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Burning Feet while Cycling

Many cyclists suffer from "burning foot syndrome", pain on the bottom of the feet, particularly during a long ride. After years of this problem, I tried a simple tip from RoadBikeRider, a free weekly newsletter from some of America's best long distance bicycle riders: Ed Pavelka, Fred Matheny, and Lon Halderman. They suggest moving the cleats back as far as possible toward the arch of the foot. All of the other articles I have read and all of the experts I have consulted recommend that you set your cleats on your shoes so that the ball of your big toe is exactly aligned with the axle of the pedal. Following Lon Haldeman's advice, I moved my cleats back last week and my feet have stopped burning. I also think I am riding faster.

This flies in the face of what other experts claim: the further back your cleat, the less power you get from your calf muscle. That's just not true. More than 90 percent of the pressure on your pedals comes from your thighs, not your lower leg (calf) muscles. The pain is caused by the front part of the foot pressing on the pedals. Moving the cleat backward takes the pressure of the forefoot and relieves the pain. As Haldeman states, you actually can be in better shape when you don't have burning feet, and you can train further and ride faster. (To subscribe to their free newsletter go to


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I be avoiding high-fructose corn syrup?

HFCS contains approximately 59 percent fructose and 41 percent glucose, while fruits juices contain a ratio of 50 percent glucose to 50 percent fructose. There really is no difference. HFCS is no better and no worse than any fruit juice, it is just cheaper. When manufacturers process corn for oil, the residue is a sugary liquid that used to be thrown away. In the 1950s, soft drink makers discovered that HFCS could be added to sweet drinks at a fraction of the cost of cane sugar. Then scientists noticed that Americans have gotten progressively fatter from the 1950s to the present. This is the same period that HFCS was added to the American diet.

In the following years, many respected scientists tried to link HFCS to the obesity epidemic. However, we now have multiple studies showing that any kind of sugar in liquid form can make you fat (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2008). When you eat sugar in solid form, such as in a cookie, you eat less of other foods because the solid food fills you up. However, in liquid form, sugar supplies calories without making you feel full. When you drink any liquid containing sugar, you do not reduce your intake of food to compensate. Sugar in liquid form is not recognized by your brain as extra calories and therefore does not suppress appetite.

Today almost all researchers agree that HFCS is no worse than any other liquid sugar. All forms of sugar-water can make you fat. That includes fruit juices, sugar added to your coffee or tea, and any other sugared drinks.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do you recommend genetic testing to assess cancer risk?

More than 85 percent of the known causes of cancers are environmental, not genetic. Normal cells undergo apoptosis, a process in which each cell lives only so long and then dies. Cancer means that the DNA in cells cannot do its usual job of telling a cell when to die, so the cells grow forever and can spread to other parts of the body to kill you. Scientists have developed drugs and other treatments to destroy the process that makes cancer cells immortal. However, each cancer cell has hundreds, and even thousands, of different pathways that they can use to make them live forever. Pancreatic cancer cells have an average of 63 mutations (Science, September 4, 2008), and a brain tumor called glioblastoma has at least 47.

So when scientists develop a drug to kill a cancer, the drug acts on one or more pathways and may temporarily inhibit the cancer, but drugs never block all the pathways that can go wrong. Therefore cancer can always come back. That is why doctors often use as many as five different drugs to treat some cancers because they want to block as many of the different pathways as possible.

At this time, I believe that the best approach is to avoid or limit your exposure to known or suspected environmental triggers for cancers, which include:

- meat, particularly beef (eating red meat is associated with increased risk for 17 different cancers)
- barbecued, grilled or deep-fried foods (browning or burning foods, particularly fats or starches, forms carcinogens)
- BPA (Bisphenol A) in some plastics
- PCB's
- lead in any form
- molds such as aflatoxin from rotten peanuts or grains
- arsenic in well water
- asbestos in old buildings
- sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatis C that causes liver cancer or HPV, the human wart virus that causes cervical cancer
- formaldehyde or carbon tetrachloride
- Helicobacter pylori (bacteria that cause stomach burning and ulcers) which can cause stomach cancer
- unnecessary X rays, particularly CAT scans
- heavy exposure to pesticides
- radon from the ground leaking into your house
- tobacco in any form
- second-hand smoke
- alcohol (more than three drinks a day increases cancer risk)
- exposure to uranium
- excessive UV radiation (too much sunlight)
- not enough sunlight (lack of vitamin D)
- night shift work (depresses melatonin, a cancer-preventing hormone)

Other cancer risk factors include lack of exercise, excess weight, lack of fiber in the diet, a diet that is low in vegetables, early puberty in women (before age 12), late menopause (after age 55) or taking estrogen after menopause. In 2008, cancer will take the lives of about 230,000 more Americans than it did in 1971. Try not to be one of them.


Recipe of the Week
Butternut Squash with Fruit

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

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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