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Some Performance-Enhancing Drugs Can’t Be Detected

World records in sports are broken by better athletes, better training methods, better nutrition or new drugs. Drugs appear to be the cause of many recent records in sports requiring strength and speed. Many bicycle racers know that some drugs that make them better riders can’t be detected by testing techniques that are available today. A recent study shows that laboratories have no definitive test to discover athletes who take erythropoietin (EPO), a drug to boost their red blood cell counts (Haematologica, August, 2006). Athletes have found that taking very low doses of EPO daily will raise red blood cell counts, and will not give test results high enough to show that they are taking extra EPO.

The primary limiting factor to how fast a person can ride a bicycle over long distances is the time it takes to move oxygen from the lungs into the muscles. So anything that increases oxygen transport from the lungs into the bloodstream, or carries more oxygen in the bloodstream, or moves oxygen faster from the blood into muscles will make a person a faster bicycle racer. Since more than 95 percent of the oxygen in the bloodstream is carried by hemoglobin in red blood cells, anything that increases the concentration of red blood cells will help a racer ride faster.

When healthy people do not get enough oxygen, their kidneys produce a hormone called EPO that causes the bone marrow to make more red blood cells. When athletes are given additional EPO, their red blood cell counts rise and their performance improves.

Doctors can do blood tests for EPO, but the hormone lasts only a few days in the bloodstream, so athletes who stop taking EPO several days before testing may not be caught. Some athletes tried to foil the test by adding pepsin, a chemical found in spot removers, to their urine samples. However this destroyed all of the EPO including their own natural EPO, so they failed the test because a person is supposed to have some EPO. The new study shows that athletes have now found a way to circumvent the test by taking very low doses of EPO every day.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How could excess weight cause memory loss?

Full fat cells produce proteins called cytokines that turn on your immunity to cause inflammation that damages tissue throughout your body, including your brain. Researchers at Toulouse University Hospital in France tested people first in 1996 and again five years later. During that period, overweight people lost far more of their ability to recall words than their thinner counterparts. (Neurology, October 2006).

Your immunity is supposed to protect you from infections. When a germ gets into your body, your immunity produces white blood cells and proteins called antibodies that attach to and kill germs. As soon as the germ is gone, your immunity is supposed to stop making antibodies and white blood cells. In some people the immunity remains active and attacks a person’s own body to cause heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, and even diabetes. This recent study shows that it may even attack your nerves and brain. Being overweight can cost you IQ points, and the most effective way to prevent obesity is to exercise regularly.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will walking on a treadmill every day reduce my heart attack risk?

We know that regular exercise helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Researchers at Michigan State recently showed that high-intensity exercise may prevent these diseases more effectively than low intensity exercise (Thrombosis Research, August 2006).

Most heart attacks and strokes occur when plaques lining the arteries break off and pass down the artery to form a clot that completely blocks the flow of blood to the heart or brain. Intense exercise helped prevent clotting by increasing tissue plasminogen activator and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 far more than low-intensity exercise did. Other studies show that vigorous exercise also more effective in helping people lose weight. However, vigorous exercise can precipitate heart attacks and strokes, so it’s a good idea to get a stress electrocardiogram before you start a new exercise program or increase the intensity of your current regimen. If your doctor agrees, gradually work up to the point where you can increase the intensity of your workouts once or twice a week.

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Recipe of the Week:

Orange Lentil – Root Veggie Soup

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

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New topics: parasites, vitamin absorption, last 15 pounds, training for high altitude, types of muscle fibers, noni juice, cartilage destruction, vitiligo, more . . .

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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