A review and analysis published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that eating walnuts could improve blood lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) without causing weight gain or increasing blood pressure.
Tag Archives: cholesterol
Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Following is a super discussion of the relationship between body weight and heart health from Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
Excess body weight increases risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and many other illnesses. However, not everyone who is overweight or obese develops these illnesses; and simply having a “normal” body weight or body mass index (BMI)-a measure of body weight relative to height-is no guarantee of low risk. “The relationship between BMI and risk for CVD and death is complex,” says Edward Saltzman, MD, academic dean for education at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Elevated BMI does increase CVD risk, but risk is also impacted by things like body-fat percentage, waist circumference, age, duration of obesity, race, ethnicity, gender, and other genetic factors,” as well as lifestyle elements such as smoking and level of physical activity. Continue reading
Nicola McKeown, PhD, associate professor at the Friedman School, answers: “Beans (and other foods high in viscous soluble fiber, such as apples and barley) can be helpful for lowering blood cholesterol levels. This type of fiber thickens and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. The gel traps bile acids which are needed for the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. The trapped bile acids are eliminated from our bodies via our feces. Once bile acids are excreted, this signals our liver to make more bile acids, which requires cholesterol, thus leaving less circulating cholesterol available to be incorporated into unhealthy low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol).
“In addition to beans, many plant foods are good sources of soluble fibers, including apples, pears, plums, and citrus fruits, oats and oat-based products, barley, shitake mushrooms, and seaweed. Another viscous soluble fiber, psyllium is added to various foods such as ready-to-eat cereals and is also available in concentrated form as an isolated fiber in over-the-counter products such as Metamucil (which should only be taken under the direction of your physician). A diet rich in a variety of beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will deliver a wide array of cholesterol-lowering soluble fibers.”
I must confess to a bit of a bias when it comes to egg consumption. Back when I worked for Reuters, I covered the egg futures market on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I spoke with egg industry people every day. They consumed eggs regularly as did I, with no ill effects. I like eggs and their food value is excellent.
A team of researchers from the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences found the answer to whether eggs are good or bad for heart health by analyzing data from three large, long-term multinational studies. It seems about one egg a day is fine.
The results suggest there is no harm from consuming eggs. Given that the majority of individuals in the study consumed one or fewer eggs per day, it would be safe to consume this level, says Mahshid Dehghan, first author and a PHRI investigator. Continue reading
The most comprehensive analysis of its kind suggests that there is a strong link between non-HDL cholesterol levels and long-term risk for cardiovascular disease in people aged under 45 years, not just at older ages., according to The Lancet.
- Study is the most comprehensive analysis of long-term risk for cardiovascular disease related to non-high-density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol – including almost 400,000 people from 19 countries who were followed for up to 43.5 years (median 13.5 years follow-up) between 1970 to 2013.
- This longer-term evidence may be particularly important in people aged under 45 years.
- Depending on cholesterol level and number of cardiovascular risk factors, men and women aged under 45 years have a 12-43% or 6-24% risk (respectively) of having fatal or non-fatal heart disease or stroke by the age of 75 years.
- If non-HDL cholesterol levels were halved, women and men younger than 45 years with starting levels of non-HDL cholesterol between 3.7-4.8 mmol/liter and who had two additional cardiovascular risk factors could reduce their risk from around 16% to 4%, and from around 29% to 6%, respectively.
The observational and modelling study which used individual-level data from almost 400,000 people, published in The Lancet, extends existing research because it suggests that increasing levels of non-HDL cholesterol may predict long-term cardiovascular risk by the age of 75 years. Past risk estimates of this kind are based on 10-year follow-up data.
As I have written numerous times here, I advocate the avocado. Just type in a v o c a d o in the SEARCH box at the right to read further on them.
New research from Penn State suggests that eating one avocado a day may help keep “bad cholesterol” at bay.
According to the researchers, bad cholesterol can refer to both oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and small, dense LDL particles.
In a randomized, controlled feeding study, the researchers found that eating one avocado a day was associated with lower levels of LDL (specifically small, dense LDL particles) and oxidized LDL in adults with overweight or obesity. Continue reading
I count myself as one of those confused about whether and to what extent eggs are a healthy addition to my diet. Love the protein, not so thrilled with the fats… Here is what the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter has to say about it.
In a lot of ways fiber reminds me of what Mark Twain said about the weather. “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” So, here is an excellent rundown on fiber from the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
It is recommended that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American currently gets about half that amount. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dietary fiber is a “nutrient of public health concern,” meaning this low level of intake could actually be detrimental to our health. So, it’s potentially good news that food manufacturers are adding fiber to processed foods. But is that fiber as good for our health as fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains?
Health Benefits of Fiber. According to a research review co-authored by Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with Tufts’ Nutritional Epidemiology program and an associate professor at the Friedman School, there is reproducible evidence that dietary fiber found naturally in foods has a role in lowering cholesterol, improving glycemic control, and preventing constipation. And fiber may have more health benefits as well. “Research in this field is continually expanding,” says McKeown. “We’ve only begun to consider things like how the gut microbiota utilize different types of dietary fibers to potentially impact health.” Continue reading
Full disclosure: I love oatmeal and have a bowl every morning when I come in from riding my bike. Great with blueberries, broken walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and light brown sugar.
Q. How do cereals like oatmeal reduce LDL cholesterol? To what extent does oatmeal lower cholesterol?
A. Helen Rasmussen, PhD, a senior research dietitian in the Metabolic Research Unit at the HNRCA, answers: “The soluble fiber in many fruits, vegetables, and grains – called soluble because it dissolves in water – is known to slightly lower blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
“Normally, the liver uses cholesterol to make bile acid, which helps to break down dietary fats in the small intestine. After the bile is finished doing its job, the body recycles it. However, soluble fiber prevents bile from being recycled. In response, the liver grabs more cholesterol from the bloodstream and uses it to make bile.
“Studies suggest that soluble fiber can lower LDL cholesterol slightly. According to one study, adding 3 grams of soluble fiber from oats (3 servings of oatmeal, 28 grams each) to your diet can reduce your cholesterol by a few points – for example, from 100 to 97 milligrams per deciliter.So, if your LDL is significantly elevated, fiber alone won’t solve the problem.
“But fiber is important for other reasons. Whole foods that people eat to get fiber are also nutritious in other ways. The benefits include increased insulin sensitivity and lower triglycerides.
“You can get fiber from a variety of whole foods and grains. For example, an apple, a half-cup of cooked carrots or broccoli, two slices of whole grain bread, or a half-cup serving of whole-grain breakfast cereal or cooked oatmeal all provide 1 gram of soluble fiber.”
I have tried for years to cut down my reliance on protein from red meat. Nuts and seeds are often suggested as an alternative source that I have used. So, I was glad to run across this item.
Q. Are flaxseed crackers nutritious, and can they help lower cholesterol? Is the question asked by the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter.
A. Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist at the HNRCA, answers: “Like other seeds, flaxseeds provide both soluble and insoluble fiber, and they are also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid which may have anti-inflammatory properties.”
“It is the soluble fiber inside the seed that helps lower cholesterol. Processing the seeds by grinding or soaking in water makes the fiber easier to digest and helps release nutrients for absorption. The insoluble fiber in the tough outer coating of the seed helps create stool mass and plays an important role in bowel health. Foods made with whole flaxseeds, therefore, are more likely to help with constipation than to reduce high cholesterol.”
“The increasing number of flaxseed products appearing in the marketplace offer an alternative to whole-wheat products (which is particularly important for those with gluten intolerances) and, given the high fiber content of these products, I would say they are an excellent snack alternative to refined-grain products. Make sure you look at the labels to ensure products don’t contain a lot of sugar and that flaxseed is not just a minor ingredient.”
When I was a reporter on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, one of the markets I covered was the Shell Egg Futures market. In that capacity I spoke with egg industry people regularly and found myself eating eggs regularly. Being posted on the exchange floor, it was often handy for me to bring a couple of hard boiled eggs to have for lunch as I couldn’t really leave the Exchange during trading hours. I confess to being a big fan of the incredible edible egg.
Eggs and dairy products are excellent protein sources. Eggs were off the menu for many years for people with elevated cholesterol levels because of their high cholesterol content. However, the latest research has determined that dietary cholesterol (cholesterol from food) doesn’t actually raise blood cholesterol levels for most people, although the saturated fat found in most high-cholesterol foods might. Other research has shown that egg consumption is not significantly associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease or type 2 diabetes. Continue reading
Can I get an Amen?
People who bike regularly, either for pleasure or as a way to commute, appear to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, according to two separate studies published simultaneously in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation and Journal of the American Heart Association, the AHA/ASA’s Open Access Journal.
While structured cycling as part of a formal workout routine is already known to guard against cardiovascular illness, little is known about the effects of habitual biking done for leisure or as a way to commute. Together, the findings from the newly published studies suggest that leisure and commuter biking may be an important public health strategy in large-scale efforts to reduce cardiovascular risk.
In the Circulation study, 45,000 Danish adults (aged 50 to 65) who regularly biked for recreation or to commute had between 11 percent and 18 percent fewer heart attacks during a 20-year follow-up (1993-2013).
The analysis showed that as little as half an hour of biking per week provided some protection against coronary artery disease. Additionally, people who took up biking during the first five years the authors followed them had about a 25 percent lower risk of developing heart disease, compared with those who remained non-bikers in the subsequent 15-year period.
Researchers caution that their findings do not prove definitively that riding a bike for leisure or to and from work can prevent heart attacks. However, they say, the lower number of cardiovascular events observed among those who biked on a regular basis is a strong indicator that such activity can boost cardiovascular health.
“Finding time for exercise can be challenging for many people, so clinicians working in the field of cardiovascular risk prevention should consider promoting cycling as a mode of transportation,” said Anders Grøntved, M.Sc., M.P.H., Ph.D., senior study author and associate professor of physical activity epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark.
Researchers also tracked participants’ overall exercise habits, activity levels and frequency of bicycle riding, along with heart disease risk factors, such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, smoking, diet and alcohol consumption. Participants were asked to provide information about cycling habits at the onset of the study and once more in five years.
In all, there were 2,892 heart attacks during the 20-year follow-up. Researchers estimate that more than 7 percent of all heart attacks could have been averted by taking up cycling and keeping it up on a regular basis.
“Because recreational and commuter biking is an easy way to make physical activity part of one’s routine in a non-structured and informal fashion, based on the results, public health authorities, governments and employers ought to consider initiatives that promote bicycle riding as a way to support large-scale cardiovascular disease prevention efforts,” said Kim Blond, M.Sc, lead author and research assistant at the University of Southern Denmark.
The Journal of the American Heart Association study revealed that middle-aged and older Swedish adults who biked to work were less likely than non-bikers to be obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or pre-diabetes — all critical drivers of cardiovascular risk.
Researchers followed more than 20,000 people in their 40s, 50s and 60s over 10 years and monitored their commuting habits, weight, cholesterol levels, blood glucose and blood pressure.
At the beginning of the study, active commuters (biked to work) were 15 percent less likely to be obese, 13 percent less likely have high blood pressure, 15 percent less likely to have high cholesterol and 12 percent less likely to have pre-diabetes or diabetes, compared with passive commuters (used public transportation or drove to work).
During a follow-up exam 10 years later, the portion of study participants who switched from passive commuting to active commuting also had an improved risk profile. They were less likely to be obese, have diabetes, hypertension or elevated cholesterol, compared with non-bikers.
Collectively, at the 10-year follow-up, those who maintained biking or took up biking at some point had a 39-percent lower risk of obesity, 11 percent lower risk of high blood pressure, 20 percent lower risk of high cholesterol and 18 percent lower diabetes risk.
“We found active commuting, which has the additional advantages of being time-efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly is also great for your health,” said Paul Franks, Ph.D., senior study author, professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Lund University in Sweden and guest professor at Umeå University in Sweden. “The multiple advantages of active commuting over structured exercise may help clinicians convey a message that many patients will embrace more readily than being told to join a gym, go for a jog or join a sports team.”
Researchers noted that there was no minimum amount of time or distance required to reduce one’s risk, even though people who biked longer or more often experienced small additional gains in risk reduction.
Because the study was observational, it is difficult to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between improved cardiovascular health and commuter biking, but the findings do indicate a strong cardio-protective effect from cycling.
Based on their findings, researchers also estimated that maintaining biking habits or switching from passive commuting to biking may have prevented 24 percent of obesity cases, 6 percent of hypertension diagnoses, 13 percent of high cholesterol diagnoses, and 11 percent of the cases of diabetes.
“The really good news here is that it’s never too late to benefit from an active lifestyle,” Franks said. “People who switched from passive to active commuting saw considerable gains in their cardiovascular health.”
There seems to be a lot of pro-plant based diet info coming out of late. The old ‘meat and potatoes’ diets we grew up on in the ’50’s are being viewed in some doubt. Attitudes change as we learn more about health benefits. While I don’t mean to equate smoking with eating meat, I remember when my first wife was pregnant with our daughter in the 1960’s she said she was going to quit smoking till the baby was born. I thought that seemed really extreme at the time. These days no sane mom-to-be would consider ‘lighting up.’
Vegetarian, especially vegan, diets are associated with better cardiovascular health, according to a new review published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.
Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine looked at multiple clinical trials and observational studies and found strong and consistent evidence that plant-based dietary patterns can prevent and reverse atherosclerosis and decrease other markers of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, including blood pressure, blood lipids, and weight. Continue reading
I thought this was an excellent explanation of good health in general and aging in particular.
This article was first published in Rotary News on April 2018.
There are two aspects to ageing. Your chronological age is the calculated number of years you have lived. Your biological or “real” age refers to the current condition of your physiological body at its very basic cellular level. These two are not necessarily one and the same. An individual may be chronologically 30, but might have the body and mind of a 55-year-old. He could be overweight, lethargic, with poorly conditioned muscles, poor memory, productivity and low stamina. He may be stressed, depressed, with a laundry list of medical conditions and pills to manage them.
On the contrary, someone could be 50 years old chronologically but have an actual age of a 35-year-old in terms of energy, stamina, strength, and pure joi de vivre.
Factors that ascertain your Real or Biological age
These are blood pressure, heart rate…
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General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Newman, Angela Davis, Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Van Halen, Jules Feiffer and Ellen DeGeneres were all born on January 26.
Oh, yes, and one not so famous. It’s also my birthday. I am now 78 years old. I am happy to say that I feel great and am healthier than I was 20 years ago when I toiled in the working world.
This is from my birthday blog post last year:
One of the main reasons I feel like I have things so together is this blog. I started writing it in March of 2010 with a partner who has since left for other pursuits. From the beginning, I discovered a focus. At first it was simply trying to keep my weight down. I learned portion control and serving size. This Italian guy was surprised to learn that a “serving” of pasta was not a 10 inch plate heaped with spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce. No, a serving of pasta is about the size of a baseball. Incredibly, that was a revelation to me. But I put the information to use. I began to reduce my portions accordingly. I am not going to recount all the lessons I learned in the past nearly eight years, but if you want to get control of your weight, check out my Page – How to Lose Weight – and Keep it Off. Continue reading
Coconut oil has been all the rage for some time. Endorsed by a number of celebrities as a superfood, this tropical-smelling fat — often liberally applied to our skin and scalps — is a favorite of many. But the question remains: is it healthful or not?
Fat suffered a bad reputation for a long time and we were told to opt for low-fat options instead. But the tides turned eventually, prompting us to see fats in a new light.
Our lives became simpler. We learned how to avoid bad (saturated and hydrogenated) fats and eat good (unsaturated) ones to keep our tickers and arteries healthy.
Then the humble coconut came along in 2003, and the waters were once again muddied. Seen by some as a superfood but recently labeled by the American Heart Association (AHA) as part of the pool of unhealthful fats, the controversy goes on.
So, what are the scientific facts behind the coconut oil hype, and what are the latest developments?
Secret ingredient: ‘Medium-chain’ fatty acids
Many of the purported health claims surrounding coconut oil stem from research published in 2003 by Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D. — a professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City, NY. Continue reading