Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Q & A: Does regular sex keep you slim?

Does regular sex keep you slim?

As fairly vigorous sex burns up about 7 calories a minute (for the man in the classic missionary position that is), you would think that regular sex would keep you slim.

However! Research shows that the average sex sessions lasts a fairly pathetic four minutes and would burn up only 28 calories - enough to burn off half an apple or one Ryvita. Should you definitely NOT be a four-minute man, and should you enjoy sex on a very regular basis, you could burn up a fair amount of calories in the process. Men tend to use up more calories having sex than women do, as women are often a lazy lot (or too exhausted after a day running the world and then doing the cooking, cleaning and child-minding) and tend to prefer the 'lie here and enjoy it' position most of the time, while men do all the hard work.

So let us assume that you have sex four times a week at 30 minutes a time (let's be generous!). Two hours of sex at 7 calories a minute (on average) comes to 840 calories burnt per week. That is about equivalent to a hungry male's evening meal, or four pints of beer, or a takeaway pizza.

So as long as you don't send out for the pizza after the sex, I suppose you could lose about 1lb a month (or not put ON 1lb a month) in weight with two hour's sex a week.

Is there any fat-burning exercise class that isn't aimed primarily at women?

A recent survey of exercise classes found that you are most likely to meet fellow males at boxercise classes (circuit training with boxing moves) or Ashtanga yoga classes. Boxercise is no surprise, although apparently 40% of devotees are female.
You may be amazed to learn that you can burn fat through yoga, but ashtanga is fast and furious and quite hard.

Is there a male menopause and if so is it the cause of my weight gain? I am 55.

Yes, it seems that there is a male menopause which could indeed have various side-effects including weight gain. Although the major symptom of the female menopause - loss of periods - is obviously not a factor for men, there is, according to studies presented at the British Endocrine Societies conference in 2001, a decrease in levels of the male hormone testosterone in midlife males.

Levels start to decline at a similar age to the female menopause - around 50 - and reduced testosterone can cause not only weight gain, loss of muscle mass and loss of energy, but also depression, mood swings, lowered sex drive, memory loss and irritability.

The explanation from one of the partner universities conducting the latest research is that low levels of testosterone seem to reduce the blood supply to the brain, which means, basically, a general shutdown or slowing of the metabolism - in other words, the factory that is the male brain is on go-slow and the menopausal symptoms described are a natural result of that.

As with women, menopausal symptoms vary from man to man and may be slight or severe. If you feel this may be your problem, do see your doctor. Work is underway in developing a male testosterone-replacement HRT. Such HRT for males may also include the female hormone oestrogen, which has been found to protect men against osteoporosis and may also protect them against mental decline and memory loss.

In the meantime, a programme of sensible eating and increasing the amount of both aerobic and resistance exercise that you do will help to minimise the symptoms. For although declining hormones can promote weight gain, that doesn't mean the situation isn't containable with a healthy lifestyle - as many post-menopausal women will confirm.

Staying in shape as you get older becomes harder, but is by no means impossible. The bonus is that with healthy diet and by taking more exercise you are also giving yourself natural protection against the diseases and infirmities of old age.

Q & A: Which is more fattening - beer, spirits or wine?

Which is more fattening - beer, spirits or wine?

Each of these have roughly the same calorie content (about 90 - 100 calories): Half a pint of ordinary beer or lager, a double of spirits, or a small glass (about a fifth of a bottle) of wine. You will see then, that whichever tipple you prefer doesn't make a lot of difference, calorie-wise, unless you are likely to down significantly more of one than the other in the same length of time. For example, I would find it easier to down a glass of wine than a half pint of beer for the same calorie content - but you may be different.

And if you enjoy spirits, and could get by on a single with a low-calorie mixer (e.g. a Scotch and low-cal ginger) you could have two of those for the same calorie value as the glass of wine.

But when thinking about alcohol you also need to consider how many 'units' you're drinking (for your health's sake) and how many milligrams of alcohol you are putting in to your bloodstream (for your driving's sake - and may your driving license's sake).

Does beer drinking really cause a 'beer belly'?

A beer belly is a fat stomach by another name. Whether you take in too many calories via pints of beer or via too many takeaways or too much food on your plate too many times a day, and thus create a 'positive calorie balance' - you will eventually put weight on. It is just that a lot of men do get fat through too many 'beer' calories (e.g. five pints in an evening are around 1,000 calories, so if this is in addition to a normal adequate diet, the beer will put weight on fast).

The reason that in many men the extra pounds of fat seem to end up on your stomach rather than elsewhere is twofold. One, men are more prone to put weight on their midriff's than women are (men tend to be 'apples', women, 'pears'). And two, when anyone puts weight on, it tends to go first to the upper body (face, chest, belly) and last to the lower body. So when you are gaining weight around your middle you are in fact also gaining in on your face and maybe chest - but it is always the belly that you and other people notice. If you carry on gaining weight, you will also gain it in other areas of your body, but, being male, it is the belly that will stand out!

Can any man have a 'six pack'?

In theory, I suppose most men can. But in practice, not really. What is known as a 'six pack' is the outline of the divisions of the rectus abdominis muscle which run down either side of the centre of the stomach from rib cage to 'belly button' (in fact there are four 'divisions' on each side, so really it should be called an eight-pack).

All men have this muscle - but it can be seen in so few men because it is usually covered by a layer of fat, and is rarely exercised enough to be well-defined in any case. Those young men who work very hard and very regularly on their stomach muscles, have a low body fat percentage and who do achieve a 'six pack' can feel justifiably proud of themselves. For most males, the effort required to get that sought-after physique is just too much and there are more important things in life to do.

Men don't actually need to be that honed and toned in order to be healthy - you just need a reasonable waist circumference (CLICK HERE for more information) and an absence of obvious 'pot'.

If you do decide to 'go for it' - don't wait around too long. The older and flabbier your stomach gets, the harder it will be to convert!

Q & A: Difference between the type of a diet for a man and a woman?

Is there any difference between the type of a diet a man and a woman should follow for weight loss?

The main difference is that the average man has a higher metabolic rate than the average women - because he is heavier, taller and with a higher percentage of lean tissue (muscle). Therefore he will need to eat more calories (food) on his reduced-calorie diet than she does, otherwise he will feel too hungry and he may lose weight too quickly. A man should generally have approximately 20% bigger portions than a woman.

Apart from that, men and women can follow the same ' healthy eating' type of reduced-fat diet, high in vegetables, starchy carbohydrates and containing enough lean protein, and essential fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds.

Some men may need a little extra protein - for example, men who do hard physical work all day, or men who are professional sportsmen. If that sounds like you, you could increase the protein element of the meal first (fish, chicken, lean meat, pulses, low fat dairy etc) and then, if you are losing weight too quickly, add on extra carbohydrate (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, etc) too.

However I have a feeling that most men reading this question, who need to lose weight, will NOT be professional sportsmen or highly active. Most men (like most women) who need to diet have been taking too little physical activity long-term, and such men starting a moderate activity programme are unlikely to create a need for much extra protein, at least in the early months.

Should you turn into a bicep-bulging marathon-running person later on, you may need to take professional advice on your diet as you will be outside the scope of The Diet Bible.

I used to play football twice a week - one match and one training session - but I've given up. How much less do I need to eat so that I don't put on weight?

Assuming three hours a week of fairly vigorous exercise (though with football and other team sports it is hard to be precise about calories burnt because your physical involvement is so variable) this would work out at around 7 calories used a minute, which comes to 1,260 calories burnt in total for your training and match. That equals 180 calories a day, which in turn equals a pint of mild beer, or two slices of bread, or a 9-oz potato that you would have to decline every day in order not to put on weight.

But I think the real issue here is that, having given up three hours' worth of exercise a week in the form of football, it would be sensible of you to replace it with something else. If you've given up football because you are 'too old' or incapacitated, is there any form of exercise you could now take instead - a half hour walk or cycle session a day, or similar?

So many men as young as their late 20's, and certainly by the 30's and 40's, give up almost all exercise and then wonder why they get fat and start having health problems. So don't eat less - just get out and keep active. Even if you're still slim and fit at the moment - it only takes a small amount of overeating (like 180 calories a day) and a few months of inactivity for all kinds of negatives to begin happening to your body.

I'm a typical male - I love takeaway curries, Chinese, fish and chips and so on. Are there any wise choices now I'm trying to lose weight, or is everything bad news, health and calorie-wise?

There are some better choices amongst a host of not so good takeaways, and these better choices should fit in reasonably well with a varied diet, without putting weight on you or risking your cholesterol levels. For example, tandoori chicken or fish; plain vegetable or seafood pizza, plain burger (no cheese, small chips); doner kebabs.

But even so, I would still advise you to try to limit your forays to the takeouts to once or twice a week. If lack of time is your problem, you can incorporate a few 'ready meals' into your diet - all supermarkets sell single-portion ready meals and all contain a nutrition panel. Go for meals that contain no more than 5-600 calories for a complete main meal (assuming you eat three times a day) and try to ensure that they contain no more than 15 - 20g fat. Most supermarkets have their own 'healthy eating' range of ready meals. Adding a side salad (again, you can buy ready-prepared salads) with a low-calorie French dressing will make the meal more filling, and healthier still.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Herbs For Man: Help for Prostate Cancer?

Soy, rich in estrogen-like isoflavones, was recently shown to inhibit prostate cancer in rats. A case study of a man suffering from moderately high-grade prostate cancer showed that these plant estrogens apparently caused some tumor regression.

In other news, a recent study of PC-SPES, a formula containing eight herbs, reported substantial estrogenic effects in eight patients suffering from prostate cancer. On the plus side, the phytoestrogenic activity of this herbal formula reduced serum testosterone and PSA (prostate-specific antigen, a "marker" for prostate cancer) concentrations in all eight men. The downside? All of the men experienced both breast tenderness and loss of libido, and one suffered a blood clot in a vein. The herbs included in this formula were chrysanthemum, isatis, licorice, reishi mushroom, Panax pseudoginseng, Rabdosia rubescens, saw palmetto, and skullcap. But researchers didn't identify the specific herb or herbs responsible for the effects seen in the study.

We need to wait for more research before we can recommend soy and other phytoestrogens for prostate cancer. Herbs with estrogenic activity may be useful in treating hormonally sensitive prostate cancer, but if used with conventional therapies may confound the results.

Saw palmetto extract is the best proven herbal remedy for this pesky condition. An extract of the fatty oils and steroids from the fruits of this plant is effective in a daily dose of 320 mg

Herbs For Man That Help Your Heart (Part II)

Red Yeast (Monascus purpureus), cultivated on rice, contains several HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors related chemically to the popular statin prescription drugs. These protect by stimulating the formation of good (HDL) cholesterol and reducing the production of bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Clinical trials have shown that daily consumption of four 600-mg capsules of a standardized red yeast product (called Cholestin) produced significant reductions in serum levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides.

The Food and Drug Administration tried to ban over-the-counter Cholestin, because it felt Cholestin's active ingredients were too closely related to those in the statin prescription drugs. An appeals court rescinded the ban. As of now, you can still buy Cholestin, but its status could change if the ruling is reversed.

Guggul (Commiphora mukul) is an oleo gum resin derived from the trunk of a tree grown in India. There, a few studies have confirmed its ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in both small animals and humans. In one study, people were given 500 mg of gugulipid, one of the herb's active components, for 12 weeks. Cholesterol dropped by 24% and triglycerides dropped by 23% in 80% of the people studied. Guggul appears to be safe, though it may cause stomach upset. (Pregnant women should never take it because it tends to stimulate uterine contractions.)

Quick Tip: Take one 25-mg capsule of standardized guggulsterone three times a day until cholesterol levels normalize, then reduce dosage to one capsule daily.

Herbs for Men That Help Your Heart

Great Herbs for Men

Several good-for-you herbs have been found to be valuable in helping treat certain life-threatening -- or life-altering -- conditions. Specifically, there are herbs for cardiovascular concerns, such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, and herbs for more singularly male problems, especially benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and erectile difficulties that can result in impotence.

Here's the scoop on what's out there -- and what really works.

3 Herbs That Help Your Heart

Heart disease has often been portrayed as a disease for men only, but today we know differently: Studies show that, overall, it's the number one killer of both men and women in the US. But unlike premenopausal women, men lack heart-protective levels of estrogen. (Note: When women reach menopause -- around age 52 -- they stop producing estrogen and their risk of heart disease soars to eventually equal that of men.) Here are three herbs that can give men -- and women -- a weapon against heart disease.

Garlic has long been used to lower both blood pressure and blood lipids. Studies have shown that people who take garlic can reduce their systolic blood pressure by about 7%. Most of the clinical studies on garlic powder tablets, standardized to yield about 5 mg of allicin on a daily basis, show that you can reduce levels of serum cholesterol by about 11% and triglycerides by about 12%. These reductions are positive steps toward helping to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

But not all recent trials have yielded such favorable results, and these have raised questions regarding the herb's effectiveness.

Here's the good news. In spite of some conflicting findings, you can still have confidence in garlic's value, because recent clinical studies indicate that garlic helps to maintain the elasticity of the aorta in older men and women. Maintaining the flexibility of this largest artery is essential to healthy functioning of the entire circulatory system. In the long run, this activity alone may prove more essential to cardiovascular health than the actual cholesterol-lowering properties of garlic.