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Muscles make up approximately half of the body?s total weight and are required for every basic movement and manipulation that the body performs.
There are three basic types of muscle: skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle, and each type has a slightly different role within the body.
Skeletal muscles are attached to the skeleton and their contraction causes the bones to move. This allows the body to perform all manner of tasks including breathing, swallowing, chewing, walking and running. Smooth and cardiac muscle are different from skeletal muscle in that they contract of their own accord - without us having to think about it (involuntary). Smooth muscle is responsible for regulating the movement of blood through the blood vessels and food through the digestive tract, whereas cardiac muscle is found in the walls of the heart and plays a pivotal role in pumping blood around the body.
Alcohol has a negative impact on the health of the muscles, especially in those who drink to excess. Studies on alcoholics have revealed that those who drink too much experience progressive weakening of the heart and skeletal muscle, probably as a result of ethanol-induced damage to muscle proteins.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of a person suffering a Stroke. This is because alcohol-induced damage to the arteriolar muscles can occur, which causes blood pressure to rise. Damage to skeletal muscle can be so severe in some alcoholics that they become seriously incapacitated and are unable to walk.
People who sustain running-related injuries often have themselves to blame, as most injuries are caused by poor training techniques. Examples include an improper or no warm-up, running too hard or too soon, inappropriate footwear to suit the running surface, or poorly constructed or worn-out running shoes.
Common Muscular Disorders:
The most common type of muscular dystrophy begins in early childhood and is first noticed by clumsiness in walking and a tendency to fall. In addition to changes in the leg muscles, there may be involvement of the pelvic and shoulder muscles, and in some cases, the heart muscle. This muscular wasting appears to involve all muscles in a random fashion. Paradoxically, the wasted muscle may become enlarged due to connective tissue and fat deposits, giving a false appearance of muscle strength.
The best known form of MD, Duchenne's disease, is present in half of all cases, mostly affecting boys between three and five. Scoliosis is a common complication that can prove fatal, owing to cardio-respiratory difficulties caused by the distorted rib cage (7). Supplements that may be useful in slowing the progression of the disease are L-carnitine and Parsley leaf extract.
Supplementation with Magnesium has been shown to be effective in the treatment of muscle cramps. A Swedish study involving 73 women with Pregnancy-related leg Cramp found that supplementing with magnesium for 3 months significantly reduced the incidence of leg cramp compared with those who received placebo (dummy) tablets (1).
Combinations of Magnesium (300-600mg/d) and malic acid (1200-2400mg/d) have been used in some studies for Fibromyalgia with mixed success (2,3). Also, patients with the condition often have depleted levels of Thiamin (B1), in which case supplements can sometimes reduce the severity of some of the symptoms of the disease (4,5). Likewise, herbs such as Liquorice and Siberian Ginseng may be useful in the management of the condition.
Muscles need to be continually worked if they are to maintain their size and strength. In 1991, the space shuttle Columbia was launched for a nine day mission dedicated, among other things, to researching the physiological changes brought on by weightlessness. The three women and four men experienced a staggering 25% loss in muscle mass within 10 days, perfectly illustrating the effects of keeping muscles stimulated. To maintain muscle mass people are advised to take regular weight-bearing exercise.
Prolonged exercise may result in muscles being broken down into Amino Acids to provide fuel for the body. Furthermore, the health of muscle tissue may be effected by wear and tear. To help maintain muscle structure, people who engage in intense, long-duration activities may find that an amino acid complex supplement helps to promote regeneration of muscle tissue.
The Amino Acids L-arginine and L-ornithine also have the physiological role of stimulating the pituitary gland to release growth hormone (6). As well as being very important in the growth and development of children, it is also important for muscle development in adults. Many people take supplements of
1. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1995, 173; 1:175-80