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Preserve Cell Mitochondria to Age Well

An exciting report from the University of Washington in Seattle shows how exercise prolongs lives (Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, April, 2007). The leading theory for aging is that mitochondria produce oxidants that damage the DNA in cells to shorten life. Mitochondria are parts of cells that convert food to energy. They function by stripping off electrons and protons from food to produce energy. When they do this, they end up with free electrons that eventually attach to oxygen, which produces free radicals that stick to genetic material in cells to cause permanent damage.

As you age, your muscles lose mitochondria and those that remain become smaller so that they produce far more free radicals. Anything that increases the size or number of mitochondria makes them function more efficiently so they produce fewer free radicals. This recent review shows that exercising as you age actually prevents loss of mitochondria and can even make them larger so they produce fewer oxidants.

This report is particularly significant because a recent survey of the world's literature in the Journal of the American Medical Association (February 28, 2007) showed that there is little evidence that taking antioxidant supplements prolongs life, and they may even shorten life. Apparently it is necessary to avoid production of oxidants, not just to take antioxidants as a corrective measure. On the basis of these studies, if you do not already have a regular exercise program, check with your doctor for approval and get started.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How long do muscles benefit from carbohydrate loading?

An important part of your energy for vigorous exercise comes from the sugar stored inside muscle cells. When you run out of stored muscle sugar, your muscles may hurt and be more difficult to coordinate. Carbohydrate loading is a technique athletes use to increase the stored sugar in their muscles. Four days before a competition, they exercise vigorously and then for the next three days, they eat their normal diet plus large amounts of extra carbohydrates in foods such as bread, spaghetti and potatoes. A recent study shows that after carbohydrate loading, the muscles will be full of extra sugar for up to five days (European Journal of Applied Physiology, February 2007).

At three, five and seven days of limited activity after the loading process, the researchers cut out pieces of muscle and analyzed the sugar content. Only at seven days post-loading did muscle sugar concentrations drop significantly. This means that if your competition is delayed, you can expect the effects of carbohydrate loading to last up to five days.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will lifting weights reduce my risk for diabetes?

A study from Purdue University shows that lifting weights and eating extra protein can help to prevent or control diabetes, while enlarging muscles at the same time (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2007). Thirty-six men and women in their sixties lifted weights three times a week for 12 weeks. They ate either a diet that contained 112 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein or 150 percent of the RDA. The higher protein group ate more eggs and dairy products.

After 12 weeks, the weight of both groups remained the same, and they gained the same amount of muscle and lost the same amount of fat. Both groups had the same reduced rise in blood sugar after eating a sugared meal. This means that they reduced their chances of becoming diabetic equally. However, the blood insulin levels decreased more in the low-protein group. The authors conclude that older people who consume adequate amounts of protein can use resistance training to increase muscle, lose fat and decrease their chances of becoming diabetic. Your doctor can help you determine how much protein is appropriate for you.


Recipe of the Week – featuring VINE-ripened tomatoes!

Summer Barley-Bean Salad

How to cook whole grains

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

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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