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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Memory and the Mediterranean Diet

More good news about the Mediterranean Diet -- Researchers from Greece have reported in the journal Neurology that adherence to a Mediterranean Diet can significantly improve memory functioning.

You will recall that the Mediterranean Diet has been consistently shown to be the most "heart healthy" diet.

Key components of the Mediterranean diet:
- 2 servings of "oily" fish per week
- nuts (almonds and walnuts)
- lots of fruits and veggies
- low fat or nonfat milk products
- red wine
- low quantities if red meat
- *** frequent exercise

Beetroot juice

Researchers from the journal Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association have shown that in a "proof of concept" study, the use of beetroot juice can significantly lower blood pressure. They speculate that this is due to increased inorganic nitrite ingestion leading to an increase blood level and tissue level of nitric oxide.

It's still much too early to begin prescribing this therapy for patients. However, given that many patients suffer from difficult to control BP, a simple change in diet to include foods high in inorganic nitrites may be shown to be helpful in the future.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gut Bacteria and Heart Disease -- the saga continues

On 4/11/2013, I wrote about a recent trial published by Dr Hazen. In this trial, Dr Hazen reported that intestinal bacteria convert carnitine (found in red meat) into a metabolite called TMAO which has been shown to be atherogenic. Dr Hazen is now reporting that similar finding occur within the gut with ingestion of lecithin found in eggs.

The importance of these two studies is not that red meat or eggs can lead to heart disease, but the take home message is that the bacteria in our gut play a possible important role in our development of heart disease.

While we know that controlling blood glucose levels, blood pressure and lipid levels are very important in reducing an individuals risk for the development of atherosclerosis, there remains a significant residual risk. Dr Hazen's work has begun to show us that measuring TMAO in the blood, may help us predict further cardiovascular risk. Even more so, further research in this field may lead to new pathways for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.

For now, it is important to understand that more research on this topic will definitely be undertaken. Also, a well balanced Mediterranean diet with liberal/limited portions of animal based products is still the most heart healthy way to eat.

I will continue to report back to you on this topic whenever new data is released.

Sugared Soda = BAD

theheart.org is reporting on new research that a soda a day ups diabetes risk by 20%

Childhood Obesity

I am becoming more and more interested in understanding childhood obesity. I have been learning about the its complex cause and about some strategies to help prevent and treat this growing problem in America.

Last week, I attended a symposium on the topic and came away more determined then ever to help fight this problem.

If kids continue to gain weight and get less exercise, there is the possibility that given obesity's co-existing cardiovascular conditions (atheroslcerosis, HTN, high cholesterol, DM, stroke and sleep apnea) --our children's generation may be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parent's generation. Humbling!!!

A recent study just reported two interesting facts:

  1. kids who were raised in homes where there was significant parental pressure to finish the food on their plate were at increased risk of being overweight
  2. the more a parent placed restrictions on certain food items, the more interested the child become in consuming that food
Take home message
  1. Be careful not to encourage your child to over eat. Instead, encourage kids to learn to listen to their own bodies.
  2. Encourage kids to eat all foods in moderation

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Walking vs Runninng? Which is more "heart healthy"

A study of almost 50,000 Americans has found that "brisk walking" to be just as effective as running for reducing known risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, this only holds true if the expended energy is the same between the runners and the walkers. Remember, in the same amount of time, runners run further and expend more energy than walkers. Therefore, if you chose walking over running, understand that you will need to exercise for longer than if you went for a run to get the equivalent health benefit.
IMPORTANTLY: Irrespective of the type of exercise, the more people exercised, the better their health.

Red Meat and Heart Disease: What's more dangerous saturated fat in the meat or the bacteria in your gut?

Research now shows a possible new link between red meat consumption and the development of heart disease.
It has been known for some time that high consumption of saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, who led the new study recently published in the journal Nature Medicine, has accumulated evidence for a surprising new explanation of why red meat may contribute to heart disease.

Dr Hazen has found that the compound carnitine, which is found in red meat, is broken down by bacteria in the intestine to a metabolite called TMAO. TMAO leads to an enhanced capacity to deposit cholesterol in the cells of our artery walls.

Do all people have these bacteria in their gut? Dr Hazen has shown that when meat eaters consume red meat, they get a burst of TMAO in their blood stream. However, when vegan and vegetarians eat the same quantity of red meat, no TMAO can be found in their blood stream. It appears that our gut flora changes based on what we eat. If we do not eat red meat for at least as year (as the vegan and vegetarians) we lose the bacteria in our gut that feed on the carnitine and spew out TMAO. If we regularly eat red meat, we are regularly providing these bacteria with food and energy, they continue to flourish and spew out TMAO with each red meat meal -- increasing deposition of cholesterol in our arteries.
These findings have significant short terms and long term implications.
In the short term, we now understand just how and why it is important to limit or eliminate red meat from our diets. The less red meat we eat, the less TMAO producing bacteria we have in our gut, the less bacteria - the less TMAO in our blod and the less build up of plaque in our arteries.
In the long term, researchers may be able to develop a pill that will kill off the specific TMAO producing bacteria. This would dramatically increase the safety of eating red meat. Remember, red meat is not all bad -- it is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

High Blood Pressure

CardioSmart (@CardioSmart)

4/7/13, 2:31 PM

Globally, elevated BP is reported to cause 51% of stroke deaths & 45% of coronary heart disease deaths #WorldHealthDay #CutRisks