Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another View of Intermittent Fasting

This is a follow up to the article below on Martin Berkhan. Martin's view of Intermittent Fasting is very clear, refined, and backed up by research. 
The information that follows is from Eddie Kowacz. He is a former Marine, SWAT, and Corrections Officer. He is a martial arts veteran and experienced strength athlete. His view of Intermittent Fasting is very raw, vivid, and backed up by experience. He walks the talk.

Fasting and Feasting - The Way I Eat by Eddie Kowacz

"Most of the time (est. 90% ) I eat one meal a day and have been doing so for the last ten years. I never,ever,eat breakfast or lunch. I don't do this for any Athletic, Aesthetic, or Religious reason. I follow this "Way" because I enjoy it and it works. It makes me feel mentally in tune with my body and mind while providing a sense of alertness and well being that is almost unexplainable. I eat my dinner around 8 in the evening and the other 10% of the time I'll have a light snack around 10, just before I turn in.

Yes, you've read that right. It's almost a full 24 hours before I ingest any more calories. In the mornings and during the day the only liquids that I take in are black coffee and Poland Spring water. However, I do add a small amount of Crystal Light ( White Grape, only please!... this stuff rocks ) which adds a few trace calories. An average day has me taking in 2-3 large cups of coffee and 2 gallons of water. I never get hungry between feedings and never have any cravings. If I do it simply means that I didn't eat enough the day before. Following this regimen training is always done on an empty stomach. No pre workout meal nor post. ( The post workout meal timing "window effect" is a fallacy that was created by supplement companies in an effort for you to buy their precious Whey Protein Drinks ) IMO, It doesn't exist!!

Eating this way has enabled me to keep my weight between 170-180 for the past 5 years. Currently @175 as I type this. The purpose for staying at such a light weight for me is due to the fact that I have had 10 knee surgeries since 1985, with my last one being a partial plastic replacement. Less stress
(body weight) that's placed on the knee joint is a great thing, which in turn enables me to train as I wish in keeping with the high standards that I set for myself.

What I Eat: Very simple! I'm a Carnivore, that means meat-eater. For the last 4.5 years it's been a diet that consists of High Fat and Med Protein nutrients. Think Steak and Butter here! Most of the time the steak is grass fed tenderloin and grass fed butter. If I'm forced to eat meats that aren't grass fed 
( which is rare ) it is rib-eye cuts with the rib roast being my favorite ( 1st cut ). The butter is always a grass fed variety. I have no problem eating the same thing day in and day out. I eat till I'm full as well. No cravings for any other types of food. Not even sugar or any other form of carbs. Last carb meal I had was Dec. 2005 at Moms house. It's been zero since. I don't drink either. Last drink that I had was in early Feb 1999. I have medical tests done at my Doc's office twice a year and it's always good to great. Oh Yeah, I do take a few multivitamin/ multiminerals.

Can I eat other foods "healthy" foods as I wish such as fruits and veggies? Sure! But why try to fix something that's not broken! I love eating this way, these foods, and MOST important it works for me. The body adapts, it becomes it's function.

I don't want to give the impression that my fasting method can't include other protein choices or even carbs. For example: Before I switched to meat only I went a few years fasting the same way and eating a combination of Chilean Sea Bass ( 1.5 lbs. daily ) and Buffalo Beef Patties w/Stir Fried Veggies. The Veggies were stir ... See Morefried in my Wok with Coconut Oil and they included Peppers, Vidalia Onions,and Mushrooms. When I got done frying this mix I would pour it over my cooked Buffalo patty. The Sea Bass was mostly eaten with sauteed red peppers. Of Course, the main fat source of any of these dishes was saturated fat. No Poly Oils.
This is my diet! I'm not selling this to anyone nor am I advocating that anyone try this. It's simply something that I do, and it works well for me."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This Man Can Make You Lose Fat, Look Better, and Live Longer

Martin Berkhan is a nutritional consultant, writer, and trainer from Sweden. His approach to eating is called Lean Gains. It is his take on the technique of Intermittent Fasting. This is a method of using short fasts to achieve reduced body fat, add muscle, and improve health. There is considerable researching in the area of caloric restriction and extending how long mammals live. The difference between Martin's approach and others is his flexibility and practicality. He doesn't surround his methodology with a shroud of mystery to distract from logic.
Martin is publishing a book this year on his methods. In the meantime he has compiled a guide to his methods, for free, to help you get informed and get started.
If you think seeing is believing, check out these results.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Born Strong or Built Strong

Here is a REALLY good article by Kelly Baggett. I'd suggest many of you read it carefully.

The Myth of Non-Functional Hypertrophy by Kelly Baggett
If you read my articles you know that explosiveness is largely dependent upon strength, and strength is fairly influenced by muscular growth, or hypertrophy. In this article I'd like to address another topic along these lines and this the topic of functional vs non-functional hypertrophy. Non-functional hypertrophy refers to gains in muscle size that aren't associated with an improved capacity to produce force. "Functional" hypertrophy refers to gains in muscular size that improve maximal force production, and thus carry over into the real world. Simple enough.

Manufactured Strength Vs Natural Strength

Before I get into it I'd like to point out that no supplemental training method is perfect and has a perfect transfer to sport. The practice of adding strength and size thru weight training in an attempt to apply the benefits of that strength and size to a sport is effective but it won't ever be perfect. You're basically manufacturing something that wasn't there to begin with - You're allowing your body to adapt to one stimulus and then applying those adaptations to another area. It really is cheating in a way. The only thing that isn't cheating would be actually playing the sport and letting your body adapt naturally. However, we know there are limits to that. But this is one reason why people that have "natural" strength, size, and power will generally have a "functional" strength advantage over those who have to manufacture it. Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, and Mike Tyson rarely if ever lifted a weight. Compare them to muscled up guys like Frank Bruno, Tony Mandarich, and Vernon Gholston. Manufacturing size and strength isn't perfect regardless of how you acquire it, but it beats the alternative and can allow you to compete at a level you wouldn't have.

Myofibrillar growth vs Sarcoplasmic growth

Now that i've got that out of the way, let's talk a little bit of muscle physiology. In a muscle cell you have the actual protein content in the cell, or the myofibrils, and you also have fluid surrounding the protein, the sarcoplasm. Strength is primarily influenced by the amount of protein contained in the cellular filaments, or the myofibrils.

There is a belief in the training world that certain types of training can influence the growth of one of these components over the other. The belief is that heavy low rep weight training favors growth of the myofibrils and builds muscles that are as strong and "functional" as they look, if not stronger. In contrast, higher volume/higher rep training (bodybuilding methods), are often believed to favor growth of the sarcoplasm. Since the sarcoplasm consists of non-contractual fluid it is supposedly possible to gain large amounts of size without any increase in strength. This is deemed to be responsible for the so called non functional strength or "bodybuilding fluff" lended to bodybuilding methods. Muscles that aren't as strong as they look or muscles that are slow and unathletic.

For this reason athletes are often encouraged to train heavy and use lower repetitions in their training. There is a belief that training with higher reps and shorter rest intervals and lighter weights builds only non-functional strength.

What Really Happens

However, when we examine this claim critically, science demonstrates the size of the sarcoplasm is limited by the size of the myofibrils. In other words, a cell can only hold so much sarcoplasm and that amount is limited by the size of the myofibril within it. Additionally, more than a handful of studies have tried to differentiate myofibrillar from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy with different prodocols and loading parameters. In every single one of them myofibrillar growth always comes out well ahead, typically by a 2-3 x margin.(1-5) Thus, it would seem it is impossible to increase sarcoplasmic growth in the absence of myofibrillar growth regardless of what strategies are employed.

This would tend to indicate that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is mostly a myth. Well, technically it does, but in practical terms non-functional growth does exist, but in my humble opinion it doesn't occur in ways most people think. In the real world non-functional hypertrophy is simply extra glycogen storage. A muscle that has it's energy stores taxed (thru higher volume training) will adapt to store more glycogen, or carbohydrate energy, and this can add a significant amount of extra weight and size.

Fluff and Glycogen

A normal 170 lb male can store about 350-500 grams of total glycogen in his muscles. A 170 lb male whose muscles are trained at fairly high volume can store about double that, or ~1000 grams. Each gram of glycogen attracts 3 grams of water with it, so 500 grams of extra muscle glycogen above average will add an extra 2000 grams of total weight above normal, or about 4.5 lbs. This 4.5 pounds of extra glycogen and fluid will be stored in the muscles and will "appear" to be solid muscle weight, but it's really nothing more than energy and water. Four and a half pounds may not sound like a lot but take a look at a 4.5 lb steak next time you're in supermarket and you can see that's a considerable amount.

Let's say you take take 2 people with 15 inch arms who train with fairly low volume, so their energy stores are never really taxed. Let's say they do something like 5 sets of 3-5 reps for biceps and triceps twice per week. You keep one of them on low volume and put the other one on high volume, something like 8 sets of 10-12 reps twice per week. The guy on the higher volume protocol might see his arms immediately go up an extra 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch over the other guy, because the extra volume taxes the energy stores in his arms to a greater degree and the body adapts to that by increasing the amount of energy that can be stored in his arms. So their arms will be the same size from a myofibrillar perspective and likely be the same strengthwise but the 2nd guy will have more glycogen storage, which makes his muscles look bigger (and may makes him appear weak for his size compared to the other guy).

A person with a 20 inch solid arm who trains with low volume might be able to add a full inch by increasing his volume.

That's not to say that someone training with higher reps can't build plenty of functional strength and size in the process. As long as he trains with progressive resistance his myofibrils will increase in size just as well as the guy on lower reps, he's just more likely to have a nearly immediate extra gain from the increased glycogen storage in addition to that.

With higher volume training the average bro might be able to gain 5-10 lbs or so of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy across his entire body over what he would on lower volume protcols. Cell volumizers like creatine also attract water into the muscle and add to that. Add in steroids (which often increase creatine storage and water retention) and other cell volumizers and it's fairly easy to see how bodybuilders training at high volumes can add a significant amount of "fluff" weight.

So Why Are Some People Weak For Their Size?

Besides that there is one primary reason why "high-rep" guys might appear weak for their size:

A: They rarely practice lifting maximal weights so they're not as good at lifting maximal weights. Maximum strength is a skill that must be practiced, just like sporting movements are skills that must be practiced. You also see this in reverse. If you take a bodybuilder who regularly does sets of 15-20 reps and a powerlifter who regularlly does sets of 1-3 the bodybuilder will have a hard time matching the powerlifteron low reps sets but the powerlifter will likely have a hard time matching the bodybuilder on high rep sets.

It's also worth noting that weight training is only one way of taxing muscular energy stores and stimulating increased glycogen storage. Anyone engaged in more than a few hours of exercise per week, especially a sport incorporating some form of running, is likely already stimulating these adaptations.

Low Reps and Thickness

What about the claim that low rep power training builds dense, thick muscles? Take a look at the neck and trap development of some of the top powerlifters and strongmen. They have a bulldog like thickness to them that you don't see equaled by many other athletes. Many would have you believe this is solely on account of their style of training, but if you pay much attention to the sport you'll also find plenty of people who train the same way and don't have this look. My explanation for this is that naturally strong people tend to gravitate towards strength sports and naturally strong people are typically incredibly gifted for size as well. They have a ton of dormant muscle cells just waiting to explode, much like bulldogs, pit bulls, and boxers are thicker than other dogs. In general people that grow extremely well off of low rep/low volume training are very gifted for size and would have well above average thickness even without any training.

Rep Range and Fiber Type

Another thought is that repetition range influences the type of muscle fiber (fast twitch/slow twitch) that is built. There is some thought that high rep training (anything greater than 8-10 reps) builds slow twitch muscle fiber and should be avoided. However, slow twitch fibers really don't grow much no matter what you do, and the small amount they can/do grow is best stimulated by the same heavy sets that cause "normal" growth, standard sets of 6-12 reps. If that weren't the case then endurance athletes would all be huge. Regardless of how you gain it, any size you gain will be fast twitch related growth. However, there is something to be said that training can influence the quality of fast twitch fiber that you build.

All muscle fibers exist in a color continuuum with some fibers being pure white and other fibers having a shade of red. Think of eating chicken. The dark meat is tender and red while the breast meat is white and tough. Your muscles are the same way. Some are redder or whiter than others. The slowest twitching fibers are dark red while the fastest twitching fibers are pure white. In between those 2 extremes there will be various shades of white and red. What causes the different color is the amount of capillaries running thru the muscle. The redder the muscle the more capillaries (and oxygen) run thru it. The whiter the fiber the less capillaries (and oxygen) run thru it. Fibers can't completely change types. You can't take a dark red (slow twitch) fiber and change it to a pure white (fast twitch) fiber and vice versa. However, you can change the shade of a given fiber type (slow twitch or fast twitch) to either a whiter or redder variant of the same fiber type.


There are different sub types of fast twitch fibers with some more enduring or more powerful than others. In humans the whiter type II fiber is known as the IIX subtype, the intermediate light red shade is known as IIA. Both of the type II subtypes have equal strength, but the white fibers are more explosive and have no endurance while the redder shades are a bit less explosive with more endurance.

Fiber type------------------------------------Fiber type



<---Greater explosiveness------------------Less explosiveness-->

<---Less Endurance---------------------------More Endurance-->

The IIX fibers can change into IIA and vice versa, but it's arguable how much this is dependent on rep range. For all practical purposes anything you do that causes muscle breakdown/growth will cause an intermediate shift towards more IIA fibers. Actually activity of any kind tends to promote the IIX to IIA shift, even sprint training. Unfortunately, (and this is one reason why I started off this article by saying that weight training isn't perfect as far as transference) if you train with enough volume to cause muscle growth you train with enough volume to cause the shift. Untrained people actually have more IIX fibers than anyone because they don't do anything, - their fibers have no need for any endurance.

Explosive athletes like sprinters and olympic weightlifters have more IIX fiber than others, but it's likely this is a genetic trait. They start out with more, thus end up with more, as science demonstrates fast twitch IIX fibers convert to IIA with any sorta practical stimulus.

So, if you want to avoid fast to slow fiber conversions you have to avoid muscle breakdown, which means you don't grow at all. Is there any way to create a IIA to IIX conversion? Well, detraining is one way to do it. If you want to influence IIA to IIX conversions you need to keep the volume low and avoid muscle trauma. Strategically timed tapers and incorporation of pure explosive training methods can cause temporary shifts back towards the IIX subtype, which is what athletic peaking and proper periodization is all about. For more info. on that read my Fast twitch Machine Articles.

The Real Value of Rep Range

The point is, functional hypertrophy isn't as dependent on rep range as a lot of people think. For all practical purposes what determines whether you're functional or not is what you do outside the weight room - your movement and skill work. Train with 10 + reps, practice your sport, and stay mobile and you'll likely be as functional as they come. Train with 1-5 reps and do nothing else and you can easily be as non-functional as a muscled up hippo.

Take 2 twin brothers that both play football. Both do skill and movement work year around. Over a span of 3 years one works up to 600 x 3 squat never doing anything more than triples. The other does 500 x 10 never doing less than 8 reps. It would likely be about impossible to tell them apart performance wise.

Another example is strongman training which has really risen in popularity in athletic training circles. Take a look at some of the characteristics of the exercises involved in strongman: Flipping a tire all the way across the parking lot, cleaning and pressing a keg then walking around with it, and farmers carries. A lot of strongman type stuff is a lot closer to the "high rep" side of things as far as time under tension goes. But how many people come out and say strongman training sucks as a strength stimulus for sports?

As long as you use progressive resistance you can build solid (and functional) size doing sets of 1 rep or you can build solid (and functional) size using sets of 20 reps. The lower body, particularly the quads, tend to respond particularly well to higher reps, and the upper rep range is a bit higher for lower body than upper body. Twenty rep squat routines are very effective for legs, but the upper limit for most upper body exercises will be around 15. In either case, providing the volume is equal, reps of 15-20, 10-12, and 3-5 have been shown to result in exactly the same stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. (7) The only real difference between them (besides one obviously using lighter weights) will be with the 15 reps (obviously the higher volume protocol) you tax muscular energy stores so in addition to increasing the protein content you also get more glycogen storage. In either case the primary stimulus (work under load) is the same, the muscles activated are the same, and regardless of rep range resistance training is a supplement, not the primary event.

Best Bang For Your Buck

For growth purposes the best "bang for your buck" rep range is arguably 6-8, or about an 80-85% max load, as it gives the ideal combination of recruitment and metabolic fatigue. You get full recruitment from the first rep and enough time under load to optimize th emetabolic processes contributing to hypertrophy. Higher reps have the benefit of less joint stress while lower reps have the advantage of greater nervous system activation, and also make it easier to keep volume down and avoid growth stimulation, if that is a goal.

I don't want this to sound like I have anything against lower rep training, but there are times when it is advisable for a person to use higher reps due to injuries, age, or equipment restrictions and the practice is certainly permissible. I've known people that only had a given amount of weights at their disposal or they had injuries and were forced to train with sets of 12 or more and were able to gain just fine. My general recommendation for people over the age of 35 is to keep the reps up to 10 or more for upper body so their joints don't take such a pounding.

Don't Forget About Nutrition

Also building size is just as much about how you eat as it is how you train. You can have the perfect hypertrpohy program but it won't do anything in the absence of good nutrition. Do sets of 10-15 while eating to keep your BW constant and all you'll do is get strong, just ask many of the former HIT (high intensity training) Nazis. Do singles often enough while eating like a hoss and you'll get plenty big.



(1) Selective activation of AMPK-PGC-1alpha or PKB-TSC2-mTOR signaling can explain specific adaptive responses to endurance or resistance training-like electrical muscle stimulation. FASEB J. 2005 May;19(7):786-8. Epub 2005 Feb 16.

(2) Stimulation of human quadriceps protein synthesis after strenuous exercise: no effects of varying intensity between 60 and 90% of one repetition maximum (1RM). J Physiol 547.P, P16.

(3) No effect of creatine supplementation on human myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis after resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;285(5):E1089-94.

(4)Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise.J Physiol. 2005 Sep 15;567(Pt 3):1021-33.

(5)Protein synthesis rates in human muscles: neither anatomical location nor fibre-type composition are major determinants. J Physiol. 2005 Feb 15;563(Pt 1):203-11. Epub 2004 Dec 20.

(6) Skeletal muscle hypertrophy and structure and function of skeletal muscle fibres in male body builders.

(7) Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones.Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Nov;88(1-2):50-60. Epub 2002 Aug 15.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Depression and Smoking

More than 40% of U.S. adults who have depression are also smokers, meaning people need help with both if they want to quit, according to a U.S. government survey published yesterday.

The survey found more than half of middle-aged men with depression were also smokers, while half of women under age 40 who were depressed also smoked.

Patients with depression who want to kick the habit can be helped, but it is difficult, said Laura Pratt and Debra Brody of the National Center for Health Statistics, who conducted the study.

"The few studies that have examined ability to quit smoking in persons with depression have shown that with intensive treatment, persons with depression can quit smoking and remain abstinent," they wrote.

"These intensive cessation services often use treatments that are also used for depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy or antidepressant medications."

Pratt and Brody used a national survey of 5,000 people to break out the percentage of smokers among people with depression.

They found 43 percent of adults over 20 with depression smoked, versus 22 percent without.

"Over one-half of men with depression aged 40-54 were current smokers compared with 26 percent of men without depression of the same age," they wrote.

"Among women aged 40-54, of those with depression, 43 percent were smokers compared with 22 percent of those without depression," they added. Fifty percent of depressed women aged 20 to 39 smoked.

Antidepressants used to help smokers quit include GlaxoSmithKline's Zyban, known generically as bupropion. Pfizer's Chantix or varenicline blocks nicotine from getting into brain cells.

Pfizer is fighting off lawsuits that allege the company did not warn quickly enough about the risks of attempted suicide with its drug, which now carries a strong "black box" warning, as do many antidepressants.

Pratt and Brody also found that patients with depression are more likely to be heavy smokers, and the worse the depression, the more likely they are to smoke.

About 7 percent of U.S. adults had depression in the years 2005 through 2008, the researchers said.

Globally, tobacco kills about 5 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers," the CDC says. "Cigarette smoking is responsible for about one in five deaths annually, or about 443,000 deaths per year."

© Thomson Reuters 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Aging Brains and Diet

MONDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a diet high in vegetables, fish, fruit, nuts and poultry, and low in red meat and butter may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, new research finds.
Researchers asked more than 2,100 New York City residents aged 65 and older about their dietary habits. Over the course of about four years, 253 developed Alzheimer's disease.
Those whose diets included the most salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower and broccoli), dark and green leafy vegetables, and the least red meat, high-fat dairy, organ meat and butter had a 38 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those whose diets included fewer fruits, vegetables and poultry and more red meat and high-fat dairy.
"Following this dietary pattern seems to protect from Alzheimer's disease," said senior study author Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. But he added that "this is an observational study, not a clinical trial," meaning that researchers cannot say with certainty that eating a certain way helps prevent the disease.
The study was published online April 12 in the Archives of Neurology, and will appear in the journal's June print issue.
While similar to the well-known Mediterranean diet, the diet that seemed to be beneficial in this study is not identical because researchers didn't want to restrict themselves to considering only one culinary tradition. The Mediterranean diet included nine food groups; this study included 30, Scarmeas said.
The foods in those 30 groups are those that impact a list of seven fatty acids and nutrients, which previous research has associated with Alzheimer's disease risk. The nutrient combination included: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folate.
"We found there was a combination of foods that affected the levels of these fats and vitamins, and by doing so, also affected the risk for getting Alzheimer's disease," Scarmeas said.
The researchers controlled for demographic factors such as age, education and ethnicity; genetic factors; smoking, body mass index and other medical conditions.
Dr. Samuel Gandy, a neurologist and cell biologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said the findings are consistent with other epidemiological studies that have found that people who stick to a diet that is good for the heart also have a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
"Everything that increases the risk for heart disease -- high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes -- all of these things also increase the risk for Alzheimer's," Gandy said.
The reasons for the connection are not fully understood. One possibility is that factors that impact the health of the blood vessels throughout the body may also impact the health of the blood vessels in the brain.
Doctors used to believe there were two separate causes of dementia: vascular dementia, due to blood vessel disease; and Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative process. "We now know that most people with dementia have some of both," Gandy said.
Still, while eating a "heart healthy" diet is probably a good idea and certainly can't hurt, what's not clear is just how much, say, broccoli a person has to eat to see benefits, Gandy added.
As for other lifestyle habits that can lower risk of Alzheimer's, exercise is the only intervention that has been demonstrated to be beneficial in randomized clinical trials, Gandy said.
A second study in the April issue of the same journal found that people with Alzheimer's disease lose lean mass as the disease progresses. Lean mass includes weight from the bones, muscles and organs.
People with Alzheimer's often lose weight unintentionally. The weight loss often begins prior to noticeable memory loss, according to background information in the article.
Researchers from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, assessed the body composition in 70 people aged 60 and older with early-stage Alzheimer's disease and 70 without the disease. Participants also had their brains scanned using MRI and neuropsychological testing.
Those with Alzheimer's disease had less lean mass, as well as decreases in the volume of the brain and white matter.
"Our data are consistent with other studies suggesting that brain pathology may contribute to decline in body composition, perhaps by disrupting central nervous system regulation of energy metabolism and food intake," the study authors wrote.
More information
The Alzheimer's Association has more on diet and dementia.
SOURCES: Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., associate professor, neurology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, N.Y.; Samuel Gandy, Ph.D., M.D., Mount Sinai Professor in Alzheimer's Disease Research, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.; April 2010, Archives of Neurology

Get Some Sun?

The Monk, above, with little sun exposure at age 72.
This 58 year old Native American woman, below
has had plenty of sun.

        The question remains, how much is too much sun, and how much is not enough. The current recommendations are as follows.
Sunning to prevent vitamin D deficiency is like smoking to combat anxiety, experts say in response to recent reports linking the health benefits of vitamin D to unprotected sun exposure. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the Yale School of Dermatology and the Sun Safety Alliance, these claims are scientifically unsound and mislead the public about the very real dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation—the leading cause of skin cancer. Dr. Madeline Duvic, Deputy Chair of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Dermatology, says, "Given that the US Department of Health and Human Services recently declared UV radiation from the sun as a known carcinogen, it's premature and misleading to claim that mid-day sun is a safe and effective way to get vitamin D."
The AAD says it is "deeply concerned" about the current claim by Dr. Michael Holick, director of the vitamin D laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine, that exposing unprotected skin to the sun several times a week is necessary to prevent vitamin D deficiency. Holick cites two studies that found inadequate levels of vitamin D among people in two northeastern cities where the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays don't penetrate during winter months. According to Holick, always wearing sunscreen is tantamount to creating this same "winter-like" environment on the skin, causing vitamin D levels to drop.
"I am not aware of any scientific studies that support this claim," said Dr. David J. Leffell of the Yale School of Medicine Department of Dermatology. "In my two decades of practice, I've never seen vitamin D deficiency caused by lack of sun exposure due to sunscreen use, yet the evidence that UV rays from the sun cause skin cancer is overwhelming."
Leffell says the winter drop in vitamin D levels among northeastern residents is a normal process that is well-known and easily accommodated by dietary supplementation. He cites inadequate diet as a culprit in the "very small" portion of the population that is truly vitamin D deficient. For these people, Leffell says, deficiency can be offset by taking vitamin D supplements or drinking fortified milk.
Recommending even small amounts of sun exposure is bad advice, according to the Sun Safety Alliance, since there is no "acceptable" dose for carcinogens like UV radiation. Every exposure has some adverse affect—although this may be difficult to measure.
Phil Schneider, director of the Sun Safety Alliance, also finds Holick's position unsound. "The practical and factual advice communicated to the public is based on the well-documented fact that ultraviolet radiation from the sun is carcinogenic. Enjoy the outdoors, and protect yourself. Block the sun but not the fun is proper advice. The factual truth is that tanning is dangerous because it increases the risk for skin cancer."
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining proper health, including the body's absorption of calcium and the proper function of muscles. However, the experts agree that studies linking the nutrient to a reduced risk of a number of cancers are preliminary, and would not alter their recommendation of supplementing over sunning if proven true.

About Skin Cancer
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime, and it is one of the few cancers where the cause is known. Each year approximately one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US, and over 91,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. One person dies of melanoma every hour. Melanoma is also one of the few cancers that continues to rise—at a rate of 3 percent annually.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone practice a comprehensive sun protection program, including avoiding outdoor activities when the sun's rays are strongest, seeking shade whenever possible, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and reapplying every two hours.

About the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)
Founded in 1938, the AAD is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of over 14,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology, supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin. For more information contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM or


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Multivitamin pills lead to breast cancer?

Women who regularly take multivitamin pills may face a higher risk of breast cancer, a new study has claimed.

The Swedish study, which looked at more than 35,000 women aged between 49 and 83 over a period of 10 years, found that those who regularly took vitamin supplements were 19 per cent more likely to develop a tumour, the Daily Mail reported.

According to researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, supplements may trigger tumour growth by increasing the density of breast tissue, a known risk factor for cancer.
However, they stressed the findings did not prove vitamin pills were to blame for an increase in cancer cases, as it is possible women may be compensating for an unhealthy lifestyle that puts them at increased risk.

Although the results were worrying, the researchers called for in-depth studies to determine whether or not multivitamins are safe. "These results suggest multivitamin use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This is of concern and merits further investigation," they told the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

Earlier studies have suggested that high doses of folic acid found in multivitamin pills may promote tumour growth. For the latest study, the researchers took account of whether the women smoked, did much exercise, or had a family history of the disease -- all strong risk factors -- but still they found a significant link with multivitamin use.

Researchers stressed that, on an individual basis, the risks to women remain small and the vast majority of vitamin users will not develop cancer.

In the study, women did not say what brands of vitamins they took -- they simply reported whether or not they took them. The study could also be flawed as it relies on women to recall whether they took the pills in the past.

But in 2007 a study of nearly 3,00,000 men found those taking supplements more than once a day were 32 per cent more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer. And a 2008 Copenhagen University investigation found high doses of vitamin A, vitamin E and beta-carotene appeared to increase the chances of an early death.

Every year around 40,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer, the equivalent of more than 100 a day. A woman has a one in nine chance of developing the disease at some point in her life.

Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, said: "Like several other recent studies, this research adds to the evidence that multivitamins may not actually be beneficial for your health. Most can get all the nutrients they need from a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Optimal Weight Seems To Trump Dietary Intake

Cancer shows scant regard for healthy diet
April 7, 2010

An international study of almost 500,000 people has confirmed that eating fruit and vegetables does not ward off cancer, debunking a 20-year-old edict by the World Health Organisation.

It also casts a shadow over the federal government's $4.8 million advertising campaign, launched five years ago, to encourage people to eat two pieces of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day.

But cancer experts yesterday urged people not to disregard the advice, saying a high intake of fruit and vegetables was still beneficial against heart disease and that some cancers, such as bowel and breast, were linked to obesity.

''We are still not clear why fresh fruits and vegetables would reduce cancer, but we do know that some cancers are related to obesity, so, regardless of these findings, people should be staying within a normal weight range,'' the chief executive of the Cancer Council of Australia, Ian Olver, said.

The eight-year study, by researchers in Europe, analysed 478,000 people and found that eating about 400 grams of fruit and vegetables a day offered only modest protection against developing cancer.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and undertaken between 1992 and 2000, the study found ''no conclusive evidence'' of a link between cancer and fruit and vegetables despite a review in 1997 by the World Cancer Research Fund that claimed to have found convincing evidence.

But Bruce Armstrong, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, said the study, which did not focus on any particular cancer, masked the results for some types of the disease that were linked to diet.

''Fruit and vegetables definitely do have a protective effect against some cancers, so we have not been giving people the wrong message,'' he said.

The results also support a 2007 Australian study that found that staying within a healthy weight range was more important in cancer prevention than following nutritional guidelines.