Two studies from Sweden show why being overweight shortens life. A study from the University of Uppsala in Sweden followed 1800 Swedish overweight men, from age 50 for 30 years and showed that almost all are at high risk for heart attacks and premature death (Circulation, December 2009). The authors showed that overweight men who originally did not have metabolic syndrome eventually suffered from metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart attacks.

Metabolic syndrome is considered to be early diabetes and includes high blood sugar and triglycerides, high blood pressure, low good HDL cholesterol, and abdominal obesity (40 inches for men, 35 for women). In this study, being overweight without metabolic syndrome increased heart attack rate by more than 95 percent, and being verweight with metabolic syndrome increased the rate by more than 155 percent.

In another study, researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden analyzed more than a million Swedish mother-son and father-son pairs over age 50. They showed that the sons who were overweight tended to have parents who had died prematurely and had an extremely high incidence of heart attacks, diabetes, and some cancers (British Medical Journal, January, 2010).

Fat cells are like endocrine glands. As they fill with fat, they release hormones that turn on your immunity to cause inflammation. An overactive immunity damages artery walls to cause heart attacks and strokes. High blood fat levels block insulin receptors so your cells cannot respond to insulin and your blood sugar levels rise too high. This causes sugar to stick to cell membranes to damage arteries to cause heart attacks and strokes. Since your insulin receptors are blocked, your pancreas releases increasing amounts of insulin which constricts arteries to cause heart attacks.

Storing fat primarily in your belly rather than in your hips means that you already have high insulin levels, which shortens lives and increases heart attack risk. Insulin specifically causes fat to be stored in your belly.

If you can pinch more than an inch of fat in your belly, you are overweight and at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart attacks, and premature death. You should first be cleared by your doctor for exercise and try to exercise every day. Avoid all foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar, particularly sugared drinks, foods made from flour, and sugar-added foods. Eat large amounts of vegetables. Avoid red meat, lose weight and make sure that your vitamin D3 level is above 75 nmol/L.


Reports from Walk better
Running with back pain
How exercise affects blood fat levels


Dear Dr. Mirkin: I have had Achilles tendinitis for five years. Will I ever be able to run without pain?

When you run, the calf muscle can pull on and damage the Achilles tendon which extends from the calf muscle in the back of your lower leg to the bottom of your heel bone. Chronic Achilles tendinitis can be cured in a few months with a combination of platelet therapy and eccentric stretching (British Journal of Sports Medicine, February 2009).

• Until you are healed, you must stop running and substitute cycling, swimming or other sports that do not pull on the tendon.

• Ask your doctor to give you an injection of “platelet rich plasma”, made by centrifuging your own blood. Platelets contain healing factors (Sports Medicine, May 2009). • Eccentric stretching of the Achilles tendon is done by standing with your toes on a board so your heels drop below your forefeet. Gently lower your heels toward the ground. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then relax. A physical therapist can teach you the proper way to do this exercise.

• Avoid stiff-soled shoes which exert great force on your Achilles tendon when you come up on your toes before you step off to your other foot.

• Ask your doctor for orthotics, special inserts in your shoes that prevent your foot from rolling in excessively after you land on your heels. This lessens the inward twisting motion on your tendon during walking and running.

• Do not allow steroid injections into your tendon as they decrease an already poor blood supply to the tendon which markedly increases chances of tearing the tendon completely off your heel bone.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should the mercury scare stop me from eating fish?

Probably not. The only fish with potentially high levels of mercury are old large predator fish such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, tilefish and shark. Canned tuna is made from small young fish that have very low levels of mercury, while the expensive large tuna steak that you get in a restaurant may have higher levels of mercury. First mercury is converted to its organic form by bacteria and algae and smaller fish acquire mercury by eating them. Since mercury accumulates in the body over many years, only large predator fish that eat masses of fish for many years have significant levels of mercury in their tissues.

Most studies show that the mercury in fish is harmless to humans. However, a study of Nunavik Inuit men and women living in northern Quebec showed an association between eating mercury- laden fish and high blood pressure (Hypertension, October 2009). To show that mercury is associated with high blood pressure, the authors subtracted the benefits of eating omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish) that help to lower high blood pressure. The Inuits’ blood mercury levels averaged higher than 50 nmol/L, compared to 4 for the average American and their blood pressures were elevated in proportion to their blood mercury levels. Every one percent increase in blood mercury levels was associated with a 0.02-mm-Hg increase in systolic blood pressure.


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Broccoli Soup

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