Sixty-seven percent of 101 patients diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) were found to be infected with a retrovirus called XMRV (Science, published online October 8, 2009). One hundred percent of those with CFS who subsequently developed lymphomas or leukemias were infected with the XMRV virus. If further studies confirm this finding, doctors will soon have a test to diagnose this horrible condition and possibly a vaccine to prevent it.

More than a million Americans are seriously ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic encephalomyelitis. CFS symptoms include severe weakness, exhaustion after any activity, loss of memory, and chronic recurrent infections. Patients rarely recover.

The retrovirus XMRV was first found in humans in 2006, in prostate cancer cells. It has been shown to cause nerve damage, immune deficiency, lymphoma and leukemia in animals. Retroviruses do not have their own DNA; they use the DNA of the host cells they invade. Retroviruses include HIV that causes AIDS, and Human Lymphotropic Viruses that cause leukemia and lymphoma. Just as some people infected with HIV do not develop AIDS, not everyone infected with XMRV will develop CFS. XMRV has been found in 3.7 percent of healthy Americans tested, adding up to an estimated 10 million Americans carrying this virus.

Although not proven yet, there is every reason to believe that XMRV is spread by exposure to body fluids (saliva, blood, semen). Having an infection with one of these retroviruses impairs your immunity so that you are more likely to become infected when exposured to any other germ.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What should I drink during hard exercise or a race?

• For hot-weather competition that lasts up to an hour, just water.
• For competitions that last up to two hours, water with sugar.
• For competitions that last more than two hours, water, sugar, salt and perhaps protein.

Many sports drinks are advertised to contain the “right” concentration of minerals and sugar for exercise. However, fluids are absorbed from the intestines at a rate that depends little on the concentration of minerals or sugar in the drink. The only mineral you need is table salt. Carbonation has no effect on performance. You will drink more if a drink is cold, and cold drinks are absorbed faster (Experimental Physiology, September 2006). Caffeine improves endurance by helping to conserve stored muscle sugar. When muscles run out of stored muscle sugar, they hurt, are difficult to coordinate, and require more oxygen.

The best sports drink is the one that tastes best to you so you will drink more. Any drink plus any food that contains salt is effective to maintain endurance and prevent heat exhaustion when you exercise for more than an hour on a hot day. When we ride for more than an hour, we drink caffeinated soft drinks and eat whole grain bars and salted peanuts.


New findings from the Nurses Study:

Women who were overweight at age 50, or had gained more than 20 pounds after adolescence, were four times more likely to suffer major chronic diseases and physical, mental or emotional impairment by age 70 (British Medical Journal, September 30, 2009). This study of 17,065 women who were free of chronic diseases at age 50, and lived to at least 70, reinforces the importance of staying active and maintaining a healthy weight.


Recipe of the Week:

Cranberry-Wild Rice Salad

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