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Exercise Increases Mitochondria in Brain Cells

Exercise increases the size and number of mitochondria in the brains of mice (American Journal of Physiology, September 2011). The mice ran on a treadmill for an hour a day, six days a week, for eight weeks.

This could explain how exercise improves memory, treats depression, and makes people feel better and helps them to think more clearly. Until now, the leading theory to explain how exercise improves memory and treats depression was that exercise causes the brain to release endorphins, morphine-like compounds that can improve mood (Journal of Applied Physiology May 1982). However, endorphins would not explain the improvement in memory and brain function associated with a regular exercise program.

Mitochondria are tiny chambers in cells that turn food into energy more efficiently than any other process in your body. Scientists have known for years that exercise enlarges and increases the number of mitochondria in muscle cells, to increase strength, speed and endurance; but this is the first research paper to offer a plausible explanation why exercise improves memory and relieves depression.

The increase in brain mitochondria could also explain how training for sports increases endurance by making the brain resistant to fatigue. It also could explain how exercise treats mental disorders, delays aging, and improves certain types of nerve damage.

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Enlarged Prostate? Saw Palmetto Doesn't Help

The largest and longest trial ever shows that saw palmetto is no more effective than a placebo in treating men's lower urinary tract symptoms (JAMA, September 27, 2011). The supplement did not improve quality of life, nighttime urination, sexual function or incontinence. Men spend an average of $30/month, totaling more than $700 million a year for this ineffective supplement.

SYMPTOMS OF ENLARGED PROSTATE: Men with enlargement of the prostate can suffer from difficulty starting their stream, dribbling, burning on urination, inability to empty the bladder, getting up at night frequently to urinate, and burning, pain or urgency when the bladder is full.

INCIDENCE: Fifty percent of North American men suffer symptoms of prostate enlargement by age 50, and 75 percent by age 80.

CAUSE: Nobody really knows what causes a prostate to enlarge and block urinary flow. The REDUCE trial showed that inflammation is probably the leading cause (European Urology, December, 2008). Inflammation means that your immunity, which is supposed to kill germs, is attacking your own body to cause pain and swelling. Many doctors feel that a hidden infection causes prostate enlargement, but nobody has consistently found any specific germ in the prostates of men with prostate enlargement. Some men are cured by taking long-term antibiotics, but many men are not. As of today, many men continue to have symptoms in spite of having taken the best treatments available today.

TREATMENTS: Muscle relaxants help a little but cure nothing and lose their effect as soon as the patient stops taking them. Some men benefit from surgical procedures, but many men continue to have symptoms after surgery.

A review of 23 studies shows that long-term use of finasteride (which blocks dihydrotestosterone) improves urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia, and reduces further prostate growth (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, October, 2010). This treatment is based on the theory that the prostate converts the male hormone, testosterone, to dihydrotestosterone, which causes the prostate to grow.

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Big Tobacco Hid Cancer Studies

In 1998, a legal settlement forced the release of dozens of previously unexamined tobacco industry documents that revealed that the tobacco industry knew of the potential lung cancer risk from radioactivity from tobacco as early as the late 1950s. This week, a study from UCLA shows that more than forty years ago, tobacco companies deliberately prevented the release of findings about radioactivity in tobacco (Nicotine & Tobacco Research, published online September 27, 2011).

Hrayr S. Karagueuzian, the first author of the study states: "They knew that the cigarette smoke was radioactive way back then and that it could potentially result in cancer, and they deliberately kept that information under wraps,"

Science Daily (September 28, 2011) interviewed the authors and quoted them as saying: "Radioactive polonium-210 was found in all commercially available domestic and foreign cigarette brands. It is absorbed by tobacco leaves through naturally occurring radon gas in the atmosphere and through high-phosphate chemical fertilizers used by tobacco growers. The substance is eventually inhaled by smokers into the lungs. The estimated radiation absorbed dose by regular smokers over a 20- or 25-year period equaled 40 to 50 rads, which is equal to 120 to 138 deaths per 1,000 regular smokers over a 25-year period."

"Despite the potential risk of lung cancer, tobacco companies declined to adopt a technique discovered in 1959 and then another developed in 1980 that could have helped eliminate polonium-210 from tobacco, the researchers said. The 1980 technique, known as an acid-wash, was found to be highly effective in removing the radioisotope from tobacco plants, where it forms a water-insoluble complex with the sticky, hair- like structures called trichomes that cover the leaves."

"The industry was concerned that the acid media would ionize the nicotine, making it more difficult to be absorbed into the brains of smokers and depriving them of that instant nicotine rush that fuels their addiction."

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Recipe of the Week:

Red Pepper Stew

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

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October 2nd, 2011
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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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