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Harm from Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Some people think that we should let athletes take performance-enhancing drugs because they think that these athletes can only harm themselves and do not harm others. We already know that anabolic steroids can cause liver damage, heart attacks and strokes, and that growth hormone causes heart attacks by causing the heart muscle to outgrow its blood supply. Now a two-year study of former East German athletes shows that athletes who take these drugs can harm their children.

In the 1970s and 80s, almost all government sponsored East German athletes were forced to take anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. A study of 69 children of 52 of these athletes showed that seven had birth defects and four were mentally retarded, an unusually high incidence for a group of this size. More than 25 percent had allergies and 23 percent had asthma. The women suffered 32 times the normal incidence of miscarriage and stillbirth, 25 percent suffered cancer and 61 percent had therapy for mental disorders. The study was conducted by Dr. Giselher Spitzer at Humbolt University in Germany.

Many people are not aware that at this time, there is no test to catch athletes who take growth hormone. The winner of the 2006 Tour de France and the leader of the 2007 tour were disqualified for allegedly taking performance-enhancing drugs. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Martial Saugy, director of the Swiss Laboratory for Analysis of Doping in Lausanne, Switzerland, told a Belgian newspaper that 47 of 189 riders raced on blood transfusions or EPO in the 2007 Tour de France. The tests did not meet standards necessary to disqualify the riders. He also suspects that the riders also took testosterone and growth hormone.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is stretching helpful or harmful for exercisers?

Stretching the leg muscles improves muscle flexibility and strength, running speed, and jumping distance, according to a study from Louisiana State University (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, October 2007). Stretching elongates muscles and tendons. Longer tendons allow muscles to exert a greater torque on the joint to exert more power to help you lift heavier, jump higher and run faster.

However, other studies show that you should not stretch before a competition involving speed and strength (Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, April 2006). The longer the athletes stretched, the weaker they became. Prolonged stretching fatigues muscle fibers so that they contract with reduced force. Do slow deliberate stretches lasting a few seconds to several seconds, rather than rapid hard pulls on your muscles that can tear them. Stretching cold muscles can also tear them and increase risk for injury. Warm up before stretching or stretch after your workout, but realize that prolonged stretching before a competition can harm performance.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will taking metformin (Glucophage) hamper my exercise program?

A study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada shows that taking 1000 mg of long-acting metformin three hours before exercise does not hinder a person's ability to exercise (Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism, November 2007). Metformin is usually the first drug used to treat diabetics with normal kidneys and is also used to help non-diabetics lose weight.

The drug markedly restricts the rise in blood sugar that follows eating. Since a high rise in blood sugar causes high insulin levels and hunger afterwards, blocking this rise lowers appetite in most people so they eat less. This study shows that metformin does not affect exercise in normal exercising men, but it could hinder highly trained competitive athletes. The researchers showed that metformin caused lower blood levels of lactate. Since lactate comes from using sugar for energy when a person does not get all the oxygen he needs, the people were probably burning more fat, which requires more oxygen. Any increase in oxygen requirements during all-out effort would slow an athlete down.

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Recipes for Clementines

They're back! Diana's tip for choosing the best clementines: look for small ones. The more there are in the box, the more likely they'll be flavorful and juicy. Great for snacks, or make:

Clementine-Black Bean Salad
Clementine-Wild Rice Salad

All about clementines

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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