Strength Training Makes You Faster


By Gabe Mirkin, M.D., September 13, 2011  —  Lifting weights makes you faster and improves coordination in all sports requiring strength.

Muscles are made of two different types of fibers: the red, slow-twitch fibers, used for endurance; and the white, fast-twitch fibers, used for strength and speed. When you strengthen a muscle, you train the white fibers that also make you faster, so strength training helps you move faster. Strength training can even improve coordination in all events requiring strength. Stronger muscles use fewer fibers for the same task and therefore are easier to control.

Bicycle racers train for strength by climbing hills in very high gears; runners train for strength by running rapidly up hills; rowers and swimmers use pulleys with weights on their ends that mimic the way they use their arms when they swim or row; and football players practice knocking each other down because training is specific.





Get Vitamins from Food, Not Pills


By Gabe Mirkin MD, September 13, 2011  —  One in three women and one in four men in the United States take vitamin pills regularly. This month, a study that followed 182,099 people in California and Hawaii for an average of 11 years showed that taking multivitamin pills neither decreased nor increased the death rate for all causes or the rates of heart attack or cancer (American Journal of Epidemiology, August, 2011).

A previous review of 67 randomized trials of vitamin pill effects on life and health found that taking vitamin pills may shorten life (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 1, 2008). The authors found an increased death rate of 16 percent in those taking vitamin A pills, seven percent with beta- carotene, and seven percent with vitamin E. The Women’s Health Initiative study followed women for eight years and found that taking multivitamin pills has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, heart attacks or death rate in postmenopausal women (Archives of Internal Medicine, February, 2009). A review of the world’s literature shows that multivitamin use neither increases nor decreases risk for breast cancer (Annals of Pharmacotherapy, published online April 2011).

VITAMIN D FROM SUNLIGHT, NOT PILLS: Vitamin D is the only vitamin that appears consistently in the literature to help prevent heart attacks and cancers, and that benefit is related more to the fact that you can get it from sunlight (Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, April 2011). The Swedish Women’s Lifestyle and Health cohort study followed women for up to 15 years and found that women who got sunburned twice or more per year during adolescence live longer than those who had been sunburned less than that. Women who went on sunbathing vacations more than once a year lived longer and suffered fewer heart attacks.

VITAMIN B PILLS MAY CAUSE HARM: Every chemical reaction in your body is started by an enzyme. For your body to convert chemical A to chemical B, you need an enzyme to start that reaction. All eight B vitamins are parts of enzymes. When you take large doses of one enzyme, you accumulate end products that must be balanced by also taking large doses of other enzymes. For example, NIACIN LOWERS CHOLESTEROL, BUT RAISES HOMOCYSTEINE: People who take large doses of niacin to lower cholesterol have a marked elevation of homocysteine, a risk factor for heart attacks. Here is how it happens: Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. The B vitamin, Niacin, is part of the enzyme that converts an amino acid, cysteine, into homocysteine.

Three other B vitamins, folic acid (B9), cobalamin (B12), and pyridoxine (B6)} protect you from accumulating too much homocysteine. Folic acid and cobalamin convert homocysteine to cysteine, while pyridoxine converts homocysteine to methionine. Therefore, when you take niacin, you also have to take the other three vitamins to protect you from accumulating homocysteine. Nobody really knows how to balance large doses of vitamins when you take them in pills. I think that it is safer to depend on nature to provide the proper balance of vitamins in foods.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS: I do not believe that taking one vitamin pill a day is harmful. I do believe that taking large doses of vitamins can harm you. I also believe that you do not need to take vitamin pills. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Some people need to take vitamins D or B12, but you should be able to get B12 from fish or chicken, and get your vitamin D from sunlight if possible.





Testosterone Replacement for Men?


Gabe Mirkin, M.D. , September 13, 2011  —  As men age from 50 to 70, their testosterone levels drop more than 40%, causing them to become fatter, and less sexual, muscular and assertive and have smaller, weaker bones (7,11). 20% of men aged 60-80 years have testosterone levels below the lower limit of normal. Giving testosterone to normal men over 65 years of age causes them to lose fat, principally in the arms and legs, and increase muscle and bone size, principally in the trunk (1,12). Testosterone is an effective treatment for depression in older men (13). A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that men who are mildly depressed have much lower levels of the male hormone, testosterone, than men who are severely crippled by depression and men who have no depression at all

Men with low blood testosterone levels are at high risk for heart attacks (3, 2), even though testosterone pills lower blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol and increase a man’s chances of getting a heart attack. Men with the highest testosterone levels have the lowest blood insulin levels which prevents heart attacks (3). Insulin is necessary to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high, but it also can increase your chances of getting a heart attack by causing arteries to constrict, and making you fat by causing hunger and forcing your liver to make extra fat from the extra calories that you consume.

Testosterone injections can make older men with low blood levels of testosterone more interested in making love (4,5,6). The only reported significant side effect is an increase in the concentration of red blood cells that could cause clots. Two major theoretical concerns about prescribing testosterone to older men are that they may cause a heart attack or spread an existing prostate cancer. However, only testosterone pills have been shown to lower blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol and cause heart attacks. Testosterone injections and skin patches do not (8,9,12).

Testosterone gels, such as Androgel or Testim, are highly effective. Since they are absorbed through the skin, they bypass the liver and have not been reported to lower the good HDL cholesterol that helps prevent heart attacks.

Studies from Chicago Medical School (10) showed that men 60 to 75 years of age who take very low doses of the male hormone, testosterone, (25 to 50 mg) weekly for two years have lower blood cholesterol levels, less body fat and greater muscle strength. Their prostates did not enlarge and their PSA blood test did not rise. More research is needed, but older men who take testosterone, should take injections or patches, rather than pills, and have their prostates checked by physical exam, sonogram and a blood test called free PSA.

Side effects of testosterone include androgen-sensitive epilepsy, migraine, sleep apnea, polycythemia or fluid overload. It is illegal for Olympic athletes to take testosterone.




Should Cortisones (glucocorticoids, steroids) be Injected into Painful Joints?


By Gabe Mirkin MD, September 13, 2011  —  We do not know. Orthopedists inject cortisone into joints because they know that these injections can provide immediate dramatic relief of pain and swelling in damaged joints whether from trauma or from inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. However, a major side effect of cortisone is loss of calcium and weakening of bones. Therefore many doctors recommend that a person receive only up to three cortisone injections into a joint during a lifetime.

A recent study from MIT shows that cortisone-type injections can prevent long-term damage to injured joints (Arthritis Research & Therapy, September 2011).

Damaged cartilage almost never heals and can eventually lead to osteoarthritis. Bones come together to form joints, and the ends of bones are protected by a thick white gristle called cartilage. When you damage cartilage, the outer surface layer in the joint breaks down and the ability to form a new outer layer is markedly reduced, so broken cartilage does not heal. Your joint produces cytokines (TNF, IL-1, and IL-6) that mobilize your immune system to kill invading germs. These same cytokines also attack the broken cartilage to cause even more damage. Cortisone Injections reduce these cytokines, prevent further joint damage, and restore the synthesis of new cartilage to normal levels.

Professor Alan Grodzinsky from the MIT Center for Biomedical Engineering said, “Our results suggest that short-term glucocorticoid treatment after joint injury may help restore components of cartilage to pre-injury levels and consequently may prevent the long term changes which lead to osteoarthritis.”




Arthritis Treatments


Gabe Mirkin, M.D., September 13, 2011  —  There are two major types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, and reactive arthritis. Osteoarthritis means that cartilage wears away and doctors don’t have the foggiest idea why and therefore they have no effective treatment. Doctors usually prescribe non-steroidal pills that help to block pain but do not even slow down destruction of cartilage. Most serious scientists agree that an infection initiates the reactive arthritises and many think that the germ is often still there when symptoms start. Short-term antibiotics are ineffective, but if antibiotics are started before the joint is destroyed, they can prevent joint damage.

You are more likely to suffer reactive arthritis when you have:
I) positive blood tests for arthritis; all tests used to diagnose arthritis are measures of an overactive immunity;
II) swelling of the knuckles and middle joints of your fingers, causing them to look like cigars;
III) a history of a long-standing infection such as a chronic cough, burning on urination or pain when the bladder is full, chronic diarrhea and belching and burning in the stomach; and
IV) pain that starts at an age younger than 50.

Most rheumatologists refuse to treat their rheumatoid arthritis patients with antibiotics even though several controlled prospective studies show that minocycline drops the rheumatoid factor towards zero and helps to alleviate the pain and destruction of rheumatoid arthritis. The studies, referenced below, include: 1) First Netherlands study, 10 patients, J of Rheumatology 1990;17(1):43-46. 2) 2nd Netherlands Study, 80 patients, Arthritis and Rheumatism 1994;37(5):629-636. 3) Israel Study, 18 patients, J of Rheumatology 1992;19(10):1502-1504. 4) U.S.Mira Study, 219 patients, Annals of Internal Medicine. 1995(Jan15);122(2):81-89. 5) U.S. U of Nebraska Study, 40 patients, Arthritis and Rheumatism 1997;40(5):842-848.

I treat my reactive arthritis patients with Minocycline 100 mg twice a day, (sometimes azithromycin 500 mg twice a week), but this must still be considered experimental because most doctors are not yet ready to accept antibiotics as a treatment. There is also possibility of a rare serious side effect of lupus. Many patients do not feel better for the first few weeks after they start taking minocycline. If a patient does not feel better after taking 100 mg of minocycline twice day for 2 months, I add Zithromax 500 mg twice a week. If the patient does not feel better after taking the two antibiotics for 6 months, I do add the immune suppressants that most rheumatologists prescribe. But as soon as they feel better, I stop the immune supppressants and continue the antibiotics.

Other papers show that even osteoarthritis may respond to antibiotics (27). People who have chlamydia in their joints usually have no antibodies to that germ in their bloodstream and therefore cannot cure it (30). Reactive arthritis is characterized by pain in many muscles and joints and is thought to be caused by a person’s own antibodies and cells attacking and destroying cartilage in joints. This type of arthritis may be triggered by infection and antibiotics may help to prevent and treat this joint destruction (1 to 10). Short-term antibiotics are ineffective (5). Doxycycline may prevent joint destruction by stabilizing cartilage (3) in addition to clearing the germ from the body.

How do germs cause arthritis? When a germ gets into your body, you manufacture cells and proteins called antibodies that attach to and kill that germ. Sometimes, the germ has a surface protein that is similar to the surface protein on your cells. Then, not only do the antibodies and cells attach to and kill the germ, they also attach to and kill your own cells that have the same surface membranes. Some people with arthritis have high antibody titre to E. Coli, a bacteria that lives normally in everyone’s intestines (15). It has the same surface protein as many cells in your body (15). Normal intestines do not permit E. Coli to get into your bloodstream. Some people who get reactive arthritis may have intestines that allow E. coli to pass into the bloodstream and cause the immune reaction that destroys muscles and joints. The same type of reaction applies to several other bacteria and viruses that can pass into your bloodstream (15A). Venereal diseases, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and ureaplasma have been found in the joint fluids of many people with arthritis (16). People with reactive arthritis are more likely to have staph aureus in their noses (17) and carry higher antibody titre against that germ (18). Many people with reactive arthritis have had chronic lung infections, caused by mycoplasma and chlamydia, prior to getting joint pains(20,21). Mycoplasma has been found in joint fluid of people with arthritis (28,29). The treatment of arthritis with antibiotics is controversial and not accepted by many doctors; discuss this with your doctor.






Gabe Mirkin, M.D. A study from Bristol, England showed that people who are infected with helicobacter pylori are 30 percent less likely to suffer from asthma, eczema and allergic nasal congestion.

When germs attack your body, you produce white blood cells and antibodies that are supposed to kill them, but if your white blood cells and antibodies do not have germs to practice on when you are young, they may practice on things that are not germs, such as pollen, dust mites, molds, and animal dander. Infections in childhood may be necessary to prevent allergies. Children who have older brothers and sisters are less likely to be allergic because their older siblings bring home germs from school. Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and infections. It is often acquired in early childhood and persists throughout life. This study suggests that children infected with helicobacter pylori have a substantially reduced risk for asthma, hay fever, and eczema.

Reduced risk of atopic disorders in adults with Helicobacter pylori infection. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2003, Vol 15, Iss 6, pp 637-640. A McCune, A Lane, L Murray, I Harvey, P Nair, J Donovan, R Harvey. McCune A, Frenchay Hosp, Dept Gastroenterol, Dept Med, Frenchay Pk Rd, Bristol BS16 1LE, Avon, ENGLAND




Diet Gimmicks, Diet Books and Weight Loss Products

Misleading Labels

Misleading Energy Bars



Gabe Mirkin MD, September 13, 2011  —  Before you spend your money on the latest diet book or weight loss gimmick, remind yourself that the ONLY ways to lose weight (without surgery or prescription medications) are:

1) Take in fewer calories,
2) Burn more calories, or
3) BOTH.

ALL of the popular diet books and programs, regardless of the “scientific” explanations they give, recommend menus that give you 1500-1800 calories or less per day. For most people this means you will be taking in fewer calories. You can lose weight on ANY OF THEM, but ask yourself: Is this a way of eating I can follow for the rest of my life? (If not, you will regain the weight as soon as you go back to your old eating habits.) And, do the foods they tell me to eat supply all the nutrients my body needs? Most people can eliminate foods and food groups for a short time without any harm, but eventually you will create deficiencies if you do not eat a wide variety of foods, with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other seeds. Don’t believe that you can make up for what’s missing with pills: a lousy diet with supplements is a lousy diet.

If you are thinking of trying a supplement or spa treatment that promises to take off pounds with no effort, use the old rule: “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

– Products that remove water (diuretics) or empty your colon (laxatives or colon cleansers) can cause you to drop several pounds in a day or two, but this is strictly temporary and does not remove any fat. You do not need to “cleanse” or “remove toxic waste products” to lose weight or for any other reason. Prolonged use of diuretics or laxatives can be dangerous.

– Most products that claim to “rev up your metabolism” or “burn fat” contain stimulants. Many plants contain stimulants, and you will get the same effect from “natural” or herbal weight loss products that you get from drinking huge amouts of coffee or tea. Stimulants cause you to burn more calories and you will lose weight at first, but you need to take more and more as the days go by, and they can cause unpleasant, even dangerous side effects.

– There are no creams that will dissolve fat.

– Magnets placed over an acupuncture point don’t cause weight loss.

– Eating collagen before you sleep does not make your body burn fat.

– Fat absorbers (chitin products) bind to small amounts of fat, but they cost about $35 to block the amount of fat in a Big Mac; in larger quantities they cause terrible gas and diarrhea.

– Pills or gimmicks that promises to get rid of cellulite are useless because cellulite doesn’t exist. It’s just plain fat.

– The only function of a body wrap is to make you sweat, and thus lose water. They claim you will lose 14 inches in 2 hours? So you lose 1/4″ in the circumference of your legs through dehydration; they measure each leg, your waist, your hips, your arms, etc., total up the measurements and voila, you’ve lost 14 inches. You can get the same effect if you take your measurements before you go to sleep at night and after you wake up in the morning. Water loss is not fat loss. Here’s their guarantee: “The inches will stay off unless you regain the weight.” They fail to mention that OF COURSE you will regain the weight as soon as you take a drink of water.




Dry Skin


Gabe Mirkin, M.D.  —   Dry skin means lack of water, not lack of oil. Skin creams function by creating a temporary barrier on your skin that seals in water.

In the late 1940’s, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital took a hard callus off the foot of one of his patients and placed in oil. It remained as hard as ever. Then he placed the callus in water and it became very soft, but soon after being removed from the water, it became very hard again. Then he left the callus in water until it became soft, removed it and then soaked it in oil and it remained soft for a long time. He had shown that dry skin should be treated by using oils and creams to seal in moisture. Cosmetic manufacturers soon produced oil-in-water emulsions which were incorporated into creams designed to seal in water.

However, some studies show that oil-in-water emulsions soak off the outer layer of skin and increase its susceptibility to irritation from cold, rubbing, and various chemicals that you may be exposed to, such as ingredients in cleaning products or cosmetics. The longer skin is immersed in water, the more protective outer coatings of skin is stripped off. Take quick showers and decide for yourself whether using a cream or lotion helps you or not.

All lotions and creams work the same way, no matter how much they cost or what special ingredients they claim to contain. Just pick one that feels and smells pleasant to you.






Always Risk in Cosmetic Surgery



Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do; a study from Denmark shows that skin wrinkling and aging are influenced heavily by genetic factors (Age and Aging, January 2006). However, this doesn’t mean that you can smoke or spend many hours in the sun, two behaviors that are known to increase wrinkling. The authors studied twins to show that skin aging is associated equally between genetic and environmental factors. They also found that looking older with severely wrinkled skin is associated with dying earlier. You increase your chances of having aged, wrinkled skin by smoking, exposing your skin frequently to sunlight or being very thin.


Preventing Wrinkles

Don’t Over-Wash Your Face and Eat a Lot of Fish, Especially Salmon




Does TV watching harm women?

Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

A study from Harvard School of Public Health shows that the longer women watch television, the more likely they are to become obese and develop diabetes (Journal of the American Medical Association, April 9, 2003). Lack of exercise is a strong risk factor for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, some types of cancer, and diabetes.

The Nurses’ Health Study followed more than 50,000 women for six years, and in that time 1,500 of the women became diabetic. Those who watched the most television doubled their risk for developing diabetes. Even light activity was associated with substantially lower risk.

In this study, the women watched television from zero to more than 40 hours a week, and those who watched the most TV didn’t have time to do much of anything else. People who are addicted to television should have a stationary bicycle or some other piece of exercise equipment in front of every set so they can exercise whenever they watch TV.





Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

A study from Calgary shows that a regular exercise program can reduce a woman’s chances of suffering breast cancer. Exercising after the menopause was even more effective than exercising in early life in preventing breast cancer. Nobody really knows how exercise may prevent breast cancer. Since estrogen stimulates the breast to grow, having too much estrogen increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. When a woman goes into the menopause, her ovaries stop making estrogen and her main source of estrogen is her fat cells, which convert male hormones produced by her ovaries and adrenal glands into estrogen. So obese postmenopausal women have the highest estrogen levels and therefore are at increased risk for developing breast cancer. The vast majority of women gain weight after the menopause. The best way to prevent this weight gain is to continue to exercise vigorously as you grow older.




Female Sexual Dysfunction

Gabe Mirkin, M.D. Nearly 90 percent of middle-aged and older women are reported to suffer from decreased desire to make love, not being aroused by sexual stimuli, or inability to climax. Lack of desire is associated with poor health, overwork, lack of privacy, or failure to be in a caring relationship. It is also associated with depression, certain medications and drugs, and low blood levels of the male hormone, testosterone. According to a study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (July 2002), 87 percent of married women claim that they have decreased desire, 83 percent find it very difficult to climax, 74 percent lubricate poorly, and 71 percent have discomfort on making love.

Every woman who feels that she has Female Sexual Dysfunction should realize that hundreds of different medications can prevent a woman from having desire or being able to climax: antihistamines, blood pressure medications, antibiotics, cancer drugs, stomach and intestinal medications, contraceptives, sleeping pills, antidepressants, alcohol, recreational drugs, and all the antiestrogens such as tamoxifen and Lupron.

Many products on the market today are sold to increase sexual desire; they often have some variation of Viagra in their names. There is no evidence whatever that Viagra increases sexual desire in women or in men. Viagra helps a man achieve an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis. It fills a woman’s pelvic organs with blood. Since vaginal secretions come from the bloodstream, Viagra will increase vaginal secretions, even though it does not increase desire. The common cold medicine called ephedrine also increases vaginal secretions and can be used to increase lubrication. Prescriptions containing phentolamine can markedly increase vaginal lubrication.

Some products claim that yohimbine that increases sexual desire. Several studies show that yohimbine is not more effective than a placebo, so nobody should waste money on yohimbine products to improve sexual desire or performance.

The most common cause of a dry vagina after stimulation is a vaginal infection that should be treated with the appropriate medication to kill the offending germ, whether it is yeast, herpes, chlamydia, mycoplasma, ureaplasma, a wart virus or intestinal bacteria.

Every women who suffers from decreased sexual desire, decreased arousal or lack of orgasms should get blood tests for testosterone and DHEAS. Testosterone is the male hormone produce by the ovaries, and DHEAS is the male hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Testosterone can increase sexual desire, even in women who have normal or high levels of that hormone.

It is very common for women to lose interest in making love after they have had their ovaries removed because a woman’s ovaries continue to produce large amounts of male hormones for her entire life. Many women who have had their ovaries removed require testosterone to increase their sexual desire.

The majority of women over age 50, and many under 50, cannot climax with penile-vaginal lovemaking because the vagina is not the source of an orgasm. It takes continual and prolonged stimulation of the clitoris for most older women to achieve an orgasm. A vibrator can provide this stimulation if other techniques are not effective.





Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

It has been known for years that drinking cranberry juice helps to prevent and treat urinary tract infections in women. Doctors used to think that the benefit came from the acid in cranberry juice that made your urine acidic. This was disproved many years ago, and it is now known that there is a chemical in the berry that prevents bacteria from adhering to the cells lining the bladder. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association describes results of culturing antibiotic resistant E. coli that are the most common causes of urinary tract infections. Urine was collected from women with chronic urinary tract infections after they drank 240 ml (about 8 ounces) of cranberry juice cocktail. Almost 80 percent of the bacterial strains were prevented from adhering to the cells lining the urinary bladder. It did not matter whether the bacteria were resistant or sensitive to antibiotics. The authors suggest that proanthocyanidins, tannins that are the red pigment in cranberry juice, are the component that prevents bacteria from sticking to bladder cell walls.