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Preventing Loss of Muscles and Bones as You Age

Your bones and muscles are strongest at ages 20 to 30. After that, bones and muscles usually grow smaller and weaker. Several recent studies show that diet and exercise can slow down, and even prevent, this loss of bone and muscle strength. The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) Nutrition Working Group has just published a list of recommendations to help prevent osteoporosis and muscle weakness associated with aging (Osteoporosis International, January 18, 2013).

• Eat very large amounts of vegetables and fruits. These foods help bones and muscles retain calcium and strength.
• Restrict meat, grains and grain products such as pastas and bread. These foods take calcium out of, and weaken, bones and muscles.
• Lift weights daily.
• Keep blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 75 nmol/L.
• Make sure that you are not lacking in vitamins B12 or folic acid; deficiencies can markedly weaken muscles.

ACID-RESIDUE AND ALKALINE-RESIDUE FOODS: The food that you eat is broken down to produce the energy you need to power your body. Certain foods, such as those rich in protein and grains, are called acidic-residue because they break down and leave extra hydrogen ions in your body. Your body responds to this extra hydrogen by neutralizing it with calcium released from bones and other tissues. Bones are weakened by acidic-residue foods that cause calcium to be withdrawn from bones to be lost in the urine.

Other foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are called alkaline-residue because they add bicarbonate ions in place of adding extra hydrogen ions. Bones respond to this alkaline residue by taking up calcium and usually becoming stronger.

HOW ACIDIC-RESIDUE FOODS CAUSE LOSS OF MUSCLES AND BONES: Your bones are constantly remodeling by adding and losing calcium. Special cells called osteoclasts constantly take calcium out of bone, while other cells called osteoblasts constantly bring calcium in. Anything that increases calcium entry into bones usually strengthens bones. Anything that increases calcium loss from bones usually weakens bones.

ACID-RESIDUE, NOT ACID FOOD: The acidity of a food that you eat has little to do with the residue it leaves in your body. For example, a grapefruit is a very acidic fruit. However, it breaks down in your body to form alkaline residues.

FOODS DO NOT CHANGE THE ACIDITY OF YOUR BODY OR BLOOD When a food leaves extra acid in your body, your body responds by neutralizing the acid with calcium and potassium; the acidity of your body does not change.

ALKALINE PILLS STRENGTHEN BONES AND MUSCLES: Giving extra alkali in pills, or consuming lots of fruits and vegetables, strengthens bones. In one study of 171 men and women aged 50 and older, those given an alkali, bicarbonate, for three months, lost less calcium in their urine and strengthened their bones by increasing the amount of calcium in them (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, January 2009).

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES PREVENT LOSS OF MUSCLE WITH AGING. SO DO POTASSIUM PILLS: Researchers can tell which people eat a high fruit and vegetable diet by how much potassium comes out in their urine. Those whose diets were loaded with fruits and vegetables have urine rich in potassium and stronger bones. They gained 3.6 more pounds of muscle over four years than those with half the potassium intake (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2008). Taking potassium citrate pills also strengthens bones (Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:465-474).

SHOW JUDGEMENT IN YOUR FRUIT AND VEGETABLE DIET: Don't eat fruit all day long. The sugar in fruit is converted to triglycerides which can elevate blood triglyceride levels. Most research shows that eating lots of fruits helps to prevent diabetes, but huge amounts of fruits can raise blood triglycerides and cause weight gain.

LOSS OF MUSCLE LEADS TO DIABETES: A review OF 14,528 case studies shows that loss of muscle is associated with insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels and diabetes. The greater the loss of muscle size, the more likely a person is to become diabetic. You prevent diabetes by both losing fat: which blocks insulin receptors, and by growing muscle: which helps clear sugar from your bloodstream (PLoS ONE, June 2010).


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How Food Grows Larger Muscles

Eating foods rich in sugar and protein within an hour after you finish lifting weights helps you grow larger and stronger muscles (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, December 2012;9(1):54).

To make muscles grow larger and stronger, you have to exercise so intensely that your muscle burn while you are lifting weights and they should feel sore eight to 24 hours later. The soreness means that you have exercised intensely enough to damage the muscles. When they heal, they will be stronger than before you damaged them. While your muscles are sore from a previous workout, you must go easy on your muscles and lift much lighter weights.

So to grow stronger, you take a workout hard enough to damage your muscles and feel sore the next day. Then you take easy workouts and lift much lighter weights until the soreness goes away. Lifting heavy weights when your muscles are sore from a previous workout can cause injuries and then you won't be able to lift at all.

EAT TO RECOVER; DO NOT REST TO RECOVER: Athletes do not stop exercising when their muscles feel sore. If they did, their muscles would not be as fibrous and tough and they would not be able to lift as heavy weights on their hard days.

All training is done by stressing and recovering. The more often you can take intense workouts, the stronger you become and the better you perform in your sport. So anything that helps you recover faster will make you a better athlete. The fastest way to recover from an intense workout is to eat foods rich in both protein and sugar within an hour of finishing your intense workout.

Resting muscles respond poorly to insulin. Contracting muscles are much more sensitive to insulin than resting muscles. You get your maximum insulin sensitivity when you exercise intensely. This effect lasts during intense exercise and for up to an hour after you finish exercising. You lose the increased insulin sensitivity very rapidly an hour after you finish exercising and you lose it completely after about 17 hours.

A high carbohydrate meal causes your pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. Insulin drives sugar and protein into muscles. The more protein that insulin can drive into muscles after you finish exercising, the faster muscles heal and the sooner you can take your next intense workout. So immediately after you finish your intense workout, take a sugar-protein meal.


Deep-Fried Foods and Prostate Cancer

Researchers took careful dietary histories on men who had prostate cancers and compared them to men who did not have that cancer (The Prostate, 01/18/2013). The men who had prostate cancer were 130 to 135 percent more likely to eat French fries, fried chicken, fried fish or fried doughnuts. Frying burns fats to form the following known carcinogens: aldehydes, acrolein, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and acrylamide. Men who ate the most fried foods were far more likely to have more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, as indicated by metastasis, high Gleason score or high PSA).

OTHER RECENT PROSTATE CANCER STUDIES: • Men who eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables are 40 percent less likely to have this aggressive form of prostate cancer (Prostate Cancer, published online December 2012). • Risk increases among men who eat large amounts of refined carbohydrates in foods such as low-fiber cereals, cakes, biscuits, white rice and pasta (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 11/09/2012). • Taking more than 600 mg of calcium per day increases risk (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 11/07/2012). • The risk for death from prostate cancer triples in men with high blood calcium levels, greater than 10.1 mg/dL (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2012;21:1768-1773; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2008;17:2302-2305).

MOST PROSTATE CANCER IS BENIGN. More than 90 percent of men with prostate cancer have a relatively benign disease that is unlikely to kill them. The average life span for men after they are diagnosed with prostate cancer, treated or untreated, is greater than 23 years. However, fewer than five percent of prostate cancers are rapidly progressive and can kill.


This week's medical history:
Bob Hayes, World’s Fastest Human

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries


Recipe of the Week:

Shrimp Jambalaya

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

January 27th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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