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Cycling Better than Running for Asthma or Allergy Sufferers

Many people with allergies and lung problems such as asthma should be able to exercise on a bicycle, even when their disease would prevent them from participating in sports that require running. Researchers showed that even people with severe lung disease can ride a bicycle (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, June 2007).

People with obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have swelling of the tubes that carry air to and from the lungs. This allows their lungs to fill, but prevents the air from leaving their lungs effectively , so that their lungs are so full of air, they cannot get the air out to get rid of excess carbon dioxide or bring in extra oxygen. Of course, this interferes with their ability to exercise intensely. This study shows that during hard cycling, you can still get rid of excess carbon dioxide and take in adequate oxygen, but running interferes far more with your lung functions.

Exercise is beneficial for everyone and helps to prevent heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia, overweight and other health issues. People with lung problems should get their doctor's permission to start and maintain a cycling program, either on a stationary bicycle or on the road.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does diet affect skin cancer risk?

There are three common types of skin cancers: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Basal cell skin cancers rarely spread and almost never kill; squamous cell cancers can spread and rarely kill; and melanomas often spread and have a significant mortality rate. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are believed to be caused by excessive sunlight exposure, while melanomas are often linked to sunburns. Researchers have wondered whether other factors than sun exposure increase risk for developing these cancers.

A study from Australia shows that people who eat a diet rich in meat and other fatty foods, and low in vegetables and fruits, are at significantly increased risk for developing squamous cell cancer (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2007). This study shows that diet has little or no association with basal cell skin cancers. While nobody really knows how diet may increase risk for squamous cell skin cancers, the most likely explanation is that a diet high in meat and fat may impair your body's immunity so that your antibodies and cells are not able to search out and kill cancer cells. Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals that help to strengthen your immunity, so these foods may lower cancer risk.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What causes metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome means you have abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high blood pressure, and are high risk for diabetes and heart attacks. It is caused by an inability to respond adequately to insulin. A study from the National Cholesterol Education Program shows that people who are on a diet that is low in magnesium are the ones most likely to suffer metabolic syndrome. (Obesity, Volume 15, 2007).

Nobody really knows why low levels of magnesium prevent cells from responding to insulin. A leading theory is that magnesium is necessary for insulin to act after it attaches to insulin receptors on cells. Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar into cells, it must first attach to special hooks called insulin receptors on the surface of cells. Then it moves sugar into cells by activating an enzyme called tyrosine-kinase. Magnesium is necessary for this reaction to occur.

Another interpretation of this study could be that magnesium deficiency is only an indicator of a very unhealthful dietary pattern that is most likely to cause metabolic syndrome. Since virtually all parts of plants and the animals that eat them contain magnesium, a diet low in magnesium would have to be based on large amounts of white flour, sugar and other highly refined and processed foods. These are also the foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar.

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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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