Olive Oil Decreases Blood Pressure in Young Women

August is designated as National Olive Oil Month, and today’s post is the second in recognition of this healthy food. Today we examine the effect of a polyphenol-rich olive oil on blood pressure and the markers of inflammation in young women.

A group of researchers from Spain performed a double blind, randomized dietary intervention trial, to examine the effects of a polyphenol-rich olive oil diet on blood pressure, as well as markers of endothelial function and oxidative stress. The subject group was young women (average age 26 years) who had recently been diagnosed with either high-normal blood pressure, or Stage 1 hypertension.

The subjects began with a four month run-in period, during which a set Mediterranean-style diet was provided to all the participants to follow. After the four month run-in, the women were randomized to either a polyphenol-rich olive oil diet, or a polyphenol-poor olive oil diet, which was then followed for two months. After two months there was a 4 week wash out period, after which the groups were reversed and followed for an additional two months. While in the polyphenol-rich group, participants consumed about 30 mg/day of polyphenols from olive oil. 24 women completed the study.

The researchers discovered that the polyphenol-rich diet let to a significant decrease in both systolic (7.91 mm Hg) and diastolic (6.65 mm Hg) blood pressures. In addition, markers of oxidative stress (ADMA, ox-LDL) and inflammation (CRP) were significantly reduced.

The drop in blood pressure seen with the polyphenol-rich diet is profound, in that it is comparable to the drops in blood pressure one might see with some of the first line anti-hypertensive medications.

This study is important in that it studies a dietary intervention in women, a group that is often underrepresented in medical research. Also, this was a group with high-normal or the earliest stages of hypertension, not a group with more significant disease. It’s possible that in a population with much worse hypertension there may be even more profound improvement in blood pressure.

Incorporating olive oil into your daily diet appears to be a low-risk way to help lower blood pressure and improve vascular health.

“People with high blood pressure, diabetes- those are conditions brought about by lifestyle. If you change the life style, the conditions will leave.”–  Dick Gregory

(Source- American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 25 Number 12, December 2012)

This blog is a review of published and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.

 

Olive Oil May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

August is designated National Olive Oil Month, and so several posts this month will cover some of the health benefits of olive oil. Today’s post will discuss research on the potential role for olive oil in prevention of Type 2 diabetes (T2D). 

Olives are a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The largest producer of olive oil by far is Spain, with about 50% of the world’s production, followed by Greece, Italy and Turkey. In the U.S. olive oil is produced in California, Hawaii, Texas, Georgia, and Oregon. Extra Virgin Olive OIl is of the highest quality, and is processed simply by mechanical press, without any chemical processing. This is thought to result in the health benefits of olive oil.

A research group from Austria, Germany, and Spain performed a meta-analysis of existing studies, to examine the role of olive oil in type 2 diabetes mellitus. They included four cohort studies with over 183,000 subjects, and 29 random controlled trials with nearly 4000 subjects. The majority of these studies were either completed in Europe or the United States. The study duration of the cohort studies varied between 6 and 22 years, while the length for the random controlled studies varied between 2 weeks and 4 years.

After analyzing the various studies the researchers found that the use of olive oil was inversely associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The risk of T2D decreased by 13% as the intake of olive oil increased, up to 15-20 grams per day. There was no apparent benefit in increasing intake above the 15-20 grams/day amount.

In addition, those in the olive oil intervention groups were found to have lower fasting glucose levels, and significantly reduced HbA1c levels.

Incorporating olive oil into your diet appears to be a simple way to lower one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and would be easy to implement.

“The olive tree is surely the richest gift of heaven. I can scarcely expect bread.”- Thomas Jefferson

(Source- Nutrition and Diabetes (2017))

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Sugary Drinks Increase Risk of Cancer

In a study published three weeks ago, researchers from France looked at the relationship between the consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of cancer.

The average American consumes about 45 gallons of soda each year. An average 12 ounce can of soda contains upwards of 40 grams of total sugar, or about nine teaspoons of sugar.

A population-based prospective cohort study was completed with over 100,000 subjects from the French NutriNet-Sante study. Participants were 18 years of age and older, with a predominance of women (79%) to men (21%). Mean age at baseline was 42 years.

The sugary drink group consisted of energy drinks, fruit drinks, sodas, sports drinks, 100% juice drinks, among others. Consumption of sugary beverages was assessed by 24 hour dietary records. Association of beverage intake and risk of overall, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer was assessed.

The researchers found that there was a positive association between the amount of sugary drink intake, and risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. Also, when looking specifically at 100% fruit juices these were also positively associated with risk of overall cancer.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find an association between artificially sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of cancer.

The researchers suggest several possible mechanisms by which sugary drinks may increase cancers risks. These include obesity, increased visceral fat, higher glycemic index, and increased pro-inflammatory markers.

This is a solid study, which included nearly 80,000 women. This study demonstrates how a simple dietary intervention, in this case limiting sugary beverages including 100% juices, may potentially have a meaningful impact on our health. Perhaps next time you are reaching for a soda, grab a glass of water instead.

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.” –  Joe DiMaggio

(Source- BMJ 2019; 365:12408)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Blueberry Juice May Lower Blood Pressure

July 8th is National Blueberry Day, and out of respect for this tasty fruit today’s post will review a study which examined the effects of wild blueberry juice in a group of adult women at high risk for diabetes mellitus type 2.

Both wild and cultivated blueberries are native to North America. Depending on altitude, latitude and weather the peak of the blueberry crop can vary from May to August. In the US there are many blueberry festivals which celebrate this delicious fruit. In places like Bethlehem PA, Burgaw NC and South Haven MI, among many others, blueberry lovers gather to celebrate.

The skins of the blueberries contain anthocyanins, which have anti-oxidant properties. Wild blueberries have one of the highest levels of anti-oxidants among fruits and vegetables. In the U.S., Maine is the largest producer of lowbush or wild blueberries, and produces over 100 million pounds annually.

A group from Canada and the U.S. performed a study examining the effects of wild blueberry juice on various cardiometabolic markers. The study population had at least two risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and thus were higher risk.

The study design was a randomized trial, with a placebo control. The subjects drank 240 ml of juice made from lowbush (wild) blueberries, while the control group drank a placebo beverage which was color and flavor matched to the blueberry juice. The blueberries were harvested from Prince Edward Island, Canada. Participants drank the blueberry juice daily for a week, followed by an eight day washout period. Following that workout period, the study group became the control group and vice versa.

Several cardiometabolic markers were monitored during the course of the study, such as serum cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, glucose, endothelial function, c-reactive protein, serum amyloid, among others. Vital signs included blood pressure were also monitored.

19 participants, all women, completed the study. The researchers discovered that while the wild blueberry juice did not significantly change cardiometabolic markers, it did lower systolic blood pressure 4.8 mm Hg (4%) compared to the placebo group. While a 4.8 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure may not sound substantial, it is estimated that a reduction of only 3 mm Hg may reduce mortality from heart disease and stroke by 5-8%. 

Drinking the blueberry juice for only 7 days was probably not long enough to effect any significant change on metabolic markers. A longer study seems reasonable given the promising results of this study. This does appear to be a low-risk way to improve one’s health. 

“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”– Henry David Thoreau

(Source- BMC Nutrition 2017 3:45)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

 

Blueberries and Metabolic Syndrome

July 8th is designated National Blueberry Day, and in recognition of this delicious fruit today’s post will examine a study just published in June on the effect of blueberry consumption on cardiovascular risk factors.

The US is the world’s largest producer of blueberries, producing more that twice the tonnage of blueberries annually than the 2nd largest producer, Canada. The largest blueberry producing state is Washington, followed by Georgia, Michigan and Oregon. Low bush or wild blueberries, and high bush or cultivated blueberries, are all native to North America. Many of the beneficial properties of blueberries are thought to be due to their anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments which may appear black, blue, purple or red. Plants rich in anthocyanins include black rice, blueberries and raspberries. Anthocyanins have anti-oxidant properties.

A research group from the UK and Harvard looked at the relationship between blueberry consumption and its effect if any on insulin resistance and markers of cardiometabolic function. A random controlled double blind study was performed, with 138 enrollees, randomly assigned to one of three groups- a group which consumed the dietary equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries each day, a second group which consumed a dietary equivalent of 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries each day, while the third group consumed a placebo. It is important to note that the study subjects had all been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and were overweight or obese. The study enrolled both men and women, ages 50-75.

The study lasted six months. The researchers discovered that while metabolic syndrome markers were not significantly changed by blueberry consumption, the group that consumed one cup of blueberries per day did show improvements in HDL (“good cholesterol”), endothelial function, and systemic arterial stiffness. It was estimated that a 13% reduction in future cardiovascular events was possible in the one cup per day group.

This is an important study, with one of the longer study periods (six months) completed to date. The study population had significant health issues, including metabolic syndrome and was older. Although the intervention did not change the insulin resistance numbers, it is possible that the study intervention was simply not long enough.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including elevated blood pressure, excessive fat around the waist, elevated triglyceride levels, and decreased HDL. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and metabolic syndrome is thought to be a precursor for Diabetes Mellitus Type 2.

Here is a well-designed study showing the benefits of a simple dietary intervention on metabolic syndrome. Next time you are considering something for dessert or a snack, put the cake, cookies and ice cream away and reach for blueberries instead. And buy local if possible, and support our farmers and propagators.

“There are eyes, to be sure, that give no more admission into the man than blueberries.”-    Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Source- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2019; 109)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Brush Your Teeth, It May Help Prevent Dementia

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and in recognition of this today’s post will look at the relationship between chronic periodontitis and subsequent development of dementia.

Periodonitis is very common, but may be preventable with proper dental hygiene. It is defined as inflammation of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. Periodonitis begins with gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums.

A group of researchers from Korea recently published a study looking at the possible risk chronic periodonitis may play in the development of dementia. This was a retrospective cohort study with a huge number of participants, over 260,000. These subjects were followed from 2005 to 2015. Other health factors were included such as age, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, exercise level, gender, smoking status, among other factors.

At the end of 2015 the study concluded. The researchers found that subjects with chronic periodonitis had a 6% higher risk for dementia, and a 5% higher risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, compared to those without chronic periodonitis.

The authors propose three possible mechanisms by which chronic periodonitis may be related to neurodegenerative processes. First, perhaps bacteria or other pathogens may cross the blood-brain barrier causing an inflammatory response. Second, there may be increased systemic inflammation or thirdly perhaps increased atherosclerotic plaque formation, leading to endothelial damage.

Current medications for dementia only slow progression of the disease, and do not work in all patients. Some patients are unable to tolerate medication side effects. Therefore it is important to identify those risk factors for dementia which are potentially modifiable which in turn could lower one’s risk for development of dementia.

This is a robust study, with a very large number of participants. Also, it may be the first study on this topic to look at concomitant risk factors such as exercise level and smoking status. Given the results, you may want to enlist the help of your dentist and dental hygienist as strategies to prevent dementia.

“Behind every smile there’s teeth.”–  Confucius

(Source- Journal of the American Geriatric Society  00:1-6, 2019)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Gout a Risk Factor for Erectile Dysfunction

This week is designated Men’s Heath Week and our posts have addressed male health topics. Today’s post reviews a research study on the relationship between gout and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Gout is the most common cause of inflammatory arthritis among U.S. adults. According to statistics from the Arthritis Foundation, about 4% of U.S. adults suffer from gout. It currently affects over 8 million individuals. It is much more common in men, with men three times more likely than women to develop gout.

A research group in Taiwan initiated a longitudinal cohort study to examine the relationship between gout and subsequent development of erectile dysfunction in men. The study enrolled over 19,000 men, ages 18-64, who were newly diagnosed with gout. The control group included over 77,000 men without gout. The researchers also tracked comorbid risk factors such as chronic renal risk failure, congestive heart failure, depression, diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease.

The researchers discovered that the participants with gout had a 1.21-fold greater risk of developing ED, compared to those without gout. Worse, subjects that had gout and one of the comorbid risk factors had more than a 2-fold increased risk of developing ED, compared to those without gout or cormorbid risk factors.

This is an important study showing that gout is a significant risk factor in the development of ED in men. Gout is a pro-inflammatory condition, and as seen in other research pro-inflammatory conditions often contribute to ED.

While this study was among Asian males, there is reason to believe the results would be similar in a more diverse population such as seen in the U.S. Consideration of the higher risk of ED in those diagnosed with gout may provide an extra incentive to men to have their gout treated and managed effectively.

“Gout, a physician’s name for the rheumatism of a rich patient.” –  Ambrose Bierce

(Source- The Journal of Rheumatology 2015; 42:9)

This blog is a review of published and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Erectile Dysfunction a Risk Factor for Dementia

June 10-16th is designated Men’s Health Week, and in addition June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Today’s post will look at research regarding dementia and erectile dysfunction (ED).

ED is a common medical problem, particularly in aging males. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study showed about 40% of males are affected at age 40, while nearly 70% are affected by age 70. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES) showed that over 18% of males age 20 and older were afflicted with ED.

A research group based in Taiwan performed a retrospective cohort study on a population of  Asian men. There were two groups, the first group were men who had recently been diagnosed with ED. The second group, or control group, were matched samples, without ED. There were over 4,000 subjects in the ED group, and nearly 21,000 subjects in the control (non-ED) group. Other health issues such as anxiety, chronic kidney disease, coronary heart disease, depression, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, hypothyroidism and stroke were tracked. The subjects were followed over a 7 year period.

After the 7 year follow-up period what the researchers found was astounding- the subjects with ED were 1.68 times more likely to develop dementia than the non-ED (control) group.

The researchers also discovered that the subjects with anxiety, chronic kidney disease, depression, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and stroke were 1.48 times more likely to develop dementia.

This study, published in 2015, was the first population based study to examine the risk of developing dementia among men with ED. While the study population was Asian men, there is reason to believe that the results would similarly apply to non-Asian populations.

There are several possible mechanisms for the association between ED and dementia. One possible factor is damage to the endothelial layer, which lines the blood vessels. Damage to this crucial layer is associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. A pro-inflammatory state is seen to be a factor in endothelial damage.

This is an important research paper, and should been seen as a distant early warning of sorts. Given the inability of the currently available medicines to reverse dementia, a more preventative strategy should be considered. Men with ED, particularly at younger ages, should consider what health changes they can make to lower their future risk for dementia later in life.

“Lay hold of today’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.”–  Seneca

(Source- Medicine, Volume 94, Number 24, June 2015)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Acupuncture for Sexual Dysfunction

June 10-16th is designated Men’s Health Week, and so our posts this week will address men’s health issues. Today’s post will examine the use of acupuncture for sexual dysfunction, in both men and women.

Anti-depressant medication use is common, and sexual dysfunction rates may be as high as 50-90% with some of these medications. The results of a study may offer hope to those who suffer sexual side effects from commonly prescribed anti-depressant medications.

This research was conducted in Toronto, Canada. 35 subjects enrolled in the study, both men and women. Participants were referred into the study after complaining of sexual side effects from anti-depressant medications. After enrolling in the study, each subject received twelve acupuncture visits, following a fixed acupuncture treatment protocol. Subjects completed a self assessment of sexual functioning, as well as an assessment of anxiety and depression, throughout the study. There a was also a follow up visit one month after the treatment protocol was completed.

Results of the study showed significant improvement in symptoms, particularly among males. Males were also more likely to have decreases in anxiety and depression while receiving acupuncture treatment.

Interestingly, the self reported symptom severity scores one month after completion of the acupuncture treatment were similar to those at completion of the acupuncture treatment, indicating that perhaps acupuncture treatment is able to produce some longer lasting improvements in sexual function.

As with most acupuncture studies, the number of reported adverse reactions to acupuncture treatment is very low. In general the vast majority of patient’s treated with acupuncture find it a well tolerated therapy. Given how frequent sexual side effects are with commonly prescribed anti-depressant medications, perhaps consider acupuncture as a way to help with this, in both men and women.

“Prevention is better than cure.” – Desiderius Erasmus

(Source- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 19, Number 11, 2013)

This blog is a review of published medical and health literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Vitamin D and Erectile Dysfunction

June 10-16 is designated Men’s Health Week, and so several posts this week will address men’s health concerns. Today’s post will examine vitamin D and it’s potential association with erectile dysfunction (ED).

Data from the CDC indicate that approximately 25% of Americans are at risk for vitamin D inadequacy, while 8% are at risk for deficiency. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES)  shows over 41% to be vitamin D deficient in their sample of nearly 4500 adults, with African-Americans and Hispanics generally having worse levels of vitamin D deficiency.

Original research from Italy shows a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in a group of men with vascular ED, compared to men without vascular ED. 143 men were enrolled from a hormone clinic in Milan, Italy. The participants were divided into vascular ED, non-vascular ED, and borderline ED groups, based on penile doppler results. These groups were then compared based on various lab tests, including Vitamin D, lipids, and testosterone levels, among others.

The results showed a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the men with vascular ED, compared to men with non-vascular ED. Vitamin D levels were also lower in the men with more severe ED.

It is believed that normal vitamin D levels are important to healthy functioning of the endothelium, which lines the blood vessels. The results of this study indicate that low vitamin D levels are a potentially modifiable risk factor for ED of a vascular cause. If you are developing ED, you may want to get your vitamin D level checked.

“You take the healthiest diet in the world, if you gave those people vitamins, they would be twice as healthy. So vitamins are valuable”–  Robert Atkins MD

(Source- Journal of Sexual Medicine 2014;11)

This blog is a review of published and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.