Sep
01
2006

Food Choices Can Boost Good Cholesterol

Dr. Andrew Pipe, a cardiologist at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, sees a lot of people with cardiovascular problems. He also has found that telling patients to “reduce their cholesterol and get the triglycerides down” is not very helpful. Dr. Pipe is aware that we are living in a world where people are constantly tempted by junk food, and it is not surprising that obesity is one of the consequences.
It sounds daunting to a person with a lifetime of poor food habits and poor lifestyle choices to make changes. He believes that simplifying advice for healthy living can be brought down to 5 F’s for healthy living:

-Fruit and vegetables, 3-4 each day
-Fish, 3-4 per week
-Fibre, 5 per day
-Fat, 3-6 per day. Monounsaturated fats are best
-Fast food: avoid it!

Food Choices Can Boost Good Cholesterol

Food Choices Can Boost Good Cholesterol

To this list Dr. Pipe added two more Fs:
– “Fysical” activity, 30-40 minutes per day. This may be a misspell, but it is the best way to increase your good cholesterol (HDL)
-Fun, unlimited. Your food choices and exercise need to be enjoyable and appealing or the plan does not work in the long run.

Here is a blog about slowing aging and avoiding disabilities: http://www.askdrray.com/slow-down-aging-and-prevent-disabilities/

Reference: National Review of Medicine, August 30,2006, page 10

Last edited November 1, 2014

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Oct
01
2005

Men Expected to Catch Up On Life Expectancy

Life expectancy between the sexes has always been different: females generally outlive males by several years, but close observation from the Office of Health Economics in Great Britain shows a shift in Life expectancy. Males have been catching up, and their life expectancy rates have been rising faster than those of females. There is still a difference for a boy born in 2002. He will have a life expectancy of 76 years, whereas his sister will live to age 81.

Researchers believe that the reason for the shift is lifestyle change in females. Many of them now face the same workplace stress that has been traditionally shouldered by males. Detrimental habits are also more common in females. Heavy drinking in young females has more than tripled in the last 17 years, and 10% of young females exceed the recommended drinking limit (compared to 12% males). Non-smoking campaigns are less successful in women. Males have cut their smoking habits. 51% smoked in 1974, and by 2002 only 28 % were smokers. Female smokers amounted to 41 % in 1974, but by 2002 there were still 26 % smokers. The results show most dramatically in cancer statistics. Since 1973 lung cancer rates in men have been reduced to half and the lung cancer survival rate has increased. In comparison lung cancer in females during the same time period has increased by 45%. As a result of sedentary lifestyles the body mass index has also shown an increase.

Men Expected to Catch Up On Life Expectancy

Men Expected to Catch Up On Life Expectancy

Estimates showed that by the year 2010, life expectancy will likely converge for both sexes at an age of 81.

Reference: BMJ 2005; 331:656 (24 September)

Last edited December 6, 2012

Sep
01
2005

Father’s Age Important For Healthy Children

So far the risk for birth defects has been associated with the age of the mother: women over 35 run a higher risk of having a child with a genetic abnormality or birth defects than younger moms. Nothing much was said about the age of the father.
An epidemiological study by Dr. Mark Walker at the Obstetrics, Maternal And Newborn Investigation (OMNI) Research Group in Ottawa took a closer look at 24,916 infants with birth defects. The incidence of birth defects was broken down by paternal age in five-year increments, after considering and adjusting for other risk factors like maternal smoking, maternal age, alcohol consumption and prenatal care.
It turns out that the age of the father is of importance: the lowest incidence was among infants fathered by men of the age group of 25 to 29 years.

Father's Age Important For Healthy Children

Father’s Age Important For Healthy Children

The risk for birth defect increased with each subsequent paternal age group. Risk was highest where the fathers were age 50 or older.

More on birth defect (chromosomal abnormalities): http://nethealthbook.com/chromosomal-abnormalities-2/

Reference: The Medical Post, August 9, 2005, page 17

Last edited October 29, 2014

May
01
2005

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

“Everything in moderation” and “A little bit cannot harm” are the deceptively soothing terms that can lull consumers into the belief, that fast foods cannot be so bad after all. A study, called the” Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults” however gives us the facts, that paint a more realistic picture: the “little bit” actually has fairly serious consequences!
In this U.S. study a wide cross section of young adults were followed in four U.S centers: Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland Calif. 3031 people in the age of 18 to 30 years were recruited in 1985 and followed until 2001.

Lifestyle habits, such as smoking, watching TV and intake of other foods were recorded, and insulin resistance was measured. In addition there were detailed studies of weight, height, waist size and other body measurements. Some interesting facts emerged: women ate fast foods less frequently than men. Fast food intake was associated with lower education, more TV watching, lower physical activity, high intake of trans fats and alcohol intake. In short: fast foods and other unhealthy lifestyle choices were correlated.

Dr. Mark Pereira, PhD of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, who is one of the authors of the study, points out that it is extremely difficult to eat in a healthy way in a fast foods restaurant. The menus still include foods high in fat, sugar and calories and low in fiber and nutrients. Dr. Arne Astrup from the RVA University in Copenhagen found the same issues: besides the fact that serving sizes have increased two to five fold over the past fifty years, the energy density is twice as high in fast foods as compared to food in healthy diets. Dr. Astrup also points out in his publication, that humans have only a weak innate ability to recognize foods with high energy density and then down-regulate the amount eaten to meet and not exceed energy requirements.

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

Burgers, Fries and High Healthcare Costs

If a person ate more than 2 fast food meals per week, which would be a modest increase of the control group that ate less than 1 fast food meal per week, the 2 meals per week group was about 5 kg heavier after 15 years, as opposed to 11 kg in the control group. The insulin resistance increased by an alarming 230 %. This finding is of significance, as insulin resistance (=metabolic syndrome) promotes the occurrence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially breast and colorectal cancers. The data are showing that even a modest increase has a unique effect in increasing the risks for these disease patterns, and the message is, that health care costs will only come down, if the root cause of disease is attacked at the societal and lifestyle level.

More information about the metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance): http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

Reference: The Medical Post, March 8, 2005, page 20

Last edited October 28, 2014

Mar
01
2005

Liver Cirrhosis Threatens Overweight Children

Generally the condition of liver cirrhosis has been associated with excessive alcohol intake, and the victims have been adults.
A similar condition is the fatty infiltration of the liver, where the function becomes impaired through the growth of fatty tissue, which replaces healthy tissue. In its worst form this non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can advance to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. So far this devastating course of illness has been seen in adults, but it is not confined to the adult population. The most important risk factor for this disease is obesity, and with one in three children in Canada now overweight, the previous adult-only disease is now affecting kids. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now the most common cause of abnormal liver tests.

Dr. Ariel Feldstein, a pediatric gastroenterologist from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester reports that the average age of children with these symptoms is about 12, which is an alarmingly low age for this picture. There is also a warning, that children do not even have to sport a sky-high body-mass index (BMI). The risk is already significant with a high BMI.The most direct approach to prevent type 2 diabetes and fatty-liver disease in children has to start within the family. Instead of singling out the child it is important to work together as a family to become healthier. The terms”fat”, “chubby”, “exercise” and “diet” are less conducive to improvement than “physical activity” and “better nutrition”. Consistent minor changes are also more important than crash diets that come and go.

Liver Cirrhosis Threatens Overweight Children

Liver Cirrhosis Threatens Overweight Children

Eating more vegetables and fruit, not eating and snacking mindlessly in front of the TV, eating together as a family and preparing healthy snacks instead of tossing a cookie bar or a bag of chips into the lunch bag are all ways that benefit the entire family.
A study from Dr. Robert Berkowitz at the Children’s’ Hospital of Philadelphia affirms even more, that prevention has to start with the parents: children born to overweight mothers have a higher risk of following the pattern of having a high body mass index than those whose parents were normal weight.

More information about liver cirrhosis: http://nethealthbook.com/digestive-system-and-gastrointestinal-disorders/liver-cirrhosis/

Reference: The Medical Post, February 15, 2005, page 21

Last edited October 27, 2014

Nov
01
2004

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking A Myth

The fear of gaining weight after quitting to smoke tends to be a fear among a number of smokers, but a study presented at the annual congress of the European Respiratory Society in Glasgow in 2004 may very well put these fears to rest.
Dr. Audrey Lynas, a respiratory specialist at Sunderland Royal Hospital reported a study on 622 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a late effect of smoking). The body mass index was not different from those who continued to smoke than those who were ex-smokers. Both groups had a BMI of 26, and five years down the line, they still haven’t put on any weight, reported Dr. Lynas.

According to a 2002 survey in Britain, 30% of female smokers and 14% of male smokers said, that they would not try to quit, as they were afraid of gaining weight. Even patients with COPD (the previously mentioned chronic obstructive lung disease) may be influenced by this fear, even though it is crucial for them to quit in order to stop the progression of their lung disease.

It seems logical, that quitting the cigarette habit is not associated with weight gain. However, if nibbling becomes a substitute for smoking, frequent snacks lead to an overload of calories.

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking A Myth

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking A Myth

Weight gain will be the consequence of the additional munching. Stop smoking is not the culprit for weight gain.

More on weight loss here: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/weight-loss-and-diet/

Reference: The Medical Post October 5, 2004, page 7

Last edited Oct. 27, 2014

Aug
01
2004

Too Much Fat Fuels Metabolic Syndrome

In a review article for physicians from the St. Michael’s Hospital of the University of Toronto (see reference below) Dr. Monge outlined some of the newer human research where links were found between the lining of the blood vessels and the hormones produced by fat cells that lead to the complications of the metabolic syndrome. In obese people there is a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, lipid abnormalities and high insulin levels, which is known as “metabolic syndrome”. Another name that was used for this condition in the 1990’s was “syndrome of insulin resistance”.

Dr. Monge pointed out that blood vessel health depends on the fine balance between two opposing forces. On the one hand there is a system that leads to blood vessel spasm, blood clotting, growth promoting, inflammation causing and oxidizing. On the other hand there is a system that is responsible for blood vessel relaxation, growth inhibition, blood clot dissolving, inhibiting inflammation and antioxidant activity. Complex changes occur in our metabolism when we put on pounds and accumulate too much fat. It is important to realize that fat is not just sitting there, but is composed of highly active fat cells that respond to insulin and growth factors and in turn produce a number of hormones and factors that affect the cells that are lining the blood vessels. Inflammatory cytokines are produced by fat cells that attack the blood vessels by producing atheromatous plaques, causing them to accumulate fat again and help in the processes that lead to rupture of the plaques.

Too Much Fat Fuels Metabolic Syndrome

Too Much Fat Fuels Metabolic Syndrome

The end result is that the deadly interplay between the fat cells and the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels tips the balance between the two systems mentioned above to the point where heart attacks and strokes suddenly occur.

There are two complex pathways that are involved in this process and that are linked to what was stated above. One crucial aspect of this involves nitric oxide, a small molecule that is normally produced by the endothelial lining cells and that is needed for normal circulation of the heart muscle, skeletal muscles and internal organs. This protective system is where much of the derangement of normal metabolism occurs with regard to the metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Monge pointed out that with these newer insights into the complex metabolic changes associated with the metabolic syndrome in obese people, there will be very practical results in the near future. Anti-inflammatory medications are already being utilized and some of the anti-diabetic medications have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks. It is hoped that sensitive tests will be developed to measure the hidden endothelial dysfunction at a time when preventative steps are still effective or early intervention can be done.

More info on the metabolic syndrome: http://nethealthbook.com/hormones/metabolic-syndrome/

Reference: Metabolic Syndrome Rounds (April 2004): J.C. Monge “Endothelial Dysfunction and the metabolic syndrome”

Last edited Oct. 26, 2014

May
01
2004

Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer, Heart Attacks And More

When the Time Magazine devotes 7 full pages in the March 22, 2004 issue to the topic of inflammation as the source of most of the diseases of the Western World, you know that something important is happening in medicine. Christine Gorman and Alice Park have summarized some of the groundbreaking research of the past few years in this article. I will report about this article here, but also include direct links regarding some of the relevant research the authors have mentioned including some of the key links regarding the metabolic syndrome, which was not mentioned in the article.

Since the beginning of the obesity wave in North America it has become obvious that a cluster of diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer disease, cancer of the colon, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and others have also become more frequent. Dr. Paul Ridker, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was one of the pioneers of investigating inflammation as a possible cause and the common denominator of these diverse illnesses. He noticed that certain patients got heart attacks although their blood LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) were normal. The theory at that time was that all patients who would develop heart attacks would come from a high-risk group of patients with elevated LDL cholesterol. The problem was that 50% of patients with heart attacks had normal LDL cholesterol levels. Dr. Ridker suspected that the C-reactive protein (CRP), which is found to be elevated in the blood of rheumatoid patients, would be somehow involved in the disease process of hardening of the arteries before a heart attack would occur. CRP is produced by the liver cells and by the lining cells of arteries in response to a general inflammatory reaction in the body. Examples of this would be rheumatoid arthritis patients and patients with autoimmune diseases, where CRP levels can be readily measured with a blood test. Dr. Ridker found that there was a very good correlation between the CRP level and the degree of inflammation as well as the risk for developing heart attacks and strokes. Further investigation by others confirmed that CRP levels were perhaps more important than LDL levels in predicting impending heart attacks. This is so, because CRP is the body’s substance in the blood stream that would be responsible for breaking up LDL containing deposits (plaques) in the walls of the arteries, which leads to heart attacks in the heart and to strokes in the brain.

Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer, Heart Attacks And More

Chronic Inflammation Causes Cancer, Heart Attacks And More

Other investigators found that CRP was only one link in a complex chain of events that includes inflammatory substances (cytokines) from the fat cells as well as insulin and insulin-like growth factors from the metabolic syndrome. Leptins are also a factor as has been discussed under this link.
Dr. Steve Shoelsen from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston has developed a mouse model for the metabolic syndrome. These mice will produce huge amounts of inflammatory substances in their fatty tissue in response to any inflammatory process that is started in them. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as the statins or metformin, it is hoped, will be shown conclusively to dampen the inflammatory process and prevent heart attacks, strokes and diabetes as well as cancer, Alzheimers disease and arthritis. Heart disease has already been shown to be improved by anti-inflammatory drugs. Asthma is an inflammatory disease of the small bronchial tubes, which can be stabilized with the anti-inflammatory drug Avastin.

What can we do as consumers to prevent some of those life-threatening diseases? By reducing our weight through calorie restriction on a low-glycemic diet we can help to reduce the insulin-like hormone substances of the fatty tissue. Regular exercise of at least 30 minutes of a brisk walk daily or the equivalent of other sports activities will half our risk for colon cancer and many other cancers. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as fish and fish oils will reduce the amount of free radicals in our system cutting down on the circulating inflammatory substances. This prolongs life, prevents all of the major diseases of modern civilization and leads to longevity as the study of the Okinawa diet has shown.

Based on an article in the Time Magazine, March 22, 2004 edition, page 54 to 60.

Here is a chapter on arteriosclerosis from the Net Health Book, which explains inflammatory changes of the arterial wall:

http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-the-missing-link-between-strokes-and-heart-attacks/

Last edited October 26, 2014

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Feb
01
2004

Kidney Disease, Another Complication Of Metabolic Syndrome

The metabolic syndrome is a new disease entity that is known to be associated with obesity. In order to make the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome at least 3 of the 5 components listed in the table under this link (hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level or LDL cholesterol, high glucose level, abdominal obesity) have to be present.

Dr. Jing Chen and colleagues of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, La., published an analysis of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the Feb.3, 2004 edition of the Annals of Medicine. Patients with chronic kidney disease were identified in this study where 3, 4 or 5 of the metabolic syndrome criteria were positive. Two criteria for chronic kidney disease were measured:

1. if there was a significant reduction of the filtration capacity of the kidney.

2. if there was critical leakage of blood protein into the urine.

Kidney Disease, Another Complication Of Metabolic Syndrome

Kidney Disease, Another Complication Of Metabolic Syndrome

Depending on how advanced the metabolic syndrome was (all 5 criteria of metabolic syndrome positive versus only 3 or 4) there was a higher or lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

I have depicted the results of this study in bar graph form here. It shows clearly that chronic kidney damage occurs in a dose-response curve pattern depending on how severe the degree of the metabolic syndrome is.

Risk of developing kidney disease with various degrees of severity of the metabolic syndrome
 Kidney Disease, Another Complication Of Metabolic Syndrome1

With 5 factors of the metabolic syndrome present the risk to develop reduction in filtration capacity of the kidneys is almost 6-fold. This is 3-fold higher than in a person with a milder degree of metabolic syndrome where only two factors are present. Such a person would only have a 2-fold risk for developing chronic kidney damage (dark blue shaded bars in graph). A dipstick urine test can measure protein in urine, which is an alternative way to measure kidney damage due to the metabolic syndrome. These values followed a very similar dose-response curve (light blue shaded bars in graph). The authors of this study believe that the kidney damage inflicted by the metabolic syndrome is different from that caused by high blood pressure or by diabetes. Future studies will have to establish whether this type of kidney damage can be repaired by treating the metabolic syndrome with a low glycemic, calorie restricted diet coupled with exercise.

Based on an article published in: Ann Intern Med 2004:140:167-174.

Last edited December 8, 2012

Jan
03
2004

Any Diet A Winner Research Says

 

Dr. Michael Dansinger reported at a recent annual meeting of the American Heart Association about a study where he compared the effect of 4 major diet plans on the lowering of risk factors for heart disease.

Dr. Dansinger is the director of obesity research at the Tufts New England Medical Centre’s Atherosclerosis Research Lab in Boston. Originally, the objective was to see whether any of the following four diets investigated would be superior: the Atkins diet, the Ornish diet, the Zone diet and the Weight Watchers diet. In the table below there are links for each of these diet plans. Briefly, the Atkins diet is a high protein/low carbohydrate diet; the Ornish diet is a vegetarian/low-fat diet; the zone diet is a low-glycemic load/balanced protein/low fat diet; weight watchers is a calorie restricted diet.

160 obese patients were divided into 4 groups and assigend to one of these four diet plans. They were instructed in the type of diet plan they were to follow in 4 couselling sessions in the beginning of the weight loss program. The participants ranged in age from 22 to 72 years of age (average age 50) and had on average starting weight of 220 lbs.

Any Diet A Winner Research Says

Any Diet A Winner Research Says

They were to follow the diet plan for 2 months strictly and were allowed to follow less supervised for another 10 months. To the surprise of the research team under Dr. Dansinger they all lost about the same amount of weight (average of weight loss 10 lbs or 5% of body weight), in other words they were all successful with any of these programs and none was superior. Below are the results in modified tabular form.

Dr. Dansinger indicated that the focus would now have to shift from “which is the best diet plan” to “which is the best diet plan for a particular patient”. The doctor should attempt to fit the weight loss programs that fit patients’ food preferences best and that patients can easiest fit into their lifestyle. This will hopefully lead to the lowest dropout rate. This trial showed that the Zone diet and the Weight Watchers diet had the least dropout rates. But those who stayed on the Atkins or Ornish diet were successful with their weight loss program also, as these may have been fitting these patients best.

Comparison of various diets with regard to weight loss effectiveness
Diets that
were compared:
Reduction of
heart risk (Framingham score):
Dropout rates
over 1 year:
Atkins diet
12.3% 48%
Ornish diet 6.6% 50%
Zone diet 10.5% 35%
Weight Watchers
diet
14.7% 35%

In other words, if the one diet plan does not work satisfactorily, try another one. The common denominator with all food plans was some form of calorie restriction despite all of the differences.

Based on The Medical Post, Dec. 16, 2003 (p. 15).

Here is a link to the Net Health Book’s weight loss and diet chapter.

Last edited December 8, 2012