Tag Archives: cardiovascular disease

Eat Nuts to Improve Your Blood Lipids and Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

natural cashews, cashew apple

Cashews fresh off the tree. They’re actually fruits, not nuts.

Most of the diets I recommend to my patients include nuts because they are so often linked to improved cardiovascular health in scientific studies. Walnuts are associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in women, and established type 2 diabetics see improved blood sugar control and lower cholesterols when adding nuts to their diets.

Nut consumption lowers total and LDL cholesterol levels, and if triglycerides are elevated, nuts lower them, too. Those changes would tend to reduce heart disease.

Conner Middelmann-Whitney has a good nutty article at Psychology Today.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH; Keiji Oda, MA, MPH; Emilio Ros, MD, PhD. Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels: A Pooled Analysis of 25 Intervention Trials. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010, Vol. 170 No. 9, pp 821-827. Abstract:

Background  Epidemiological studies have consistently associated nut consumption with reduced risk for coronary heart disease. Subsequently, many dietary intervention trials investigated the effects of nut consumption on blood lipid levels. The objectives of this study were to estimate the effects of nut consumption on blood lipid levels and to examine whether different factors modify the effects.

Methods:  We pooled individual primary data from 25 nut consumption trials conducted in 7 countries among 583 men and women with normolipidemia and hypercholesterolemia who were not taking lipid-lowering medications. In a pooled analysis, we used mixed linear models to assess the effects of nut consumption and the potential interactions.

Results:  With a mean daily consumption of 67 g of nuts [about 2 ounces or 2 palms-ful], the following estimated mean reductions were achieved: total cholesterol concentration (10.9 mg/dL [5.1% change]), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration (LDL-C) (10.2 mg/dL [7.4% change]), ratio of LDL-C to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration (HDL-C) (0.22 [8.3% change]), and ratio of total cholesterol concentration to HDL-C (0.24 [5.6% change]) (P < .001 for all) (to convert all cholesterol concentrations to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.0259). Triglyceride levels were reduced by 20.6 mg/dL (10.2%) in subjects with blood triglyceride levels of at least 150 mg/dL (P < .05) but not in those with lower levels (to convert triglyceride level to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.0113). The effects of nut consumption were dose related, and different types of nuts had similar effects on blood lipid levels. The effects of nut consumption were significantly modified by LDL-C, body mass index, and diet type: the lipid-lowering effects of nut consumption were greatest among subjects with high baseline LDL-C and with low body mass index and among those consuming Western diets.

Conclusion:  Nut consumption improves blood lipid levels in a dose-related manner, particularly among subjects with higher LDL-C or with lower BMI.

Dietary Cholesterol Unrelated to Cardiovascular Disease!

…according to this article at American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Heart attack on a plate? Think again

Heart attack on a plate? Think again

This is quite contrary to the  party line spread by public health authorities for the last 40 years.

Enjoy your eggs! (If you can afford them.)

Still Taking Fish Oil Supplements? Think Again

Salmon is one the the cold-water fatty fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids

Salmon is one the the cold-water fatty fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids

I’ve been sitting on this research report a few years, waiting until I had time to dig into it. That time never came. The full report is free online (thanks, British Medical Journal!). I scanned the full paper to learn that nearly all the studies in this meta-analysis used fish oil supplements, not the cold-water fatty fish the I recommend my patients eat twice a week. If you’re taking fish oil supplements on your doctor’s advice, don’t stop without consulting her.

Here’s the abstract:

Objective: To review systematically the evidence for an effect of long chain and shorter chain omega 3 fatty acids on total mortality, cardiovascular events, and cancer.

Data sources: Electronic databases searched to February 2002; authors contacted and bibliographies of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) checked to locate studies.

Review methods Review of RCTs of omega 3 intake for 3 6 months in adults (with or without risk factors for cardiovascular disease) with data on a relevant outcome. Cohort studies that estimated omega 3 intake and related this to clinical outcome during at least 6 months were also included. Application of inclusion criteria, data extraction, and quality assessments were performed independently in duplicate.

Results: Of 15 159 titles and abstracts assessed, 48 RCTs (36 913 participants) and 41 cohort studies were analysed. The trial results were inconsistent. The pooled estimate showed no strong evidence of reduced risk of total mortality (relative risk 0.87, 95% confidence interval 0.73 to 1.03) or combined cardiovascular events (0.95, 0.82 to 1.12) in participants taking additional omega 3 fats. The few studies at low risk of bias were more consistent, but they showed no effect of omega 3 on total mortality (0.98, 0.70 to 1.36) or cardiovascular events (1.09, 0.87 to 1.37). When data from the subgroup of studies of long chain omega 3 fats were analysed separately, total mortality (0.86, 0.70 to 1.04; 138 events) and cardiovascular events (0.93, 0.79 to 1.11) were not clearly reduced. Neither RCTs nor cohort studies suggested increased risk of cancer with a higher intake of omega 3 (trials: 1.07, 0.88 to 1.30; cohort studies: 1.02, 0.87 to 1.19), but clinically important harm could not be excluded.

Conclusion: Long chain and shorter chain omega 3 fats do not have a clear effect on total mortality, combined cardiovascular events, or cancer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Hooper, Lee et al. Risks and benefits of omega 3 fats for mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review. BMJ  2006;332:752-760 (1 April), doi:10.1136/bmj.38755.366331.2F (published 24 March 2006).

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Also Cuts Cancer Risk By Half

…according to a report in MedPageToday.

I'm still not convinced that severe sodium restriction is necessary or even possible for most people

I’m still not convinced that severe sodium restriction is necessary or even possible for most people

The American Heart Association has published guidelines aiming to reduce premature death and illness caused by cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes.

The guidelines focus on seven factors critical to cardiovascular health:

  • smoking
  • blood sugar
  • blood pressure
  • physical activity
  • total cholesterol
  • body mass index (BMI)
  • ideal diet

Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities study (almost two decades’ follow-up), researchers found that those who maintained goals for six or seven of the American Heart Association critical factors had a 51% lower risk of cancer compared with those meeting no goals.

For detailed information about the specific goals, click here.

As you might expect, I was curious about what the American Heart Association considered a heart-healthy diet.  I quote the AHA summary:

The recommendation for the definition of the dietary goals and metric, therefore, is as follows: “In the context of a diet that is appropriate in energy balance, pursuing an overall dietary pattern that is consistent with a DASH [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension]-type eating plan, including but not limited to:

  • Fruits and vegetables: ≥ 4.5 cups per day
  • Fish: ≥ two 3.5-oz servings per week (preferably oily fish)
  • Fiber-rich whole grains (≥ 1.1 g of fiber per 10 g of carbohydrate): ≥ three 1-oz-equivalent servings per day
  • Sodium: < 1500 mg per day
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: ≤ 450 kcal (36 oz) per week

Intake goals are expressed for a 2000-kcal diet and should be scaled accordingly for other levels of caloric intake. For example, ≤ 450 calories per week represents only up to one quarter of discretionary calories (as recommended) coming from any types of sugar intake for a 2000-kcal diet.

Diet recommendations are more complicated than that; read the full report for details.  Only 5% of study participants ate the “ideal diet.”  The Mediterranean diet easily meets four out of five of those diet goals; you’d have to be extremely careful to reach the sodium goal on most any diet.

Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are among the top causes of death in Western societies.  Adhering to the guidelines above may kill two birds with one stone.

Steve Parker, M.D.

High Calcium Intake Linked to Higher Risk of Death In Swedish Women

Six of every 10 middle-aged and older women in the U.S. are taking calcium supplements, hoping to keep their bones strong and thereby avoid osteoporotic fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist.  A new study in the British Medical Journal suggests that high calcium consumption, whether from food or supplements, increases the risk of death.

The researchers wrote: 

In this study of women in the Swedish mammography cohort, a high calcium intake (>1400 mg/day) was associated with an increased rate of mortality, including death from cardiovascular disease. The increase was moderate with a high dietary calcium intake without supplement use, but the combination of a high dietary calcium intake and calcium tablet use resulted in a more pronounced increase in mortality. For most women with lower intakes we observed only modest differences in risk.

 

 

Huge U.S. Study Confirms Health and Longevity Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

This is a reprint of the very first blog post I ever did, from December 24, 2007, at my old Advanced Mediterranean Diet Blog.  

We now have results of the first U.S. study on mortality and the Mediterranean dietary pattern.  380,000 people, aged 50-71, were surveyed on their dietary habits and scored on their conformity to the Mediterranean diet.  They were visited again 10 years later.  As you would expect, some of them died.  12,105 to be exact: 5985 from cancer, 3451 from cardiovascular disease, 2669 from other causes.  However, the people with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had better survival overall, and specifically better odds of avoiding death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Compared to the people with low conformity to the Mediterranean diet, the high conformers were 15-20% less likely to die over the 10 years of the study.  The study authors, funded by the National Institutes of Health, noted eight similar studies in Europe and one in Australia with similar results.

Nothing to do with this post…I just like this picture

Once again, my promotion of the Mediterranean diet is vindicated by the scientific literature.  I’m not aware of any other diet that can prove anywhere near this degree of health benefit.  If you are, please share

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Mitrou, Panagiota N., et al.  Mediterranean Dietary Pattern and Prediction of All-Cause Mortality in a US Population,  Archives of Internal Medicine, 167 (2007): 2461-2468.


Fat or Fit: Which Is Healthier?

Men live longer if they improve or maintain their fitness level over time, according to research out of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Part of that improved longevity stems from reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.

Compared with men who lose fitness with aging, those who maintained their fitness had a 30% lower risk of death; those who improved their fitness had a 40% lower risk of death. Fitness was judged by performance on a maximal treadmill exercise stress test.

Body mass index over time didn’t have any effect on all-cause mortality but was linked to higher risk of cardiovascular death. The researchers, however, figured that losses in fitness were the more likely explanation for higher cardiovascular deaths. In other words, as men age, it’s more important to maintain or improve fitness than to lose excess body fat or avoid overweight.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Lee, Duck-chul, et al. Long-term effects of changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and bodly mass index on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Circulation, 124 (2011): 2,483-2,490