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How Lack of Exercise Shortens Lives

Many recent studies show that people die from inactivity, not just from aging. We know that as people age, they lose muscle, their immunities weaken and because of their weakened immunity, they are more likely to die of cancer and infectious diseases. As you age, you lose your ability to kill germs because of lack of muscle. When germs get into your body, you must make white blood cells and proteins called antibodies to kill them. Antibodies and cells are made from protein and the only place that you can store extra protein is in your muscles. When you have large muscles, you have a ready source of protein to make antibodies and cells. When you have small muscles, you have a very limited source of amino acids to make protein, so your immunity may be inadequate to kill germs.

You need antibodies to control cancer cells also. Each day, every healthy body makes millions of cancer cells. Your white blood cells and protein antibodies are necessary to ferret out and kill these cancer cells. You develop cancer when these cancer cells survive and start growing. Having large muscles gives you the source of protein to make antibodies that kill cancer cells as well as germs. Furthermore, when your skeletal muscles are small, so is your heart muscle. A strong heart can withstand arteriosclerosis and infections that can kill a weak heart.

Lack of exercise causes muscles to get smaller. With aging, it takes increasingly longer to recover from exercise. When older people get injured or get tired too soon or feel sore too early, they do less and less or they stop exercising altogether. Instead, they should be exercising more intelligently so they can retain their muscles. A major advantage of competing in sports at any age is that you can learn good training techniques and how to avoid injuries. If you can exercise into your nineties and beyond without quitting or getting injured, you can retain muscle mass, keep up your immunity and live longer and healthier.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why do some people develop allergies while others don't?

Allergies may be caused by lack of work for your immune system. One report from Austria showed that children who are exposed to farm animals before they were one year old had a much lower incidence of asthma and hay fever. When a germ gets into your blood stream, you make proteins called antibodies that attach to and kill that germ. If you have few infections early in life, your antibodies look for something to attack, even if it is not an invading germ. It may attack dust mites or cat dander or ragweed pollen. However, before you expose your young child to lots of dirt and sources of infection, realize that this is just a theory, has not been proved yet, and may be wrong.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I’ve heard that cooking destroys nutrients. Would it be better to eat only raw foods?

Many people believe that fresh fruits and vegetables always contain more nutrients than cooked ones, but cooked carrots have higher levels of antioxidants than fresh carrots. Cooking carrots in the presence of a small amount of oil or butter increases the amount of two antioxidants called beta carotene and phenolic acid. Cooking also increases the amount of lycopene you get from tomatoes. Cooking breaks the plant cells open to increase the absorption of these antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals. Adding a little oil or butter increases absorption of fat soluble chemicals.

Some vitamins are affected by cooking, but you'll still get plenty. The enzymes in food that are destroyed by heat are of no use to you; your body makes the enzymes you need to digest your food. Most of the nutrients in food (minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates) are not destroyed by heat, and many common foods are unpalatable or unsafe if they are not cooked. I recommend eating the widest possible variety of fruits and vegetables, raw or cooked, and fresh, frozen, canned or dried. For more on food enzymes see report #1451

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Recipe of the Week
One of my favorite whole-meal salads:
Salade Nicoise Recipe List

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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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