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June 2007

Strength training helps older muscles
Diet and skin cancer
Diet and breast cancer mortality
Chelation helps kidney disease
Chromium and diabetes
Chronic lung disease and diet
Meat consumption and weight

Strength training helps older muscles

Working out with weights or resistance exercise machines helps to build muscle even in elderly subjects. New evidence suggests that the muscles actually become younger with such workouts. While genes control protein manufacture, other influences alter the expression of the genes. Gene expression in the muscles is influenced by exercise.

The mitochondria in older muscles do not function as well in their role in energy production as they do in younger people. Older muscles usually get weaker and atrophic. However, this decline in function with age is reversed with muscle-building exercise. (Melov S, et al., Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle. PLoS ONE. 2007 May 23; 2:e465.)

Researchers evaluated 25 healthy adults over 65 and 26 healthy subjects between 25 and 35. All of the subjects who were put on weight training programs built muscle, which has been shown in earlier studies. The older subjects were 59 percent weaker than the younger ones at the start of the study, but after six months of weight training they were only 38 percent weaker.

However, the gene expression in the muscle tissue of older adults on weight training (as shown by muscle biopsies) and the mitochondrial function showed a profile that was much closer to that of youthful muscles. This shows that exercise has a variety of benefits at any age.

Diet and skin cancer

Squamous cell cancers of the skin are the second most common form of skin cancer, with 250,000 new cases per year in the US. They are usually highly treatable when they are caught early. Australian research on 1360 adults aged 25 to 75, followed from 1992 to 2002, shows that diet plays a role in promoting or preventing the disease (Ibiebele TI, et al., Dietary pattern in association with squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: a prospective study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1401-8.)

In this study, researchers evaluated two dietary patterns: one that was high in meat and fat, and the other that was low in meat and fat and high in fruits and vegetables. The high meat and fat dietary pattern was associated with an 83 percent increased risk of squamous cell cancers, but in subjects who had already had one such cancer this high meat and fat dietary pattern increased the risk fourfold.

On the other hand, the dietary pattern that was high in fruits and vegetables was associated with a 54 percent reduction in the risk of squamous cell cancer. This was mostly due to the higher consumption of leafy green vegetables. Avoiding excessive sun exposure is also helpful in reducing such skin cancers (as well as melanoma), although it is important to get adequate vitamin D either from sun exposure or dietary supplements.

Diet and breast cancer mortality

In both normal weight and obese women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, mortality can be reduced through diet and exercise. Researchers evaluated 1490 women who averaged 50 years old and were treated for early stage breast cancer between 1991 and 2000 (Pierce JP, et al., Greater survival after breast cancer in physically active women with high vegetable-fruit intake regardless of obesity. J Clin Oncol 2007 June 10;25(17):2345-2351).

Women who ate 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and exercised for 30 minutes six times a week cut their risk of dying of breast cancer by 50 percent. The mortality reduction was seen whether the women were obese or not. However, this benefit was not seen in women who either ate the fruits and vegetables or exercised but did not do both, and obese women were only half as likely to follow such a lifestyle pattern.

Chelation helps kidney disease

A new study shows the value of EDTA chelation therapy for kidney disease, even if patients have normal levels of lead in the blood. In a series of 116 non-diabetic patients with chronic kidney disease and high-normal levels of lead, half were treated with intravenous EDTA, and half with placebo for four years. None of the patients had a history of excessive lead exposure (Lin-Tan DT, et al., Long-term outcome of repeated lead chelation therapy in progressive non-diabetic chronic kidney diseases. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2007 Jun 7; [Epub ahead of print]).

Renal function was assessed by glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a measure of circulation through the kidneys and the health of the glomerular membrane: in essence, how efficiently the kidneys filter the blood. With chronic renal disease, the GFR is expected to decline over time. In this study, in the EDTA chelation treatment group after four years the GFR had declined by only 1.8 ml/minute. In the placebo group the decline was 12.8 ml/minute, and the difference was highly significant.

EDTA chelation therapy has been highly controversial in the medical community because it is most often used to treat cardiovascular disease, although this is not the accepted use of the drug (it is used for lead toxicity and a few other conditions). Critics have complained that it was toxic to the kidneys (which it can be if used inappropriately).

This new study now shows that chelation is beneficial to the kidneys, and is helpful for patients even if their lead level is not excessive. The benefits might be due to the reduction of lead (even so-called normal levels can be harmful to the kidneys, brain, and other tissues) or to the improvement in circulation that has been seen in many clinics practicing chelation therapy for vascular disease, or to both effects.

Chromium and diabetes

A number of studies have shown that chromium supplements are helpful in the management of type 2 diabetes. The doses typically shown to be of value for sugar regulation are in the range of 1000 mcg daily.

A new study was reported to show that chromium was not helpful, and the authors expressed concern for the potential toxicity of chromium, particularly chromium picolinate (Kleefstra N, et al., Chromium treat-ment has no effect in patients with type 2 diabetes in a Western pop-ulation: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2007 May;30(5):1092-6).

This was a 6-month study of 57 diabetic patients, half of whom received chromium and half placebo. At 3 months and at 6 months there were no differences between the groups in sugar control or other measurements of chromium effects.

Unfortunately, the dose in this research was only 400 mcg per day, and because diabetics are resistant to the effects of chromium, this is likely to be too low a dose. In spite of the earlier studies showing benefits from the higher doses, the authors made a blanket statement that chromium was of no benefit for diabetics, and the press picked up on this with headlines such as “Chromium no help in controlling diabetes” (Reuters Health, May 21, 2007).
Authors’ statements and press reports such as these mislead the public. As a result, it is likely that fewer people will have access to the information needed to help them improve their health and avoid unnecessary medications.

People with blood sugar abnormalities are still likely to benefit from high doses of chromium supplements. All of the available forms are also quite safe.

Chronic lung disease and diet

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and it is most commonly associated with smoking. It is also seen with exposure to pollutants, frequent childhood respiratory infections, and exposure to second-hand smoke. Diet also plays a role in the development of COPD.

A new study shows that a Mediterranean-style diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish lowers the risk of COPD by half. On the other hand, a Western-style diet with meats, refined grains, desserts, and French fries was associated with a 4-fold increase in risk of COPD (Varraso R, Prospective study of dietary patterns and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among US men. Thorax. 2007 May 15; [Epub ahead of print]). This was shown after controlling for smoking, body weight, age, and physical activity, as well as other factors.

Although smoking is the primary contributor to lung disease, it is not the only factor, and this study shows that a healthful dietary pattern can be helpful in preserving lung health.

Meat consumption and weight

Meat consumption is associated with increased weight. In a report in Reuters Health (Female meat-eaters more likely to be obese. June 4, 2007), from the meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers showed that in women, higher meat consumption was associated with increased weight. In 284 pre-menopausal women averaging 40 years old, among those with the highest meat consumption 52.8 percent were obese (percent body fat over 35), in those with mid-range meat consumption only 37 percent were obese, while those who ate the least meat were the least likely to be obese – only 15 percent of them had a body fat percent over 35.

The researchers explained that meat protein might lead to increased weight because it elevates insulin levels and growth factors that might elevate body fat levels. It is possible that overweight women eat more meat in an effort to reduce weight, but this research accords with earlier work that associates meat eating with higher weight. Better sources of protein include lentils, nuts, and beans, all of which are also high in beneficial fiber and other important nutrients.

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From September to June, I see patients in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
Call 386-409-7747, or send an email to to make arrangements.

In summer, I have a variable schedule, and I see patients in offices at the
Rothfeld Center for Integrative Medicine in Waltham, Massachusetts. For appointments, send an email to make arrangements, or call: 386-409-7747.

I primarily do phone consultations, as well as email and instant messaging consults.

Information herein is not medical advice or direction. All material in this newsletter is provided for information only. Its contents should not be used to provide medical advice on individual problems. Consult a health care professional for medical or health advice.