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Eat Only When You Are Active

More than a third of all North Americans are obese and will die prematurely because of their excess fat. WHEN you eat may be even more important than HOW MUCH you eat. Never eat and go to bed. The safest time to eat is just before and after you exercise. Resting after you eat is an invitation for higher blood sugar and insulin levels, more weight gain, and increased risk for diabetes and heart attacks. The current obesity epidemic may well be caused by staying up later at night to snack and watch television.

MICE ALLOWED TO EAT ALL DAY LONG ARE FATTER. Mice that are placed on a high-fat diet gain far more weight when they are supplied with food 24 hours a day than when they can eat only for 8 hours a day, even though they eat the same number of calories per day (Cell Metabolism, published online May 17, 2012). Besides weighing more, the mice that could eat all day long had higher blood sugar and insulin levels, more liver damage, and higher blood levels of CRP, the blood test that measures inflammation.

MICE FED ONLY DURING SLEEPING HOURS ARE FATTER THAN THOSE FED DURING WAKING HOURS. Mice that were allowed to eat only during the 12 hours that they normally sleep gained significantly more weight (48 percent weight increase) than mice eating the same type and amount of food during the 12 hours they are normally awake (20 percent weight increase). Both groups ate the same total amount and type of food and were equally active (Obesity, published online Sept. 3, 2009).

HUMANS WHO SNACK SUFFER MORE DIABETES AND PREMATURE DEATH. Scientists at Karolinska Institutet surveyed 4,000 60-year-old, men and women. Compared to those who ate only breakfast, lunch and dinner, those who snacked between meals had larger waist circumferences and higher blood sugar, insulin, triglyceride and cholesterol levels than people who ate regular meals with less snacking (Obesity, 2008;16 (6):1302). These are all signs associated with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart attacks, and premature death.

STAY ACTIVE AFTER YOU EAT. Resting muscles are inactive and draw no sugar from your bloodstream. On the other hand, contracting muscles pull sugar from the bloodstream. They do not even require insulin to do this. If you eat and stand or walk, the contracting muscles can pull sugar from your bloodstream. However, when you eat and sit or lie down, your muscles draw no sugar from your bloodstream and blood sugar levels rise higher to increase risk for cell damage.

• HIGH INSULIN LEVELS: Your pancreas tries to lower the high blood sugar level, so it puts out ever increasing amounts of insulin.

• INCREASED RISK FOR HEART ATTACKS: Insulin constricts the arteries leading to your heart, to increase risk for a heart attack.

• HIGH TRIGLYCERIDES: When muscles are inactive, blood sugar levels rise. The extra sugar goes to your liver and other cells. Once your liver fills up with its own stored sugar called glycogen, it cannot store any more sugar. so all extra sugar is converted to a type of fat called triglycerides.

• LOW GOOD HDL CHOLESTEROL: High triglycerides increase risk for clotting, so your good HDL cholesterol works to save you by carrying triglycerides from your bloodstream to your liver. You use up your good HDL and blood levels of HDL drop.

• FATTY LIVER: The triglycerides accumulate in your liver to cause a fatty liver. A fatty liver cannot clear sugar from your bloodstream.

• DIABETES: Since the liver cannot clear sugar from your bloodstream, you develop even higher blood sugar levels and are now diabetic.

• HEART ATTACKS AND PREMATURE DEATH. Diabetes markedly increases risk for heart attacks, strokes, many cancers, and premature death.


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Does Coffee Prolong Life?

A study from the National Cancer Institute, on 400,000 people 50-71 years of age, was widely reported as showing that coffee drinkers live longer than non-coffee drinkers (N Engl J Med, May 17, 2012;366:1891-1904). The coffee drinkers actually died younger than people who do not drink coffee, but the authors found that coffee drinkers were also more likely than non-coffee drinkers to do things that shorten their lives:

• smoke,
• eat more red meat,
• eat fewer fruits and vegetables,
• drink alcohol, and
• not exercise as often or as intensely as non-coffee drinkers. So the authors excluded all people with these life-shortening habits from the study.

The authors then concluded that coffee drinkers with healthful habits lived longer than non-coffee drinkers with healthful habits. Correcting for these factors showed that men who drank four to five cups of coffee daily had a lowered risk for death over a period of 13 years by 12 percent, while women's risk was 16 percent lower. Coffee drinkers without high-risk factors are less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes or infections. There was no difference in risk of death from cancer.

COULD COFFEE SHORTEN LIFE? No good evidence exists to show that drinking coffee shortens life. However, caffeine in coffee can raise blood pressure temporarily, though not permanently. Boiled coffee can increase the bad LDL cholesterol that forms plaques in arteries, but filtered coffee does not raise LDL cholesterol.

SHOULD I START DRINKING COFFEE TO PROLONG LIFE? We have no strong data to recommend that anyone start drinking coffee to prolong life. On the other hand, we have no data to show that coffee shortens life.

IF YOU DO DRINK COFFEE, drink it without sugar or cream. Sugar in liquid form raises blood sugar levels which increases risk for heart attacks and diabetes. Most creams are rich sources of animal saturated fat that increase risk for heart attacks.


Blood Test for Diabetes Predicts Cancer Risk in Women

A blood test that measures blood sugar levels also can be used to predict who is at increased risk for cancer (International Journal of Cancer, April 26, 2012). HBA1C is a blood test that measures how much sugar is stuck on cells. People who have values 5.7 or higher are at increased risk for cancer, even if your doctor has not diagnosed you as having diabetes.

When blood sugar rises too high, sugar sticks to the outside surface of cell membranes. Once there, sugar can never get off. It is converted through a series of chemical reactions to sorbitol that destroys cells. Anything that raises blood sugar appears to increase cancer risk.

To keep your blood sugar low,
1) Avoid being overweight
2) Do not take sugared drinks in any form, including fruit juices, except during prolonged intense exercise
3) Avoid foods with added sugar
4) Avoid fried foods
5) Eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables
6) Do not eat red meat (blocks insulin receptors)
7) Exercise
8) Grow muscle
9) Reduce body fat
10) Keep blood levels of hydroxy-vitamin D above 75 nmol/L


Recipe of the Week:

Spicy Crab Salad

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May 27th, 2012
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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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