Jason Giambi (now a Cleveland Indian) admits to taking it during his 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Yankees; A-Rod is off the field for all of 2014 because of his association with the banned substance; and many other athletes have tried to improve their performance by taking it. We’re talking about HGH, or human growth hormone, a protein produced by the pituitary gland that fuels bone and cartilage growth in kids and, as a supplement, is supposed to be a “magic elixir” that fights aging and injury.
But taking HGH supplements can cause swelling in arms and legs, joint and muscle pain, breast enlargement in men, heart disease and diabetes, and may trigger growth of cancer cells, not to mention suspension from the team. Plus, studies don’t prove supplements boost strength or reverse aging. The good news: You can increase your HGH levels naturally.
Do resistance exercises: Use hand weights or resistance bands three times a week for up to 10 minutes. Feel the burn? You’re stimulating HGH production.
Sleep deep for seven to eight hours: You get max HGH production a couple of hours after you fall asleep. To sleep well, don’t eat for two hours before turning in; turn off the TV, computer and phone; and get your bedmate to follow these guidelines, too.
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Eat foods packed with the four HGH-stimulating amino acids: glycine in chicken breasts, watercress and spinach; ornithine from fish and low-fat dairy; arginine from crabs, spinach and turkey (skinless); and lysine from chicken (skinless), fish, parsley and spirulina seaweed.
Wicked good kids
When Hansel and Gretel snacked on the witch’s gingerbread house, the old hag captured them and tried to fatten them up for feasting. Sort of like the wicked way children are being fattened up today by the soda and processed food industries for tasty profits. More than 33 percent of North American kids are overweight or obese, and the number of kids who are severely obese is increasing the most rapidly. No wonder a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among 10- to 19-year-olds has skyrocketed more than 30 percent since 2001.
Children with Type 2 diabetes are at risk for early complications, including heart disease and vision, kidney and nerve problems. They’ll also have to deal with health issues associated with having Type 2 during their reproductive years – that increases their children’s risk for diabetes too.
It would be downright wicked not to help your kids avoid these problems. So:
1. No soda or any added-sugar or artificially sweetened beverages in the house ever.
2. Help your kids appreciate nutritious food by shopping for and preparing meals together. And make a pact to share at least one more meal a week. Check out “Healthy Foods & Cooking” at sharecare.com, and Google “Cleveland Clinic recipes” for tips, menu plans and recipes.
3. Less than two hours of screen time daily. No TV or computers/tablets in the bedroom.
4. One or more hours of moderately intense activity every day.
Mining phosphate added to food
In the sci-fi adventure “Outland,” sheriff Sean Connery arrives on a distant mining asteroid determined to dig up the truth about a slew of fatal so-called accidents. We suggest, on this planet, you put your efforts into digging up info on added inorganic phosphate (phosphoric acid, calcium phosphate, sodium phosphate and more) found in lots of foods and beverages and running them out of town. New studies indicate that they may cause high blood pressure, along with a passel of other health risks.
Natural phosphate in foods normally isn’t a problem, unless you have advanced kidney disease. But the added phosphate (PO) is inorganic, and that boosts blood levels of the mineral. When PO levels are high, certain hormones and enzymes get juiced up and cause overaccumulation of calcium and sodium. That can aggravate kidney problems and cause arterial stiffening and fluid retention, triggering high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Inorganic phosphate is put into food because it prevents spoilage, helps ingredients stay combined and generally lets processed and packaged foods hang out on the shelf far longer than Mother Nature ever intended. You’ll find it in colas, iced teas, luncheon meats, baked goods, canned fish, some soft cheeses, Parmesan, some breads, instant coffee and more.
So be your family’s food sheriff. Read ingredient labels before you buy to avoid excess phosphate. Corral fresh and fresh-frozen foods (fresh-frozen foods rarely have added inorganic phosphate) and say no to packaged and prepared food, including some pre-seasoned raw poultry and meats.
Shining a light on moonshine
The 1973 movie “White Lightning” (Burt Reynolds plays convicted moonshine runner Gator McKlusky) shows how the renegade appeal of pure grain alcohol is woven into North America’s cultural history. Today’s 190-proof white lightning (sold as Everclear; 95.6 percent ethanol alcohol and 4.4 percent water) still is a dangerous drink and an unfortunate college campus favorite, particularly in Jell-O shots and Kool-Aid flavored Jungle Juice.
It takes just a few ounces of these drinks to raise your blood alcohol to dangerous levels. Your liver can process only about 1/2 ounce of alcohol/ethanol an hour (that’s 1 ounce of a 100-proof drink). The rest stays in your blood, dulling and confusing brain and body. Then, suddenly you’re very drunk, and you’ve become a hazard to those around you and yourself. That’s why Maryland has been the latest to join 14 other states in banning the sale of white lightning. More states and municipalities sign on every year.
So, if you’re looking to blow off steam from hours of studying or contemplating the size of your college loans, you’ll do a lot better if you use sports and physical activity to relieve stress. It’ll let your brain cells survive. Then, if you’re over 21, enjoy the benefits of one (for gals) or two (for guys) drinks. One recent study of healthy folks over age 90 found one thing they all had in common: They still enjoyed a glass of wine (it’s only about 12 percent to 14 percent alcohol) almost every day.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.