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Intense Exercise Best for Preventing Diabetes

More than 35 percent of North Americans are diabetics or will develop diabetes, Most people can prevent this from happening to them by controlling weight, exercising, and limiting intake of refined carbohydrates. Of these three preventive strategies, the most likely to work is exercise. A study from Norway show that intense exercise is far more effective than casual exercise in preventing and treating diabetes (Circulation, July 2008).

Pre-diabetics and diabetics were put into one of two groups with equal volumes of exercise, or a control group that did not exercise. One group exercised continuously at up to 70 percent of their highest measured heart rate, while the other group did aerobic interval training at up to 90 percent of maximal heart rate. They did this three times a week for 16 weeks. Those who did the more intense interval training had a greater increase of their maximal ability to take in and use oxygen, and had a greater reversal of the signs and symptoms of pre-diabetes or diabetes. They had lower blood sugar levels, better contraction of their arteries and better muscle growth, and they lost more fat.

You can tell if you are at high risk for diabetes if you store fat primarily in your abdomen rather than your hips, have a thick neck, have male-pattern baldness, high blood levels of triglycerides, low levels of the good HDL cholesterol, or a fasting blood sugar level above 100.

For many out-of-shape diabetics or pre-diabetics, intense exercise could be dangerous, so people at risk for diabetes may want to get a stress thallium test before starting or increasing an exercise program.

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MEDICATION ALERT: If you are a diabetic who takes beta blockers to help control high blood pressure (atenolol, propanolol or metaprolol), check with your doctor. Recent research from England shows that beta blockers greatly increase diabetic complications. They also raise blood sugar levels and prevent diabetics from having conventional signs that tell them when their blood sugar levels are too low.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I fast before having blood drawn for a cholesterol test?

Yes; a report in the August 18, 2008 issue of Circulation shows that not fasting for eight hours before having blood drawn can give you incorrect values for total and LDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein B-100, and B-100/A-1 ratios. HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, total/HDL cholesterol ratio, and apolipoprotein A-1 are not affected by eating beforehand.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Please explain the recent report suggesting that folic acid vitamin pills may cause cancer.

Folic acid is a cell growth promoter. When taken in high doses in pills, or by being added to the diet without a balancing dose of other vitamins, it could cause increased cell growth, which may be a precursor to cancer. The study you saw was the Western Norway B-Vitamin Intervention Trial (WENBIT). High blood levels of homocysteine are associated with a significantly increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, but this study showed that while taking the vitamins folic acid and vitamin B12 lowers blood level of homocysteine, it does not reduce the incidence of heart attacks or strokes (JAMA, August 20, 2008). Furthermore, the study confirmed the earlier NORVIT study's results showing an increase in cancer rate in the people who took B12 and folic acid. This is disturbing because more than a third of all Americans take vitamin supplements and the United States Government mandates adding folic acid to all refined flour.

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Recipe of the Week

Moroccan Onion Relish (great with fish steaks)

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

June 25th, 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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