SOME RECENT RESEARCH ON HOW FOOD CAN IMPACT OUR SUSCEPTIBILITY TO HEART DISEASE

Summarized By Rosemary Fisher

Use low fat milk to reduce your saturated fats

Having a glass of cold low fat milk at meals may be able to reduce the amount of saturated fat the body can absorb in a meal. Calcium binds with fat molecules and help flush it out through the intestines explains Christa Henson Ph.D, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the Oklahoma State University. It was also reported in Men’s Health magazine.

Foods to improve your homocysteine levels

We are reading a lot about homocysteine and heart. People with too much homocysteine have a higher risk of heart disease. Results of a study showed that those who had too much homocysteine and low levels of folacin (folic acid) were twice as likely have arteries that were clogged at least 25%. Source: New England Journal of Medicine 332:286, 1995. Many other studies have been done with similar results. They are saying we need at least 400 micrograms of folacin (folic acid) a day. We can get it in the food we eat.

Example

Amount

Micrograms

Brewers yeast

(1 tbsp.)

313

Orange juice fresh or frozen

(1 cup)

109

Spinach, frozen,cooked

(1/2 cup)

102

Lentils, cooked

(1/2 cup)

179

Chickpeas, dried, cooked

(1/2 cup)

141

Peanuts, dry-roasted

(1/2 cup)

106

Oatmeal, fortified, cooked

(3/4 cup)

150

 If you have a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, you should be getting enough of folacin (folic-acid) in your diet. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, June 11, 1997, found that vascular disease was more than twice as likely to be present in people with the highest homocysteine levels than those with the lowest homocysteine levels. It seems that folacin (folic acid) appears to be the most important in regulating homocysteine levels.

Sugar and its role heart disease

Until my husband had a heart attack, I never realized that sugar could pose a health problem.  Sugar and fat in the diet will raise triglycerides. The insulin that your system produces in response to sugar will store triglycerides in your body. It is wise to reduce coronary risk by eating a low sugar as well as a low fat diet.

According to Dr. Morgan Raifords, staff member of Atlanta Hospital and Medical Center and one of the founders of the Atlanta Eye Clinic, empty calories of refined sugar in excess of untold thousands of food products are being consumed at a rate of up to 200 pounds annually. He said this is a major contributor to blood vessel deterioration. The human body is not set up for eating the amounts of sugar we are eating today. When we upset our body chemistry we are going to have to pay the price.

Foods high in sugar are usually high in fat. Sugar is also a bone robber for osteoporosis and arthritis. Again, a low sugar, low fat diet is beneficial for many diseases. I found if you make a few changes at a time, you will find you are feeling better, and then you are ready to make more changes. Good health is a blessing as we age.

Sugar and its role in increasing blood pressure and blood fats

The following may come as a surprise for many. Sugar may be as big a villain in raising blood pressures as salt, says Harry G. Preuss, M.D., of Georgetown University Medical School. In animal studies he finds that sugar and salt together boost blood pressure. Heavy consumption of sugar induces salt and water retention. A new study published in October 1996. "Sugar is not just empty calories" argues Dr. Sheldon Reiser a research leader of the Carbohydrate Nutrition Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland. The study revealed that blood fats went up significantly when diets were laden with processed foods and sugar. If you have chronic high blood pressure, you may be motivated to change your diet. A study of 4225 people published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that sugar may contribute to mild memory loss. (Also published in John Hopkins Medical Letter, Health after 50-May 1994.)

Apples as a tool for raising your good HDL cholesterol and reducing bad LDL cholesterol

Remember the old saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". Well research is showing that one who eats 2 to 3 apples a day may lower cholesterol. Studies show that the LDL (bad cholesterol) dropped while the HDL (good cholesterol) went up. Researchers believe that the pectin in the apples is one of main reasons why total cholesterol was decreased. Much of the pectin the apple is in the peel (skin). Pectin through research has been found to be effective in lowering serum cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugars. Apples area also a good source of thiamine (vitamin B1) needed to help brain function.

Oatmeal as a low sodium vitamin backed breakfast food

Oatmeal is another good way to start the day. It is packed with many essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and E. The sodium content of oats is very small so they can be used in a sodium-free diet with a clear conscience.

Cooked tomatoes and tomato sauce for reducing heart disease

Eating cooked tomatoes, in tomato sauce or other cooked forms, has the potential to reduce heart disease, according to a recent study by European researchers (1998).  It appears that people who suffered heart attacks have much lower levels of the antioxidant lycopene than non heart attack victims.  People with the least lycopene have over 2 times the heart attack risk.  I strongly recommend increasing your intake of cooked tomato based recipes.  I have numerous such recipes in my four books.  Enjoy them and the heart benefits they can bring.

Watch for the fats to restrict, all fats are not bad

More and more research is indicating that the key to reducing heart disease and stroke is the restriction of certain types of fat. There is no debate in the research that you need to keep down the intake of saturated animal fat (avoiding meat that is less than 97% fat free would be my recommended guideline) and carefully watch your intake of animal fats from cheese and butter.  Also the research is definite about the need to eliminate trans-fatty acids or partially hydrogenated fats normally found in margarine and  many baked goods, etc. 

On the other hand, the research is also indicating that intake of monounsaturated fats from foods such as olive oil, avocados, almonds, can be beneficial in reducing your chances of a heart attack or stroke.  This was confirmed by Harvard researcher, M. Gillman, M.D., in his review of the Framingham Heart Study.  Further evidence comes from R.H. Knopp, M.D.'s recent study at the University of Washington, and at Stanford University, G.Reaven M.D.'s study of post menopausal women.

Nuts may lower the risk of dying from Heart Disease

Harvard Researchers (1998) tracked 22,000 physicians for 22 years, and those that ate the most nuts had the fewest deaths from heart disease.   Researcher Christine M Albert. M.D. felt that a type of fat in nuts, alpha-linolenic acid, may help prevent "ventricular fibrillation", a heart rhythm disturbance that cause many death producing heart attacks. 

Broccoli Sprouts are a safe way to get beta carotene for those on heart medication

"Eat your Sprouts" is the new phrase we all may need to say to ourselves and our loved ones.  John Hopkin's University researchers (1998) have discovered that broccoli sprouts have 20 times more by weight of the chemical sulforaphane for reducing the growth of tumors.  Just a 1/2 a cup of sprouts that you would put into a tuna pita would have the same cancer fighting impact as 1/4 lb. of broccoli.  

Also sprouts are good news for those on heart medication.  Because broccoli has a high amount of vitamin K that can interfere with some heart medication, people on that medication avoid broccoli.  But broccoli sprouts, according to Jed Fahey (1999), a John Hopkins plant physiologist researcher, do not have the concentration of Vitamin K, so those on heart medication can enjoy the beta carotene and sulforaphane benefits without the worry. 

Aortic valve thickening and the risk for heat attack or stroke

Tiny valve may predict future heart disease"

The hardening or thickening of a tiny heart valve - a common condition among the elderly that doctors usually dismiss as inconsequential - may, in fact, be a powerful predictor of heart attacks and strokes.

Previous studies have shown that a severe narrowing or blockage in the left aortic valve is a predictor of heart disease. A new study, published in  New England Journal of Medicine, has shown for the first time that a precursor condition called sclerosis can also be a warning
sign.

Sclerosis is a hardening or thickening in the aortic valve, often due to a buildup of calcium deposits. The condition is  found in roughly 25 percent of all adults over 65...


The researchers studied the echocardiograms of 5,621 men and women 65 and older. The valve was normal in 70 percent. In 29
percent, the valve was hardening or thickening, but there was no obstruction. The valve was narrowing, meaning there was
some degree of obstruction, in 2 percent.

Following up five years later, the doctors found that hardening of the valve is associated with a 50 percent higher
risk of death from heart disease compared with those whose valves are normal.

The researchers do not believe that sclerosis is a direct cause of death but rather a "marker" for heart disease.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Blase A. Carabello of the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center said aortic valve
sclerosis should be viewed "as a harbinger of future events."

"What makes these data remarkable is the fact that this condition has been well known for decades and yet has
generally been considered benign," Carabello wrote.  "Textbooks that mention the condition usually do so in
passing."

For more specific research summaries on how nutrition affects heart disease see (A sampling of research studies from the books)

HEALTHY EATING SITE INDEX

This index provides a list of further research summaries and recipes on some of the many ways foods can help prevent or reverse specific conditions. Just click on the ones that are of interest to you.

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Rosemary C. Fisher.
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