoms

Read the original article HERE

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves a group of neurodevelopmental conditions characterized by impairments in social interactions and behavior. It is also accompanied by gastrointestinal dysfunction. According to World Health Organization, one child in 160 worldwide has ASD, which tends to persist into adolescence and adulthood.

Beyond genes, environmental factors have been suggested to play a role in the onset of ASD. For example, the gut microbiota differs between children with ASD—especially those with recurrent gastrointestinal problems—and typically developing controls. However, these previous associations do not tell us whether a gut bacteria imbalance is responsible for autism symptoms or is a consequence of having the condition.

A new study, led by Dr. Sarkis K. Mazmanian from the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, USA), provides the first evidence of gut bacteria’s direct contribution to autism-like behaviors in mice.

In order to explore gut microbiota’s role in autism-like behavior, the researchers transferred gut microorganisms from male children with ASD (mild-ASD and ASD donors) and children without ASD into germ-free wild type mice via fecal transplantation. Mice colonized with the same gut microbiomes were mated and their offspring mice were behavior-tested (6 to 9 weeks of age) and sampled (feces, serum and brains). The mice that inherited the gut microbiome from children with ASD showed autism-like behaviors, including spending less time interacting with other mice, increased repetitive behaviors, and decreased locomotion.

Different gut microbiota profiles in ASD and control donors were maintained in recipient mice and their offspring. Specifically, Bacteroides and Parabacteroides were decreased in the offspring ASD mice, whereas Lachnospiraceae was increased. Besides this, these bacterial taxa showed correlations with repetitive and social behaviors in male mice. These findings support the contribution of specific gut bacteria to autism-like symptoms.

In addition to the observed behavioral differences, the researchers dissected the mouse brains and found that ASD-colonized mice showed differences in the way 52 autism-related genes are processed before being translated into proteins (called alternative splicing) in the brain.

Furthermore, 37 metabolites in the colonic contents and 21 serum metabolites in offspring ASD mice were differentially abundant, compared with offspring colonized from the gut microbiota of children without autism. The content of the mouse gut colonized by the gut microbiome from children with autism had a reduced level of 5-aminovaleric acid (5AV) and taurine metabolites, which are agonists of inhibitory GABA receptors. These results show that taurine and 5AV production in offspring ASD mice is deficient. This concurs with the theory that explains autism as an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory signals in the brain.

Levels of other metabolites such as 3-aminoisobutyric acid and soy-derived isoflavones genistein and daidzein increased. In contrast, the gut microbiota from offspring controls preferentially metabolized proline, taurine, glutamate and glutamine dietary amino acids.

Sharon and colleagues also found that oral administration of 5AV or taurine to mice that naturally exhibit autism-like behaviors, during the prenatal and weaning periods, increased social interactions and led to less repetitive behaviors, which were accompanied by decreased neural excitability in brain samples. The role of microbial metabolites-based interventions (or ‘post-biotic’ interventions) has been previously shown in another context for ameliorating excessive secondary weight gain.

Based on the link between gut microbiome and autism-like behaviors, in a previous open-label clinical trial, researchers from Arizona State University (USA) observed a significant improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms and autism-related symptoms after administration of a 10-week microbiota transfer therapy that combined oral vancomycin treatment, a bowel cleanse, a stomach-acid suppressant, and a fecal microbiota transplant from healthy donors. Both gastrointestinal and behavioral ASD symptoms remained improved 8 weeks after treatment ended, together with a shift in the gut microbiota to resemble that of the neurotypical control children.

A follow-up study with the same 18 ASD-diagnosed children, two years after treatment was completed, provides evidence that microbiota transfer therapy could be a potentially effective and safe way of improving autism symptoms and related gastrointestinal symptoms. Such improvements were accompanied by an increase in bacterial diversity and relative abundances of Bifidobacteria and Prevotella when compared with the baseline.

Altogether, these findings do not prove that gut bacteria can cause autism, but they do support the direct contribution of the host gut microbiome in shaping repetitive and social behavioral abnormalities related to autism in mice. The administration of specific metabolites was able to improve autism-like behaviors in mice and, together with the benefits of microbiota transfer therapy in improving both autism and gastrointestinal symptoms, suggest that targeting the gut ecosystem might be a potential way of keeping some hallmark features of autism at bay.


Sharon G, Jamie Cruz N, Kang DW, et al. Human gut microbiota from autism spectrum disorder promote behavioral symptoms in mice. Cell. 2019; 177:1600-18. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.004.

Family-Farm Hamburger

We just sent two cows to the butcher – so my teenage son, Alex, is taking orders for the BEST Hamburger that you have ever tasted – just in time for Summer cookouts!

We raise Hereford cattle (best for beef) – and we don’t do steaks or roasts – only hamburgers – so you get the best cuts for your burger.

Please see the info on the flyer image below.

Shipping is FREE on orders over $100 (15lbs @ $7/lb = $105) – and shipments will arrive to you by July 1 (in time for your July 4th celebration).

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The Athlete’s Dozen: The 12 Clinically Validated Benefits of Astaxanthin for Athletes

Read the original in Whole Foods Magazine HERE

The Athlete’s Dozen: The 12 Clinically Validated Benefits of Astaxanthin for Athletes

  1. Improves recovery after exercise
  2. Increases strength and power output
  3. Improves endurance
  4. Improves performance in timed racing events
  5. Decreases heart rate during endurance training
  6. Reduces joint and muscle soreness after exercise
  7. Enhances energy metabolism
  8. Prevents muscle (physical) fatigue
  9. Reduces mental fatigue and improves mood state
  10. Reduces lactic acid levels after exercise
  11. Helps prevent muscle damage and inflammation
  12. Reduces exercise-induced free radical production

Eighteen different human clinical trials demonstrate 12 ways that Natural Astaxanthin from algae can help athletes and active people. And there are 35 different pre-clinical studies corroborating these clinical trials. It’s really quite amazing that a single molecule can be so effective in so many different ways, but it’s true.

The first studies in this area began slowly in the 1990s, but the pace has accelerated. Over the last three years, there have been six new human trials and eight new pre-clinical studies. Here, we will take a look at some highlights from the research.


Competitive Cyclists Made Faster with Higher Power Output by Astaxanthin: Gatorade sponsored a four-week study to see if Natural Astaxanthin could make competitive cyclists faster and stronger. Subjects took the very minimum dose generally recommended by Astaxanthin experts: 4mg per day. The researchers tested the cyclists in a 20-kilometer time trial before and after supplementation. These were not average people, but highly trained, competitive cyclists; even marginal improvement from a supplement regimen would be an excellent result in this particular group of subjects. At the end of four weeks, the placebo group showed no improvement in their cycling times. However, the cyclists taking Natural Astaxanthin were on average 5% faster. In addition, their power output increased by 15% (2). In just four weeks and at a relatively low dosage, Natural Astaxanthin made these competitive cyclists significantly faster and stronger. Any athlete would love to have these fantastic results from just taking one small capsule each day.

Muscle Inflammation and Recuperation in Elite Soccer Players: This study looked at the effect of Astaxanthin supplementation on 40 young elite soccer players in Europe. The study was randomized and placebo-controlled; it spanned 90 days of supplementation with 4mg of Astaxanthin per day for the treatment group. Results showed significant improvements in those taking Astaxanthin in inflammation levels, immune system function and—most importantly for athletes—in muscle recuperation. The researchers concluded that Astaxanthin “attenuates muscle damage, thus preventing inflammation induced by rigorous physical training.” They hypothesized that the mechanism of action may be that Astaxanthin “protects the cell membranes against free radicals generated during heavy exercise, thus preserving the functionality of muscle cells” (3).

Recovery from Exercise and Muscle Fatigue: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study in Japan measured recovery from exercise in healthy volunteers. Both the placebo and the Astaxanthin groups did progressively greater loads in a stepwise exercise. Again, the dosage was low (5mg per day), and remarkably, the study duration was extremely short (two weeks). All parameters tested showed significant improvements in the treatment group taking Natural Astaxanthin. Metabolism during exercise became more efficient, respiratory-circulatory ability improved, and anti-fatigue and antioxidant profiles were augmented. These results led the researchers to conclude that recovery ability from exercise stress may be improved by taking Astaxanthin (4).

Reduced Muscle Fatigue from Lactic Acid Buildup During Exercise: Lactic acid builds up during physical exertion and causes burning in the muscles and fatigue. A study in Japan had healthy adult men take 6mg of Astaxanthin daily for four weeks. Researchers had both the placebo and the Astaxanthin group run 1200 meters and tested their lactic acid levels before and after running at the beginning of the study (before supplementation began). They repeated this at the end of the study and found a statistically significant reduction in lactic acid buildup due to exercise in the men taking Astaxanthin. The result was excellent: a 28.6% reduction in lactic acid on average from taking 6mg of Natural Astaxanthin per day for a month (5).

Decreased Heart Rate by 10% during Endurance Training: This study looked at a unique benefit for athletes. It’s long been known that Astaxanthin supports cardiovascular health and that it helps athletes, but this recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study combined these two benefits in a single study by looking at whether Astaxanthin can decrease heart rate while athletes were doing long-distance running. The study featured 12mg of AstaZine Natural Astaxanthin (from BGG) over eight weeks. Results were excellent; Astaxanthin effectively lowered the heart rate by 10% and allowed the athletes to do the same amount of work at a significantly lower cardio usage, suggesting a “cardiotonic effect” (6).

Improved Mood State and Decreased Mental Fatigue in Athletes While Training: The body is not the only thing that needs to be functioning well for athletes to compete effectively; many athletes say that the mind is equally important to the body for positive results in sports. The lead researcher in this study, Dr. Shawn Talbott, looked at another novel benefit for athletes: how Astaxanthin can affect the mind during training. He gave the treatment group 12mg per day of AstaZine® Natural Astaxanthin (from BGG) over eight weeks and found a 57% decrease in feelings of depression; a 36% decrease in mental fatigue; and an 11% increase in overall mood state (how the athletes were feeling mentally). In addition, there were trends toward improvements in feelings of tension, anger, confusion and vigor that did not attain statistical significance (7). A patent is pending for this innovative benefit.

Astaxanthin is well documented to help the bodies as well as the minds of athletes and active people. Anyone competing in sports, exercising regularly, plus people doing hard physical work should consider supplementing with Natural Astaxanthin on a daily basis.

Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine.


1) Capelli, B., Ding, L. (2018). “Natural Astaxanthin: The Supplement You Can Feel.” ISBN: 978-0-9992223-0-0

2) Earnest, CP., Lupo, M., White, KM., Church, TS. (2011). “Effect of Astaxanthin on Cycling Time Trial Performance.” International Journal of Sports Medicine 2011 Nov;32(11):882-8.

3) Baralic, I., Andjelkovic, M., Djordjevic, B., Dikic,, N., Radivojevic, N., Suzin-Zivkovic,, V., Radojevic-Skodric, S., Pejic, S. (2015). “Effect of Astaxanthin supplementation on Salivary IgA, oxidative stress, inflammation in young soccer players.” Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015;2015:783761.

4) Nagata, A., Tajima, T., Hamamatsu, H. (2003). “Effects of Astaxanthin on recovery from whole fatigue with three stepwise exercises.” Hiro to Kyuyo no Kagaku 2003 Vol. 18;No.1;Pages 35-46.

5) Sawaki, K., Yoshigi, H., Aoki, K., Koikawa, N., Azumane, A., Kaneko, K., Yamaguchi, M. (2002). “Sports performance benefits from taking natural Astaxanthin characterized by visual acuity and muscle fatigue improvement in humans.” Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines 2002 Vol.18;No.9;Pages1085-1100.

6) Talbott, S., Hantla, D., Capelli, B., Ding, L., Li, Y., Artaria, C. (2017). “Effect of Astaxanthin Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Function in Runners.” Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine Vol. 49, No. 5, 3299, S705, June 2, 2017.

7) Talbott, S., Hantla, D., Capelli, B., Ding, L., Li, Y., Artaria, C. (2019). “Astaxanthin Supplementation Reduces Depression and Fatigue in Healthy Subjects.” EC Nutrition 14.3 (2019):239-246.

Dr. Shawn Talbott PHD Presents Gut Brain Health for Kids – Zoom

Here is a zoom video that I did with Gilda Green about how the Gut-Brain-Axis helps to modulate mood, mental focus, and so many aspects of behavior and performance.

Microbiome Changes Could Help Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer

A Gut Feeling: Microbiome Changes Could Help Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer | Technology Networks
— Read on

The gut has a population of organisms that live within in it, called the gut microbiome, which are linked to human health and disease. Recent studies have shown that assessing the genetic changes in fecal samples can accurately reflect the status of the gut microbiome, and may be useful for the early diagnosis of diseases.

A group of researchers from Osaka University have recently reported increases in specific microbiome organisms that are linked to the malignancies associated with colorectal cancer, such as intramucosal carcinomas and polypoid adenomas. Their results, recently published in Nature Medicine Letters, reveal that these specific markers could help distinguish cases of colorectal cancer from healthy samples.

“We believe that colorectal cancer is fundamentally not only a genetic but also a microbial disease,” says one of the study’s corresponding authors, Shinichi Yachida. “Our results show that changes in the gut microbiome are present at the very early stages of colorectal cancer development, which could potentially provide vital diagnostic and causative clues for this disease.”

Colorectal cancer, the third most prevalent cancer globally, is a relatively slow-moving disease–meaning it takes a long period of time before reaching its final, fatal stages. Therefore, early detection is crucial to ensuring effective treatment. The researchers used fecal samples from a little over 600 patients who underwent colonoscopy to assess the characteristics of their gut microbiota and how they relate to colorectal cancer.

“Our results revealed that colorectal cancer was linked to an increase in certain factors in the gut microbiome, as well as the presence of cancer-associated organisms,” says the second corresponding author, Takuji Yamada. “Future studies will focus on the relationship between the gut microbiome and tumor characteristics in individual patients with colorectal cancer. This will help us understand the roles of the microbiome in the development of colorectal cancer.”

Reference: Shinichi Yachida, et al. Metagenomic and metabolomic analyses reveal distinct stage-specific phenotypes of the gut microbiota in colorectal cancer. Nature Medicine Letters (2019) DOI:

Mental Wellness in SoCal – June 15

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Join Us in Southern California for Our Welcome Home Event on Saturday, June 15!

We’ve developed the world’s first award-winning gut-brain axis nutrition system to help people optimize their mental wellness. Join us at our Home Office event to find out more and see how you can take yourself to a higher level of mental and physical performance.

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Date: Saturday, June 15
Time: 10 AM-4 PM
Location: Amare Global Corporate Office
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Irvine, CA 92614
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Join us to learn:
  • More about our holistic mental wellness platform of products, programs and community
  • Why the nutrition industry just named us 2018’s Best New Finished Product and nominated us for Start-Up of the Year
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  • How financial health is crucial to your mental health and how Amare’s unique business model can help you thrive financially
  • About our two newest product lines — a gut-brain axis foods system designed to boost your microbiome and a kids line formulated to help kids and teens improve their cognitive performance, and naturally manage stress, occasional anxiety and feelings of depression*
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What Is Carrageenan and Is It Safe? | Shape

Here’s what experts have to say about whether or not carrageenan is safe to consume and what the potential health risks really are.
— Read on