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Spot Reduction Exercises are Not Effective

Many people believe that if they do enough sit-ups they will get rid of belly fat, but your body does not work that way. Exercising a specific muscle does not get rid of more fat over that muscle in comparison to the rest of your body. If it did, tennis players would have less fat in their tennis arms, and this does not happen. Strength training strengthens weak muscles, but it cannot remove fat specifically over the strengthened muscle.

A recent study from the University of Connecticut showed that men who exercised one arm against heavy resistance for 12 weeks appeared to lose more fat in their exercised arm than their inactive one when fat was measured by a caliper that calculated skin thickness (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, July 2007). However, when the same authors used an MRI machine to measure fat underneath the skin, there was no difference between the exercised and non- exercised arms.

When you take in more calories than your body burns, you store the extra calories as fat. More than half of the fat in your body is stored underneath your skin and over your muscles. Your stomach will look better when your belly muscles are strong, but sit-ups or crunches will not remove extra fat from your belly. The only way to lose fat from a specific part of your body is to lose weight overall.

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

For the last 25 years, soft drinks have used high fructose corn syrup as their major form of sweetening. This coincides with a major increase in obesity in America. However, a study from the University of Washington shows that there is no evidence that commercial beverages sweetened with either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup have significantly different effects on hunger or how much you eat (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2007).

In another study from Purdue University, subjects were given three different food groups in both liquid and solid forms (International Journal of Obesity, June 2007). No matter what they ate, the subjects ate far more calories on the days that they took in foods in liquid form. This shows that liquid forms of food are interpreted in the brain as less filling, and therefore people take in more calories when their beverages contain calories. Interestingly, the increase in calories associated with liquid forms of foods was nearly the same in obese and skinny people.

A single 12-ounce can of soda contains 13 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup and the average American consumes almost 60 pounds of it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The leading theory now is that any sugar in liquid form does not make you feel full the way solid food does. Therefore if weight is a problem for you, you should not take in calories in liquid form. Drink water or other zero-calorie beverages instead.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do fish oil supplements prevent heart attacks as effectively as eating fish?

Nobody really knows. However, both eating fish and taking fish oil pills can lower triglycerides and prevent clotting, which may help prevent heart attacks. Heart attacks occur when a plaque breaks off from the wall of arteries leading to the heart and travels down the ever-narrowing artery until it stops and forms a clot that blocks blood flow to the heart.

A recent report shows that nine grams of fish oil supplements per day may not be completely safe because they can cause a substantial rise in the bad LDL cholesterol (from 106 to 186) that increases heart attack risk (The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, July 2007). Fish oil supplements lower triglycerides by reducing liver cells' ability to manufacture triglycerides. At the same time, they can block the LDL receptors on liver cells from removing LDL from the bloodstream. Once again, I recommend getting the nutrients your body needs from food rather than from supplements.

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Recipe of the Week

Tuna-White Bean Salad

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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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