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Stress Does Not Increase Need for Vitamins

Several years ago a major drug company claimed that its vitamin pills helped to relieve stress from the "complications of everyday life" and gave their products names such as "StressTabs." The New York Attorney General forced them to stop their deceptive advertising, but many people still remember and believe this claim. There is no evidence that stress increases your needs for vitamins or that taking vitamins will help you handle stress. When you eat vitamins in pills or in your food, they go into your bloodstream and then into cells. They function by combining with other chemicals in cells called apoenzymes, to form complete enzymes that cause reactions to proceed in your body. All chemical reactions in your body require enzymes to make them go, and that is why vitamins are essential. For example, all of the B vitamins form enzymes that convert food to energy. But since enzymes only start chemical reactions and are not used up by them, they can be used over and over again and only minuscule amounts are needed from your diet.

In the 1930's, Hans Selye of McGill University in Montreal reported that the adrenal glands contain the highest concentration in the body of vitamin C. The adrenal glands make cortisol from vitamin C. When a person is under stress, the adrenal glands make tremendous amounts of cortisol and the concentration of vitamin C in them drops. However, scientists have known for more than forty years that the levels of vitamin C in the adrenal glands are still high enough to continue to produce cortisol and that giving extra vitamin C will not increase production of cortisol. So the myth that vitamins treat stress is based on a misinterpretation of one study on one vitamin, and that research did not show that taking extra vitamins prevents stress.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What kind of exercise program do you recommend after a knee injury?

If you break cartilage in your knee, avoid sports that cause further damage such as those requiring running and jumping. You can help to prevent more cartilage loss with an exercise program that strengthens the muscles that control your knee. Bones are soft. To keep them from wearing down at joints, their ends are covered with a thick white gristle called cartilage. Broken cartilage never heals. Removing broken cartilage may increase a person's chances of needing a knee replacement in the future, particularly if the exerciser continues to run and jump.

Former world-class athletes are supposed to have tough, strong bodies, but they suffer high risk for permanent knee damage , while non-competitive exercisers are at very low risk. Repeated cortisone-type injections can weaken cartilage and cause further damage. Nonsteroidal pain medications do not prevent further damage. Weak thigh muscles increase chances for further knee damage, so all people with knee damage should strengthen the muscles that control their knees using a special knee weight machine, and start a supervised program of cycling or swimming, provided that it does not hurt.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does it matter whether I get omega-3 fatty acids from plants or seafood? I’m a vegetarian and prefer not to eat fish.

By now, most people know that omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent heart attacks, and that they can get lots of omega-3 fatty acids from fish. But most people do not know that the omega-3 fatty acids in seeds such as whole grains may be even more important in maintaining your health than the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Virtually every plant source of omega-3's also contains vitamin E, while fish oils are low in vitamin E. All omega-3's break down very quickly when exposed to oxygen in your body, and vitamin E stabilizes them so they are more effective.

Omega-3s found in fish oils are mostly long chain fatty acids. Omega-3s in plants, particularly seeds, contain much shorter chains and are weaker than the omega-3s found in fish. However, the shorter chain omega-3s, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in leafy greens and seeds are converted to the long chain fatty acids in the human body. To meet your needs for short chain omega-3 fatty acids found in plants, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, and seeds such as flaxseed, whole grains, beans and nuts.

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Recipe of the Week - It's Squash Time!
Butternut Squash-Fruit Casserole

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

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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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