Friday, June 13, 2008

Salmon and Sunshine Saves The Heart

That may be a stretch ... but not by much.

In this study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, analyzed medical records and blood samples from 454 men, aged 40 to 75, who had a nonfatal heart attack or fatal heart disease, and compared them to 900 men who had no history of cardiovascular disease.

Men with a vitamin D deficiency (<15>30 nanograms per milliliter of blood).
The best source of Vitamin D comes from the sun. Yes, we have to be careful about overexposure just like we must guard against overeating, overdrinking, overextending ourselves in any aspect of our lives. So don't let this deter you from getting outside to "dose up" on your critical Vitamin D levels -- just be careful if you have risk factors for sun exposure.
The next best source is your food. Deep water fish, salmon, mackrel, and sardines are excellent sources, as is dairy. No one is suggesting to drink milk with your salmon filet, but a yogurt in the morning (throw on some blueberries, too!!) combined with a dinner of salmon and perhaps a tomato basil salad, would be exceptional:
  • for delicious meals
  • and thus, for your Vitamin D levels
  • and thus, for your heart

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is the Low-Salt Diet worth its salt?

Is nothing sacred? Can we count on no single facet of health advice?

Listen to this stunning finding:

Surprising new research suggests that a diet low in salt may be worse for your heart than eating lots of salt.

In a study of 8,700 Americans, the 25 percent of the population who ate the least salt were 80 percent more likely to die of cardiac disease than the 25 percent who ate the most salt (even after the researchers adjusted their statistics to account for the effect of cardiac risk factors like smoking and diabetes).

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, doesn't confirm that a low-salt diet itself is bad for the heart. But it does say that people who eat the least salt suffer from the highest rates of death from cardiac disease.

Yes, this result doesn’t prove that less salt on your corn on the cob will lead to heart attack, but according to Cohen, "the main argument for reducing salt in prevention of heart disease has been that there's a relationship between higher sodium and higher blood pressure," he said. "There have been many studies of this relationship, but when one actually looks at the numbers, the average blood pressure difference associated with quite a bit of sodium intake is very modest."

The bottom line returns to moderation. If you have normal blood pressure, you should not be worried about salt in moderation. I’m certain a flurry of studies are going to follow this one, to find out just how much this study is worth it’s salt.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Failure Reveals Our Culture of Health

Failure can tell you as much about yourself as the object of the lapse. Two large Type 2 diabetes trials were just presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association. Each began with a theory that was obviously correct, but somehow failed to give the expected answer based on what we think we know about how the body works.

The first was a National Institutes of Health project that was forced to halt early because the drug treatment caused the patients to die at an alarming rate. The second study involved participants from 20 countries, and found that their drug treatment turned out to have no effect on preventing heart disease at all.

Each failure was surprising, given that the theory behind the research effort was so straightforward. When people with Type 2 diabetes die, heart disease is the culprit about two-thirds of the time. One of the hallmarks of diabetes is high blood sugar. Ergo, if you lower the blood sugar, you might also expect to lower the risk of cardiac-related death.

This may make sense in principle, but in practice the results alternated between irrelevant and harmful. That the body dynamic is more complicated that our hopeful theories is not remarkable. The truly interesting aspect of this particular hypothesis collapse is what it tells us about our culture of health.

For example, the media reported the science finding in headlines like this from the New York Times, “Tight Reign on Blood Sugar Yields No Heart Benefit”. When you read this, you are informed about nothing more than the link between blood sugar and the heart. But what actually happened, in both cases, was that drugs were given to see if they decreased the rate of heart disease in diabetic patients. The pharmacology failed.

Nevertheless, when the diabetics in the treatment group of the first study were dying more frequently, no one suggested that the experimental medicine could be contributing to their deaths. Rather, it was reported that all those additional heart attacks were likely due to the rapid lowering of blood sugar. In other words, it’s the body’s fault.

The headlines did not say, “Diabetes Drugs Increase Death Rate.”

Likewise, when subjects in the most recent study saw no benefit in heart health from the medications, no one speculated that the drugs might be irrelevant. Rather, they puzzled over whether lower blood sugar may help the heart after all.

The headlines did not say, “Diabetes medication does nothing to help diabetes.”

These repeated omissions reveal one of our central medical assumptions: pharmacology is the solution. As such, it may reveal the problem with your body, but doesn’t contribute to it. This way of thinking is completely consistent with our scientific interpretations (and media reporting) of research results. Although we have rejected this conclusion in certain cases (if thousands wind up in the hospital with heart valve problems [phen-fen] or we notice that antidepressants and ADHD meds can induce suicides in our children), but these instances are rare and exceptional.

Seen from the outside, the logical sequence is inescapable: 1) our deference to drugs forms the core of our clinical approach to health; 2) this assumption creates the experiments and treatments we have today; 3) our treatments are failing to control soaring obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates.

If we are to make a meaningful change in any of these chronic disease conditions, we must change the culture of health, beginning with our most basic assumptions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Olive oil-rich Med diet may protect against diabetes

Eating a traditional Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing diabetes by a whopping 83 per cent, says a new study.

In our work on providing the Mediterranean diet for Americans, we have found the same thing … that hallmarks of diabetes, such as high blood sugar, are controlled with the Mediterranean dietary approach. And the best part is that they end up keeping their new lifestyle behaviors in the long term.

According to this study, people who adhered strictly to the diet were also found to have the highest prevalence of risk factors for diabetes such as older age, a family history of diabetes, and a higher proportion of ex-smokers.

Despite being expected to have the higher incidence of diabetes, but this was not the case.
"These higher risk participants with better adherence to the diet, however, had a lower risk of diabetes, suggesting that the diet might have a substantial potential for prevention," wrote the authors from University of Navarra, the Hospital Virgen del Camino, and the Hospital of Navarra, all in Pamplona, Spain.

The study is published on the British Medical Journal's website

Monday, June 09, 2008

I'll Just Have A Glass of Your Mouse Wine, Please

Let’s begin with the conclusion. How do you live forever? Eat small and have a glass of red wine with your meal. Sound familiar? This is exactly what we teach in the Mediterranean path program.

Longevity is enhanced by many things, but most notably, most consistently by simple calorie restriction – nothing draconian, just don’t overconsume your way through life. The same is true for that wine – more is not better, just have a glass or so with your meal.

Any justification to enjoy your meal is a good one, but this article is actually a bit of a stretch … like they are working too hard to say “have a glass of wine” in a research report.

What the report actually did was look at one group of rats given resveratrol and another group on a low-calorie diet. They found that both conditions caused the little furry rodent DNA to activate genes that are implicated in living longer and having a healthy heart.

A good study, and it seems like it really should be true, but the link to slowed aging and heart health is going to take quite a bit more work to confirm.

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