Tag Archives: health

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Nuts for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

In our third and final post in recognition of National Olive Oil Month, today’s article will review research on primary prevention of cardiovascular disease using a Mediterranean-style diet.

The Mediterranean Diet loosely defined is inspired by the eating habits of those countries who surround the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, Italy and Greece. This diet emphasizes high consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as olive oil. There is more emphasis on fresh fish and less emphasis on red meats. Moderate wine consumption is also considered to be a component.

A group of researchers affiliated with the PREDIMED Study in Spain designed a study to examine the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in a group considered to be at high cardiovascular risk.

Enrollees did not have a history of cardiovascular disease at the time of enrollment. The enrollees did have either type 2 diabetes, or at least 3 of the major risk factors of family history of premature coronary heart disease, high LDL, hypertension, low HDL, obese or overweight, or smoking.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups- a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a second group which followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented by nuts, or a third control group which was instructed to follow a low fat diet. Those in the extra-virgin oil group were instructed to consume at least four tablespoons of oil each day. Those in the nut-supplemented group received 30 grams of mixed nuts each day (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts). Participants adherence to each assigned diet was assessed by a food questionnaire. Subjects were followed on average for nearly 5 years. Primary end point was death from cardiovascular causes, heart attack, or stroke.

The researchers discovered that the Mediterranean-style diet, when either supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, was associated with a lower risk of major cardiovascular events over a period of 5 years, then was the low-fat control diet. In addition, among those who more closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet the cardiovascular benefit was greater.

Important points to consider regarding this study include- enrolled high risk subjects without a history of cardiovascular disease, and examined primary (not secondary) prevention. Also, these diets were not calorie restricted. Primary prevention is especially important, as that is what a lot of folks are concerned about.

This study leads to the veritable mountain of research showing that a proper diet can help or in this case prevent significant health issues. Perhaps give this some thought with the next trip to the grocery store or fast-food drive through window.

“Knowledge is the food of the soul.”–  Plato

(Source- New England Journal of Medicine 2018; 378)

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.

 

 

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.

Lose Weight and Eat More Fiber to Lower Blood Pressure

May is designated as National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and so today’s post focuses on blood pressure, and how it may be improved via two different lifestyle and dietary modifications.

According to statistics from the CDC, about 75 million Americans have hypertension, which is about one in three adults. Only about have of those with hypertension have it under control. The costs associated with high blood pressure are estimated at $50 billion each year. African-Americans are particularly at risk for hypertension, with about 46% afflicted.

First of all a meta-analysis from researchers in the Netherlands looked at 25 different random controlled trials including over 4800 subjects, examining the effect of weight loss on blood pressure. After pooling the data from these 25 studies, it was determined that a 5 kg weight loss (= 11 pounds) yielded an average 4.4 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure, and a 3.6 mm Hg drop in diastolic blood pressure. Weight loss was achieved by physical exercise, calorie restriction, or a combination of both. Larger blood pressure decreases were noted in those subjects who were already taking medicine for high blood pressure.

In addition to weight loss having a beneficial effect on blood pressure, it appears dietary fiber also has benefit. Researchers from Tulane University pooled data from 25 different studies, to examine the effects of dietary fiber on blood pressure. Nearly 1500 subjects were evaluated, with trials from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and India included. The overall effect of dietary fiber on blood pressure was a 1.15 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure, and a 1.65 mm Hg drop in diastolic blood pressure. The drops in blood pressure were more significant in those patients with hypertension, with trials greater than or equal to eight weeks in duration, and in trials with fiber intake of 7.2-18.9 gm/day.

Therefore weight reduction and increased dietary fiber intake may be effective ways to help lower blood pressure, particularly in those who are currently diagnosed and being treated for hypertension. While certainly not a replacement for traditional hypertension therapy, losing weight and increasing fiber intake seem like simple lifestyle changes that could yield important benefits.

“One way to get high blood pressure is to go mountain climbing over molehills.”–  Earl Wilson

(Source- Journal of Hypertension, 2005, Vol 23 No. 3.  Hypertension, November 2003)

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.

Tea Lowers Bad Cholesterol

April 21st is National Tea Day in the UK, and this post is the second in recognition of this important day. This post will examine research regarding black tea and cholesterol.

Tea remains one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages. It is estimated that the size of the global tea market is more than $70 billion. While coffee remains more popular than tea in the US, Americans still drink their fair share of tea, averaging over 8 gallons per capita consumption. Nearly a quarter of Americans drink tea daily.

A group of researchers in China investigated the relationship between black tea consumption and cholesterol parameters. They performed a review and meta-analysis of ten studies, which included over 400 participants.

The researchers discovered that the consumption of black tea led to a significant reduction in LDL concentration. LDL is the low density or so-called “bad cholesterol”. LDL contributes to the build-up of fat in the arteries, or atherosclerosis.

Given the possible reduction in “bad cholesterol”, consider tea as a healthy beverage choice. And celebrate National Tea Day!

“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.” – Jane Austen

(Source- Clinical Nutrition, 2014)

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.

 

 

Enjoy a Cup of Tea Today (or three)

April 21st is National Tea Day in the UK, and in recognition of this today’s post will examine research regarding tea consumption and cardiovascular outcomes.

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Tea is derived from Carmellia sinesis leaves, and leaf buds. Carmellia sinesis is an evergreen shrub or small tree, which grows at elevation in warmer weather climates. Approximately 40% of the global tea production comes from China, with India producing about 22%. Other leading producers include Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Turkey is the largest per capita consumer of tea, at 5 1/2 pounds per person per year. According to statistics from the Tea Association of the USA, Americans consumed over 84 billion servings of tea last year. Over 84% of that was black tea, with about 15% being green tea.

Tea is purported to have a range of health benefits, from cardiovascular benefits, to lowering risks of certain cancers, to improvement in cognitive health. Tea is composed of hundreds of bioactive compounds, including flavonoids. Flavonoids are thought to have antioxidant properties, and may be the source of some of the beneficial properties of tea.

Researchers in China performed a meta-analysis of published prospective observational studies to examine the relationship between tea consumption and various cardiovascular outcomes. Twenty-two different studies were included in the analysis, including participants from the US, Europe, and Asia. More than 850,000 subjects were enrolled in these various trials.

Researchers discovered that increased tea consumption was associated with a reduction in cardiac death, cerebral infarction, heart disease, intracerebral hemorrhage and stroke. More importantly, tea consumption was associated with a reduction in total mortality. These results were with a serving of three cups of tea per day.

This was a robust meta-analysis, with a large number of study participants, spanning the globe. Given these results, consider tea as a healthy beverage choice, and salute National Tea Day!

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”  Henry James

(Source- European Journal of Epidemiology (2015) 30)

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 Helps With IBS

April is designated IBS Awareness Month, and in recognition of this today’s post will review a recently published study which examined acupuncture for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

IBS afflicts up to 12% of Americans, with women nearly twice as likely to be affected, according to data from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating. IBS is often subdivided into either a constipative variety (IBS-C) or a diarrhea predominant variety (IBS-D). The cause of IBS is not clear, but what is clear is that IBS can become quite debilitating.

Medications that are often prescribed for IBS may be minimally effective, and/or have bothersome side effects, so patients with IBS are often considering alternative therapies, including acupuncture.

An international research group including researchers from China, Hong Kong, the UK and Australia recently performed a meta-analysis of the existing research studies regarding acupuncture for IBS. They included a total of 27 random controlled trials in their analysis, encompassing over 2100 subjects, ages 18-77 years. Therapies included in the studies were acupuncture, electroacupuncture, moxibustion and Geshanxiaoyao (a Chinese herbal formula), and a combination of these. The period of follow-up of the various trials ranged from two to seven weeks.

After performing the meta-analysis researchers discovered that the combination of needle acupuncture and Geshanxiaoyao formula had the highest probability of being the best choice for improving global IBS symptoms. The sensitivity analysis indicated that moxibustion, followed by needle acupuncture plus moxibustion, had the highest probability for improving global IBS symptoms. In addition, importantly, no adverse side effects from acupuncture or the other alternative therapies was noted.

Given that many who suffer from IBS do not do well with conventional treatments or do not tolerate them, perhaps in those cases acupuncture or moxibustion should be given consideration.

“Work hard, trust in God, and keep your bowels open.”–  Oliver Cromwell

(Source- Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 2019, Vol. 12)

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 and health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Increasing Glucose Leads to Heart Attacks and Strokes

Today is Diabetes Alert Day, and in recognition our post will review a recently published study on change in fasting glucose levels and subsequent risk of heart attack, stroke and all-cause mortality.

A reasearch group in Korea analyzed data from over 260,000 Korean adults enrolled in the Korean Health Insurance Service. These were adults over 40 years old, and with no diagnosis of diabetes or cardiovascular disease at time of enrollment in the study. The study included both men and women.

At initial enrollment, subjects were divided into two groups- a normal fasting glucose group (glucose <100 mg/dL) and an impaired fasting glucose group (glucose 100-125.9 mg/dL). Data such as smoking status, body mass index, blood pressure, physical activity level, total cholesterol, and alcohol consumption was also collected.

The subjects had a second examination in two years. At this second visit, any changes in fasting glucose between the two visits was noted. On average, these participants were then followed for up to eight years. Data on the number of heart attacks, strokes, and all-cause mortality were collected.

Researchers discovered that those participants who shifted from the normal fasting glucose group into diabetes (glucose >126 mg/dL) were associated with a much higher risk of stroke and all-cause mortality, compared to the participants who remained in the normal glucose group. In addition, those participants initially diagnosed with impaired fasting glucose who later moved into diabetes had a much higher risk of heart attack and all-cause mortality.

The statistics for diabetes are a cause for alarm- it is estimated that the total cost for diabetes in 2017 was $327 billion. About 84 million Americans are currently in the pre-diabetic category, with one of three adults age twenty and older now being pre-diabetic. Given the results of this very robust study, with over two million person-years of follow-up, serious consideration should be given to those interventions which help those who currently have normal or impaired glucose levels from progressing into diabetes.

“No one had ever told me junk food was bad for me. Four years of medical school, and four years of internship and residency, and I never thought anything was wrong with eating sweet rolls and doughnuts, and potatoes, and breads, and sweets.”– Robert Atkins

(Source- Cardiovascular Diabetology (2018) 17:51)

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.

 

 

Good Oral Hygiene May Prevent High Blood Pressure

In recognition of World Oral Health Day on March 20th today’s post will examine the relationship between periodontal disease and prehypertension, as well as hypertension.

According to statistics from the CDC, more than 25% of the adults in the U.S. have untreated tooth decay. In addition, almost half of U.S. adults have some signs of gum disease. Periodontitis is defined as the inflammation of the gums and support structures of the teeth. It is caused by certain bacteria, and in turn these bacteria cause inflammation. It is thought that perhaps if this inflammatory state becomes chronic, it may have implications for inflammation elsewhere in the body, such as in cardiovascular health.

A research group in Japan performed a prospective cohort study on a group of university students, examining whether periodontal disease was related to the development of prehypertension, or to hypertension. Over 2500 students enrolled in the study, ages 18-27 years.

Dentists assessed the oral health of each student. Periodontal health was evaluated using the Community Periodontal Index (CPI), which is commonly used to measure periodontal disease. The CPI is an objective measure of periodontal health, and also suggests the proper treatment for the given CPI score. In addition to the CPI, the dentists also measured the Bleeding Upon Probing (BOP), which is felt to be a simple way to assess inflammation. While dentists assessed oral health, the resting blood pressure and body mass index of the subjects was also measured. The participants also completed a questionnaire, which assessed both dental and general health measures.

The Japanese university students were followed over a period of three years. What the researchers discovered was that the risk of developing hypertension over the three years was significantly associated with periodontal disease.

Given the results of this study, consider practicing good oral health as a way to lower your risk for developing high blood pressure. And don’t forget to thank your dentists and hygienists on World Oral Health Day, or the next time you see them.

“I told my dentist my teeth are going yellow, he told me to wear a brown tie.” – Rodney Dangerfield

(Source- American Journal of Hypertension, March 2016)

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.

 

Eat Your Veggies- Help Your Heart

In recognition of registered dietician nutritionist day, our post today will look at how some dietary factors impact cardiovascular health.

A recent study examined a group of Swedish women and their dietary habits. Nearly 39,000 women completed a 96 item food frequency questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about how certain food or beverages had been consumed over the prior year. Researchers then calculated estimates of the total antioxidant capacity of each respondents diet. Four categories including fruit and vegetable consumption, whole grain consumption, and coffee consumption were used. The participants in the study were followed for approximately ten years. Women in the highest ranking group of total antioxidant capacity of diet, compared to the lowest ranking group, had a 20% lower risk of a heart attack.

This study is an interesting one as it examines a group of women. Women have been typically underrepresented in medical research. This was also a large study of nearly 39,000 subjects, and large is better in this regard.

Finally, which one of us has not encouraged our children to “eat more vegetables”? Now we can add that it is good for their heart as well!

“I eat more vegetables than the average vegetarian.”– Dr. Robert Atkins

(Source- American Journal of Medicine, Vol 125, No. 10, Oct. 2012)

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.

 

 

 

Sauna Good For Mental Health

This is the third and final post in recognition of Helsinki Sauna Day, which is March 9th. We will again look at some of the benefits of sauna baths, this time in the realm of mental health.

The sauna continues to be an important part of Finnish culture. The sauna cuts across socio-economic classes- the prime minister has a sauna at his/her disposal as do most companies. Saunas are felt to be very egalitarian.

This particular study again utilizes the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease cohort and is a prospective study. Over 2100 men completed the study, ages 42-61 years. None of the men had any history of psychotic disorders at the time of enrollment. Participants completed a questionnaire that assessed smoking history, use of alcohol, physical activity levels, medical and medication history. The weekly frequency and duration of sauna bathing sessions was also collected. The men were followed for nearly 25 years, on average.

Results of the study showed that frequent sauna bathing is strongly associated with a decreased risk of psychosis, in middle age males.

It would be helpful to carry out a similar study in females. It would also be useful to perform the study amongst a more diverse population, such as we have in the United States.

It is felt that the sauna baths promote relaxation and decrease stress, and perhaps in doing so increase mental health. Saunas are also an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, which also promotes wellness. Given these results, and the low risk nature of sauna bathing, perhaps you may want to consider incorporating this as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

“A sauna- the poor man’s pharmacy.”–  Finnish Proverb

(Source- Medical Principles and Practice, Sept. 2018)

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.