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Timing of Exercise and Meals

In North America, more than 35 percent of the population becomes diabetic, and most cases of diabetes could be prevented with exercise. A high rise in blood sugar levels causes sugar to stick on the surface of cells. Once there, the sugar can never get off and is eventually converted to sorbitol which destroys the cell to causes all the side effects of diabetes such as heart attacks, strokes, arteriosclerosis, nerve damage and so forth (even in people who have not been diagnosed as diabetic). So anything that prevents frequent high rises in blood sugar helps to prevent cell damage.

This month, a study showed that exercise lowered high blood sugar levels in diabetics far more when done after eating dinner than before eating (Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, July 2009). Muscle contractions drive sugar into cells with little or no insulin. These people were out-of-shape diabetics who walked slowly and for only 20 minutes. Longer and more intense exercise lowers insulin and sugar levels even more and would be even more beneficial.

Another new study shows that you should exercise before you eat because it lowers blood sugar levels the next morning (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, August 2009). Nine healthy postmenopausal women exercised two hours on a treadmill twice a day. Those who exercised an hour before meals had a much lower rise in blood sugar at 16 hours after eating, compared to those who exercised an hour after their meals. Humans must use their muscles to stay healthy.

Contracting muscles after eating helps to prevent the rise in blood sugar that follows meals, and exercising before eating helps to keep blood sugar levels low the next morning. Of course many people do not have the time to exercise both before and after meals, but you will benefit from exercising whenever you can because lowering blood sugar and blood fats helps to prolong life and prevent diseases such as diabetes.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What can I do to prevent melanoma, the most serious skin cancer?

According to a report from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (The Lancet Oncology, August 2009):

• The use of tanning beds before age 30 is associated with a 75 percent increase in melanoma risk.
• Melanoma rates among U.S. young women almost tripled between 1973 and 2004.
• In the 1990s, the incidence of thicker lethal melanomas increased significantly.
• Melanoma cases doubled in the U.S. between the mid 1990s and 2004.
• In 2008, 62,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in U.S. and 8,000 people died of it.

Ultraviolet rays are classified into UVA, B and C. Scientists used to think that UVB caused cancer and UVA caused just wrinkling, so manufacturers of tanning bulbs reduced UVB levels in their bulbs and advertised that tanning beds are less likely to cause skin cancers than the sun. However, more recent studies in animals prove that UVA, UVB and UVC all can cause cancer.

What does this mean to you? 1) Since one sunburn can cause a melanoma, never stay in the sun if your skin is red, itches or tingles. You will not know that you have been burned until the next day. 2) Since cumulative exposure to sunlight over a lifetime causes most skin cancers, always use sunscreen on your face, top of your ears, bald areas of your scalp, back of neck, arms and hands. Get your vitamin D from sunlight by exposing your legs, and check frequently for early signs of skin cancers: mottling, rough areas, or spots that feel like sandpaper.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should diabetics eat fruit?

Many studies show that diabetics deprived of fruit do very poorly. Eating three servings of fruit per day decreases diabetes risk by 18 percent, but drinking a glass of fruit juice daily increases diabetes risk by the same amount (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2008). Cell damage in diabetes comes from a high rise in blood sugar after meals, so diabetics should avoid foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar. Most whole fruits have low potential to cause a high rise in blood sugar levels (Journal of Nutrition, July 22, 2009), while sugar-containing drinks such as fruit juices cause the fastest rises in blood sugar levels. I recommend that diabetics and those at risk for diabetes should eat whole fruits and avoid fruit juices.


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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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