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Vigorous Exercise Protects Your Heart

This week, Norwegian researchers reported their findings that high intensity interval training maximally improves every conceivable measure of heart function and heart strength. It also helps to prevent both the pre-diabetic metabolic syndrome and the heart damage it causes (Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews, July 2009).

This is more evidence that older people who compete in vigorous sports, such as biking and running, live longer and suffer less disease than people who exercise at a more casual pace. The most intense exercise includes interval training: running or cycling very fast to become severely short of breath, then resting and repeating these almost maximum efforts several times in the same workout. Controlled interval training is now a treatment for heart failure. High-intensity interval training raises the good HDL cholesterol far more than less intense exercise (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, March 2009).

Intense exercise for older people is still a controversial subject, but these new results concur with many earlier studies: Intense exercise is far more effective than casual exercise in preventing and treating diabetes (Circulation, July 2008) and reducing belly fat (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise [MSSE], November 2008); Vigorous exercise protects obese people from heart attacks and prolongs their lives, even if they don't lose weight (MSSE, October 2006); Intense exercise is more effective in preventing heart attacks than less intense exercise done more frequently (MSSE, July 1997); Death rate from cardiovascular disease is lowered by high intensity activities such as jogging, swimming, hiking, tennis and climbing stairs, but not by lower intensity activities such as walking, bowling, sailing, golf and dancing (Heart, May 2003). Paul Thompson, of the University of California at Berkeley, showed that the faster aged runners run, the lower their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels (MSSE, October 2008).


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) cause obesity?

Life-shortening obesity among adult Americans has tripled from 1960 to the present (to 37 percent). HFCS was incorrectly blamed because it became widely used in soft drinks during the same time period. However, Dr. James Rippe of the University of Central Florida points out that "There are no measured differences between insulin, leptin, ghrelin, blood sugar, uric acid, triglycerides, satiety, appetite or calories consumed at subsequent meals when comparing HFCS to sucrose. Both contain the same calories and sweetness."

Your body responds in the same way to fruit juices, soft drinks sweetened with HFCS or sucrose, and any other sugared beverage such as tea or coffee. Some people think that HFCS is more harmful than other sugars because they mistakenly believe that is loaded with fructose. Pure crystalline fructose raises triglycerides and uric acid higher than glucose does, and it may increase risk for insulin resistance, obesity, elevated LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and metabolic syndrome. However, despite its name, HFCS is not significantly higher in fructose than other sugars. Fruit sugar contains 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose, while HFCS contains 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose, no real difference.

We now understand why all sugared drinks can contribute to obesity. When you eat sugar in a solid food, your brain recognizes the calories and you may eat fewer calories from other sources. However, when you eat the same amount of sugar in liquid form, your brain fails to recognize these calories and you are likely to eat more.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Are artificial sweeteners a good alternative for weight loss?

They may not be. At the Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society on June 11, 2009, researchers from the National Institute of Aging reported that those who use artificial sweeteners are twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome and diabetes. They are also more likely to be obese and take in more calories, carbohydrates and fats; have higher fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin levels;, and have more insulin resistance. This is supported by two other studies (Circulation, January 2008; and Obesity, June 2008). Artificial sweeteners affect sweet taste receptors in the brain and intestines in the same way that sugar does, causing release of incretin, which increases sugar absorption from the intestines.


Recipe of the Week:

Gabe's Favorite Potato Salad

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

June 22nd, 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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