Newsletter Volume 1, Number 14

March 2, 2006

Newsletter Archive

From my Diary

Subjects: HST, Circuit training, Carob update #2, Alexander technique, Warm-up before exercise, salt and blood pressure, Calcium, vitamin D, Glucosamine-chondroitin, knee pain, Backache keeping you awake? My Photo Session, Free e-book: How to Reduce Cholesterol Naturally, Without Drugs

  • Strength Training: This week is the second week with medium weights, 10 repetitions per set. Tomorrow is the last of six sessions, with weights about 15% heavier than for the first session 12 days ago. As usual, I won't know until tomorrow if I can complete 10 repetitions for every exercise. But since, "10 repetitions" actually refers to a range of 8 to 10 repetitions, I will count even eight repetitions as success.

    (Bryan Haycock designed HST as a rational system for building muscle mass, thus HST fits the needs of anyone who has lost muscle mass through aging, practically everyone over the age of 40. For more details about this style of training, see Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST).

    Some kind of tummy bug set back my exercise routine two weeks ago. I reduced exercise time to about four hours that week, then last week increased to six hours. This week, I expect to get to nine hours, a level that will ensure progress in building more muscle and losing more fat.

  • Aerobic Exercises: For me, weight training has priority because I feel dedicated to following the HST program. Most variations in my routine occur in the aerobics component, with a minimum of three hours per week walking up and down hills in the park. Ideally, I would walk six hours per week and aim for three hours per week interval training.

  • High-Intensity Interval training (HIIT) alternates easy aerobics, at 70% of maximum heart rate, with high intensity aerobics at 85% of maximum heart rate. (Maximum heart rate = 220 - AGE).

    For HIIT, I do 30 minutes on the treadmill (high-impact exercise) and 30 minutes on the ski machine (low-impact exercise). Every three minutes on the treadmill, I switch from walking at 4 mph (6.5 km/h) to running for one minute at 6 mph (10 km/h). Every three minutes on the ski machine, I switch from 5 mph (8 km/h) to 11 mph (18 km/h).

    If my legs and back feel stiff when I get up in the morning, I skip the HIIT. Instead, I only walk in the park for an hour up and down hills. Almost like having a day off. By inserting an easy day now and then, I avoid back pain.

  • Running Technique: After more than 25 years not running, it's a marvel to me that HIIT has helped me to run again, if only for periods of one minute at a time, eight minutes per 30-minute session. What's obvious is the importance of co-ordination. The more coordinated you are, the more efficiently you run. Imagine my surprise to discover that Roy Palmer specializes in something called the Alexander Technique designed to improve sports performance. In the section How It Works, Roy provides a couple of experiments to show the force of habit in sustaining either efficient or inefficient movement, (The Art of Performance).

Tips and Comments on the News

  • Update #2 on carob as a chocolate substitute: In the last two issues of this newsletter, I mentioned carob because I have not been able to find Hershey's or Rapunzel's cocoa in the shops. I tried adding cinnamon and sweetened the drink with stevia. I tried adding aniseed, ground up and brewed like espresso. Still not an adequate substitute for chocolate. So this week I tried blending carob with a navel orange (all the pulp but not peel). This was the best concoction so far, but not close enough. I am hoping the low calorie cocoa appears in the shops soon.

    Anybody know what I can do with this big jar of carob powder?

  • Warming up before exercise is important for: increasing body, muscle and blood temperature; improving rage of motion; stimulating hormones; and mental preparation. (Injury prevention).

  • Study says low-salt diets may harm heart: This seems to be the silly season for articles debunking food and supplement advice. Two weeks ago, we were told that low fat diets are not good for health, based on a study a study of subjects who did not follow the prescribed diet (Newsletter, February 16). This week, it's salt, (HealthCentral). The authors of the study tell us that risk of heart disease went up as salt intake went down, an inverse relationship because as salt went down deaths went up. Then they qualify this by the following curious statement:
    "Results were consistent in the majority of subgroups examined, but no such associations were observed for those [more than] 55 years old, non-whites, or the obese."
    In other words, skinny young white people can eat lots of salt without risk until age 55! Big deal! The abstract does not say what happens to the rest of us!

    With a bit of luck you might be able to access the abstract of the article by Cohen, Hallpern, Fang and Alderman.(American Journal of Medicine, sometimes not available). The publisher wishes to inform you that: "One author (Alderman) has been an unpaid consultant to the Salt Institute, a trade organization. Neither he nor the other authors have ever received research support, consulting fees, or speaker honoraria from either the Salt Institute or any other commercial entity related to use of sodium."

    The conclusion of the study seems rather mild it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about:
    "The inverse association of sodium to CVD mortality seen here raises questions regarding the likelihood of a survival advantage accompanying a lower sodium diet. These findings highlight the need for further study of the relation of dietary sodium to mortality outcomes."
    When reporters read this report, they might think it means, "Stop trying to force the food manufacturers to reveal just how much salt they put in their products and how dangerous salt is for health." If that seems harsh on my part, have a look at another paper by Alderman in which he refers to health warnings about salt as "...these dogma ... often preached with a fervour [sic] usually associated with religious zealotry." (International Journal of Epidemiology).

    Paul Elliot and Jeremiah Stamler point out the flaws in Alderman's account of salt and blood pressure. They conclude with some of the strongest words you will ever read in a professional journal:
    "By ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus on this issue, Alderman appears to condone the ‘do nothing' approach favoured [sic] by some elements of the food industry (who have much to gain commercially from the status quo).... The proponents of the ‘do nothing' approach have no case for the status quo as the preferred public health option. In fact, the body of scientific knowledge affords no basis for valid debate; efforts to promote the idea that there is a scientifically grounded ‘controversy' in this area—as in the area of tobacco and disease—are scientifically unsound and detrimental to health. With his faulted methodological thrust involving a heterogeneous mix of errors and omissions, Alderman has no trouble coming to conclusions about salt and blood pressure which are contrary to repeated expert group reviews, and supportive of the position adopted by special commercial interests." (International Journal of Epidemiology).
    I liked David Katz's reply to Cohen, Hallpern, Fang and Alderman. Katz argues that the relationship is the other way round: the people in the survey who reduced salt did so on doctor's orders because they were already sick.
    "Reducing salt intake is tough to do in a country where even breakfast cereal is salt laden.... So I suspect the sickest people are those that work hardest to cut their salt intake. It should come as no surprise to learn that the sickest people have the highest mortality rate".

    "We have more and stronger antihypertensive medications than ever before.... So yes, you can have your salt and normal blood pressure, too—if you don't mind better living through pharmacotherapy...

    Dr. David L. Katz, Associate clinical professor of public health
    Director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.
    Reporters all over the world accepted the results of the recent study as new findings. In fact, these "new" results were similar to those from a previous survey and flawed for similar reasons.

    Scientists use and acronym, GIGO, which stands for "Garbage In, Garbage Out", meaning that the results of a scientific study are only as good as the input data. For the salt study, the data came from the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1992 (NHANES II). Both NHANES I and II depend upon the accuracy of reported food intake during the previous 24-hour period and the salt content of the food. By 1992, salt intake was almost as high as it is today, and about 75% of the salt consumed was added during the manufacturing process ("non-discretionary" salt). So how do you calculate how much salt was in a can of beans that someone ate in 1992? The problem with NHANES I data has been known for a long time, (Lifestyle Modification for the Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension, 2003, p.150). Now we discover that the same problems apply to NHANES II, which may explain why the methods used for NHANES III were radically different from the earlier studies. Somebody found out that, as far as salt is concerned, NHANES I and II result in GIGO.

    As de Wardener and MacGregor point out, humans are genetically programmed to manage on one gram of salt per day, not the eight grams we find in modern diets, (Sodium and blood pressure).

    Personal Note: About 15 months ago, my systolic blood pressure went as high as 160, on the day the doctor told me I was at risk for heart disease. I was surprised, because the usual readings were 140/90, now considered pre-hypertension, on the way to becoming true hypertension. Today, my blood pressure is usually around 115/65. Yes, I do a lot of exercise. And yes, I now weigh about the same as at age 20. But I believe my diet is a factor as well: I eat at least six servings of fruit a day as well as one double or triple serving of green vegetables. Just as important, I avoid manufactured food and I do not add salt when cooking. (For flavoring, I sometimes use a half-teaspoon of Mrs. Dash, Original Blend and canned tomatoes, but that is about the limit.) If I want salt, I add a little at the table using a salt mill to grind the salt crystals.

    It's impossible to be certain, but I doubt if I get more than one gram of salt per day, about as much as the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert, about one-eighth of what is in the modern urban diet.

  • More from the Silly Season: Glucosamine and Chondroitin. If you've been following the news, you may have read the report that glucosamine chondroitin is no more effective than a dummy pill (placebo). Apparently, that's what some reporters concluded when they read an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. The editorial commented on an article they published recently.

    What does the article actually say? In the authors' words:
    "[T]hose given both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate were more likely than those given placebo to have a decrease in pain (79 percent vs. 54 percent)."

    "Exploratory analyses suggest that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be effective in the subgroup of patients with moderate-to-severe knee pain."

    Clegg and others from the Division of Rheumatology, University of Utah School of Medicine. (NEJMAbstract).

    An editorial in the same issue of the same journal states:
    "On the basis of these results, it seems prudent to tell our patients with symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee that neither glucosamine hydrochloride nor chondroitin sulfate alone has been shown to be more efficacious than placebo for the treatment of knee pain." (Cited by Dr Ray Sahelian.)
    Hang On a Minute! I have seen glucosamine and chondroitin sold in combination wherever either is sold. So why is this editor taking this negative line? Why not say, "Let's tell our patients that they should take glucosamine and chondroitin together?"

    What's going on? I thought only the "get-rich-quick" crowd circulated misinformation about foods and supplements, filling my e-mail box with spam, pushing all sorts of quack remedies with funny names.

    Am I shocked to learn that the NEJM is so timid as to publish a negative comment about the glucosamine chondroitin study? Well, not really. It's common policy to publish two points of view.

    For example, an editor might say, "Relieving pain is all very well, but it will only postpone surgery". Fair enough. But in this case, the editor said that, "On the basis of these results..." and came up with a nonsensical way to advise patients.

    Dr. Sahelian suspects that the editors of the journal are overly sensitive about seeming to promote supplements in competition with the prescription drugs that provide advertising revenue. I will keep an open mind, but in future, read more carefully.

  • Still More From the Silly Season: I almost forgot about calcium. Have you heard the latest news about calcium and vitamin D? It goes like this: supplementary calcium and vitamin D don't really help much for preventing fractures or colon cancer. I suppose this means that if you are a woman and at risk of bone fractures, you have to take prescription drugs. The accountants at the drug companies must be chuckling about this one.

    "The biggest study ever of calcium and vitamin D supplements for older women suggests they offer only limited protection against broken bones...."

    "The study also checked whether the supplements might help prevent colon cancer, and the results indicated there was no benefit."

    "The findings were an offshoot of the big national study of diet and hormone therapy known as the Women's Health Initiative."

    Source: CNN Health, 15 February, 2006.

    But Take a Closer Look

    "However, women over age 60 reduced their chances of hip fracture by 21 percent with the supplements."

    "Many women sometimes missed their daily dose—a common phenomenon in real-world testing—but those who took their supplements most faithfully lowered their risk by 29 percent."

    Study Limitations

    Many women were already taking their supplements before the research began, and they were allowed to keep doing so, whether they were assigned to the test group or the comparison group. [Pardon me while I ask: Was this a scientific experiment?]

    Many women in the study were taking hormone pills, likely further cutting the number of fractures.

    Women with and without signs of osteoporosis were included in the study.

    No testing was done for signs of colon cancer at the start of the study and it takes 10 to 20 years for colon cancer to develop, while the study covered only seven years.

    Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes of Tufts University helped set up the national dietary guidelines. Dr. Dawson-Hughes was not impressed by the results of the calcium and vitamin D study. She dismissed the overall negative finding, saying:

    "You put people who don't need it together with people who aren't taking it, and you find nothing—and that really isn't all that surprising."
U.S. federal guidelines for women over age 50, specify 1,200 milligrams of bone-building calcium and 400-600 international units of vitamin D daily from diet and supplements combined. I'm a man over 70 and I follow these guidelines because men account for about 40% of hip fractures. And I make sure I get tablets that contain magnesium as well as calcium.

  • Backache? Try this to get a good night's sleep. Lie on your side, take an ordinary pillow and place it between your thighs. If the pillow is ordinary size, not too thick, it will support your upper thigh and prevent your spine from twisting.


    While rummaging through my files to identify this week's discovery, I remembered my photo session this week. In effect, three of my readers insisted that I should put up (some photos) or shut up. Easy to say and easy to think about. I've been thinking about it for months and kept procrastinating. When I actually stood before the camera, I realized it was stage fright. I was so nervous, I couldn't think of anything to smile about. Finally, I remembered something funny: If I got just one photo with a smile, I could just switch heads. Except, the photographer chose that moment to adjust the lamps, which left me saying, "cheese". Photo session.


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      To be fair to readers who wish to use RSS, I have made the free e-book immediately available without asking for names and email addresses.

      How to Reduce Cholesterol Naturally, Without Drugs

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    Coming Soon

    • Sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss, may be the main cause of decline in metabolic rate with age. Thus, muscle loss with age may be sufficient to make middle-aged people overweight.

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    Bye until next week...
    Fred Colbourne, It's never too late!
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