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Intense Exercise Treats and Prevents Diabetes

An exciting study from Yale shows that intense exercise is far more effective in preventing and controlling diabetes than exercising at a leisurely pace (Journal of Applied Physiology, January 2006). Inactive, healthy, non-obese women over 72 years of age were started in training programs of hard (80 percent of aerobic capacity), moderate (65 percent) and easy (50 percent). All three groups did the same amount of work, burning 300 calories per session. The intense group had a great improvement in their ability to use sugar and suppress fat formation, while the low intensity group had little benefit.

This means that intense exercise can help both to prevent and to treat diabetes. The most tissue damage occurs immediately after eating, when blood sugar levels rise the highest. After you eat, sugar goes from the intestines into the bloodstream. The only places that sugar can be stored are in your muscles and liver. When your muscles are not exercised, they are full of sugar and sugar has no place to go after it enters your bloodstream. On the other hand, when your muscles are exercised, they empty their stored sugar. Then when you eat, sugar can go from the intestines into the bloodstream and then immediately into the muscles, preventing a high rise in blood sugar.

The exciting news from this study is that the more intensely you exercise, the greater the protection from developing diabetes and the better the control of your diabetes if you already have it. A word of caution: 75 percent of diabetics die from heart disease and some people can suffer heart attacks during intense exercise, so check with your doctor first.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How old should a child be to start serious athletic training? I think my daughter is an exceptionally fast runner.

Young children can start training for athletic competition at a very young age as far as their bodies are concerned, but they should not start before they want to accept the regimented lifestyle required for athletic competition. In 1967, I started competitive long distance running for young children and was the first national chairman of the age group committee of the Amateur Athletic Union and The Road Runners Club of America. Children came from all over the United States and Canada to compete in age group cross country and track running. Many were coached by experienced runners and trained with the same types of workouts used by older, more experienced runners. These children rarely suffered from injuries and when they were injured, they recovered faster than older runners do.

Young children are not at increased risk for injuries when they run races or lift weights. Doctors expressed concern that the growth centers in their bones would be more likely to break, but this rarely happens. However, many of the better runners quit. In one study from Southern California, 90 percent of female runners under age nine stopped running before they reached high school. It's all right for young children to start training in a sport, provided that they want to do it, that they take plenty of days off from training, and that their coaches and parents allow them to be children.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do people who restrict salt have lower rates of heart attacks?

Surprisingly, a recent study found that Americans who consumed the currently-recommended 2,300 mg/day of sodium had a 37 percent higher chance of dying from heart attacks. Researchers from Albert Einstein Medical School analyzed the Second United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that evidence linking sodium intake to mortality outcomes is scant and inconsistent (American Journal of Medicine, March 2006).

The results are unexpected because a high-salt diet can cause some people to develop high blood pressure, which increases a person's chances of suffering heart attacks and strokes. Perhaps the explanation is that many people don't start restricting salt until after they find out that they are at high risk. Most medical authorities will continue to recommend diets low in salt, but salt itself probably is not the culprit. For years I have recommended a plant-based diet that is low in meats and processed foods. Meats are naturally high in salt, and most processed foods contain a lot of salt even if they don’t taste salty. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts are naturally low in salt; and even if some salt is added when they are cooked or at the table, these foods will contain far less salt than most processed foods.

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Recipe of the Week
Here's a favorite hearty salad that keeps well; make a big batch and use the leftovers for lunches and snacks.

Southwestern Bean Salad

You'll find 100 recipes, and lots of helpful diet tips, in
The Good Food Book - it's FREE

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 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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