Sep
04
2021

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% compared to a control group with a meat containing diet. One subgroup changed the diet from a regular diet to a plant-based diet over 13 years. This reduced the risk ratio by 61% for heart attacks and strokes when assessed later.

Details of this study

There were 4946 adults as participants of this 32-year study. They were recruited in 1985 and 1986, at which time none of them had cardiovascular disease. The study completed in 2018. The results were published on Aug. 4, 2021. The researchers assessed the plant-centered diet quality using a tool with the name “A Priori Diet Quality Score” (APDQS). The higher the score, the higher the quality of the food. This means the person consumed nutritionally rich plant foods, limited amounts of high-fat meat products and less healthy plant foods.

Although a plant-rich diet consisted primarily of nutritionally rich plant foods, small amounts of animal products were also allowed. This involved low-fat dairy products, non fried poultry and steamed or grilled fish. This made the diet tastier and ensured that people would stick to this diet for decades.

Improvements of heart attack rates with plant-centered diet

After 32 years 289 cases of cardiovascular disease developed. The researchers compared participants with the highest food quintile to participants with the lowest food quintile. As mentioned, the risk for participants on a plant-based diet was 52% lower to get a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a subgroup changed from a higher risk (fatter meals, meat, less vegetables) diet to a lower risk diet (lean fat, lean poultry, vegetables). Physicians followed this subgroup for 13 years and the risk ratio for heart attacks and strokes fell by 61%.

Comparison to other diet studies

There are other studies that looked at the effect of diet changes on the risk of developing heart disease. One such study examined 86 cross-sectional studies and 10 prospective studies in a meta-analysis. Vegetarian diets reduced deaths from heart attacks by 25% and brought down the incidence of total cancer rates by 8%. A vegan diet reduced the risk of total cancer by 15%.

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. The question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with 12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which otherwise increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that there is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means that the limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. After dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

A 2012 study from Spain has found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil increases the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles have the name HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles. This cleans out plaques from arteries more effectively than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Conclusion

Several large, well-controlled studies showed that there are pronounced effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. Heart attack rates and mortality rates were reduced by 25% to 73% on a Vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet. When people combine a plant-centered diet with regular physical exercise they also live longer. One of the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil. It contains polyphenols that lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also increases the larger particles of HDL cholesterol with the name HDL2. HDL2 is more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL cholesterol from arterial plaques.

What you can eat on a plant-centered diet

A plant-centered diet incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Instead of large portions of beef and sausages shift to seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines), walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed. The statistics clearly showed the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife with a reduction of heart attacks and mortality.

Some of the text above was published previously here.

Aug
21
2021

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Recently CNN published an article that dealt about when stress becomes abnormal.

We all have experienced stress. It makes our heart beat faster and our breathing speeds up as well. But when the stressful situation is over, stress usually subsides also. Some people though have so much stress in their lives that they never completely recover from any stressful situation. They develop chronic stress, which can lead to physical illnesses or mental disease. I have previously written about “stress drives our lives”. In the following I am reprinting the next 5 paragraphs.

Heart attacks and strokes when stress becomes abnormal

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for an average time of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There was a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours in comparison to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. Researchers noted a dose-response curve for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives some of us to substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us “treat” daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next, many people still smoke, although scientists have proven long time ago that it is bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. Comfort food relieves stress, but it causes us to put on extra pounds. As you know it is easier to put weight on than to take it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This can lead to further deterioration of your health.

Diabetes can occur when stress becomes abnormal

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition, unhealthy eating habits in an attempt to cope with stress can cause weight gain. Insulin resistance causes high blood sugars and diabetes.

Korean immigrant study

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. They had an elevated waist/hip ratio.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless. It is easy to see the connection between stress and disease!

Australian study showed that anxiety can cause diabetes

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

A 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder had a 1.53-fold risk to cause diabetes. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility may develop when stress becomes abnormal

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Physicians identified stress as at least one of  the contributing factors. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease and stress

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychologists assessed the stress score in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. Women who had stress on one, two or three examinations suffered from higher dementia rates later in life. Researchers compared this to a group of women who did not have any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after three stressful episodes.

Hormone system affected by stress

I have written an article before about how stress affects our hormone system.

I am reprinting excerpts from this here (the next 4 paragraphs).

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk about how stress affects our hormone system. He presented his talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

Dr. Heyman emphasized in particular that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). It seems like we need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can markedly derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. But when balanced, we experience vitality and wellbeing.

Metabolic activation pathways

Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. Likewise, he stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

  • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
  • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
  • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
  • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
  • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
  • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
  • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

Target areas within your system

The target areas in your system are the

  • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. In particular, too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
  • Thyroid gland, which depends on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) for activation. Autoantibodies can also affect it negatively.
  • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.

Other target areas of stress

  • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
  • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, in addition causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
  • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. A brain under stress activates the hypothalamus. It sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and likewise activates the adrenal glands. Finally, this leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can finally develop from this.

Treatment suggestions to cope with stress

There are thyroid supplements that can support the function of the thyroid gland. Similarly, there are several supplements to support the adrenal glands.
Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil and others are useful to support the pancreas. Relaxation methods like self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi and others are very useful to counter stress. If you can change your job to evade stress, take the opportunity and find another job with less stress. See a health professional and discuss what you can do to become more stress-resistant. If you are overweight or obese, see a dietitian to help you lose weight. Aerobic exercises like running for 30 minutes on a treadmill can help reduce stress. Various relaxation methods mentioned earlier also can counter stress. They help you to block out worrying about the past and the future, but instead focus on what is positive in the present.

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Conclusion

I have described what stress can do to your body. It can give you heart attacks and strokes. Stress in some people can lead to substance abuse. It can cause diabetes, infertility and even Alzheimer’s disease. I described how thyroid hormones, insulin and brain hormones are interconnected and suffer with stress. Other factors can make the effects of stress worse or better as I discussed in detail. Treatment of stress-induced conditions requires a combination of preventative steps and medical therapies. Ignoring stress is not an option as this could lead to premature death. Managing stress, as mentioned before, and keeping it to a minimum is the answer.

Oct
24
2020

Irregular Periods are Linked to Premature Deaths

A review in CNN describes that irregular periods are linked to premature deaths. This review is based on the original publication in the British Medical Journal published on September 30, 2020.

Essentially, the researchers followed 79,505 premenopausal women without a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes for 24 years. The researchers recorded 1975 premature deaths. The definition for a premature death was someone dying before the age of 70. There were three age groups that the researchers followed separately for 24 years.

  • ages 14-17 years
  • 18-22 years
  • 29-46 years

The most common causes of death were 894 from cancer and deaths from 172 strokes and heart attacks.

Death rates after 24 years for the three subclasses just mentioned

The researchers noted that there were differences in survival for different age groups. But there were also differences in survival for irregular periods versus prolonged intervals between periods. Crude mortality rates for 1000 person years of follow-up for women with normal versus irregular periods were as follows.

Normal periods                                  Irregular periods

14-17 age :  1.05                                            14-17 age:    1.0

18-22 age:  1.23                                            18-22 age:    1.37

29-46 age:  1.0                                              29-46 age:    1.68

Women with a cycle length of 40 days or more had a higher mortality rate. The researchers compared this to women with a normal cycle length (26-31 days). Here are the data in detail for two age groups at the outset of the study.

Women with a cycle length of 40 days or more                 

Age 18-22:    1.34

Age 29-46:    1.40

Heart attacks and strokes followed these death statistics closest.

Discussion

The researchers concluded that teenagers and women in their middle-age were at the highest risk. This risk was for premature mortality, if they had irregular periods or a cycle length of 40 days or more. There was also an association between irregular periods and a prolonged cycle length and type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and coronary heart disease. In addition, mental health problems were also related, the study said.

Dr. Adam Balen, a professor of reproductive Medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals in the UK said: “Young women with irregular periods need a thorough assessment not only of their hormones and metabolism, but also of their lifestyle so that they can be advised about steps that they can take which might enhance their overall health”.

Too much estradiol in women and men can cause cancer

In this context it is interesting that other studies have shown that unopposed estradiol may be the culprit for both irregular periods and larger intervals between periods. When estrogen is elevated in females, irregular periods can result. Unopposed estradiol can cause breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

In males who also have a small amount of estrogen in their blood, it is important that a larger amount of testosterone balances the two hormones. Otherwise there is a risk of prostate cancer.

In addition, cardiovascular disease has been described as a side effect of standard hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women with synthetic hormones.

The good news is that treatment with bioidentical hormones can treat these abnormal periods. This eliminates premature mortality and in many cases prolongs life.

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Conclusion

Researchers followed 79,505 premenopausal women without a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes for 24 years. They found that there is a linkage between irregular periods and premature deaths. There were three age groups that the researchers followed. Some of them suffered from irregular periods and others had periods that were 40 days or longer apart. The researchers recorded the premature mortalities. At an age of 29-46 there was a 68% higher mortality in women with irregular periods. The scientists compared this to women who had regular periods. In addition, women aged 29-46 with a cycle length of 40 days or more had a 40% higher mortality.

Estrogen dominance could explain premature deaths

The researchers compared this to women with a normal cycle length. It is possible that women who died prematurely were having too much estrogen in their system, which can produce cardiovascular disease and cancer of the breast, uterus and ovary. Further studies need to clarify the mechanism behind irregular periods and why a cycle length of 40 days or more causes mortality.

Aug
08
2020

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group stated that poor diets threaten Americans and cause diseases. More than 500,000 people in the US are dying every year because of poor nutrition. 46% of adults have unhealthy diets; but children have even more, namely 56%. In 1979 the US healthcare cost was 6.9% of the gross domestic product. Compare this to 2018 when the US healthcare cost was 17.7% of the gross domestic product.

The Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group states: “Poor diets lead to a harsh cycle of lower academic achievement in school, lost productivity at work, increased chronic disease risk, increased out-of-pocket health costs, and poverty for the most vulnerable Americans.”

You can improve your diet quality 

When you start cutting out junk food and other processed foods, the quality of your food intake is improving. Eat more vegetables, and fruit. Eat wild salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Do not consume vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grapeseed oil. They all contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids and they convert mainly into energy. But the problem is that our western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can convert into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other. Use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil instead for cooking and on salads.

How does poor quality food affect your health?

Researchers are aware of trans fats causing Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes for a long time. They increase the bad LDL cholesterol, decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol. The FDA has started to initiate steps in 2015 to make the use of trans-fats in the food industry illegal. Completion of this in the US occurs in early 2020.

Japanese trans-fat study (Alzheimer’s disease)

This Japanese study followed 1,628 Japanese community residents (men and women) for about 10 years. Researchers used the typical trans fatty acid, elaidic acid to monitor the accumulation of trans fats in patients. This is possible with a simple blood test, which serves as a marker for industrial trans fats. 377 participants developed dementia (247 Alzheimer’s disease and 102 vascular dementia). Based on the blood elaidic acid levels earlier in the study individuals with higher trans-fat levels were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as the study progressed. Patients whose trans-fat blood levels were in the higher range were 50% to 75% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits. Note that it is not only your dietary habits that determine this, but in addition, several lifestyle factors.

Cardiovascular disease

Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack. It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

Cancer

90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking. Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, consuming too much alcohol causes cancer of the colon and rectum in both sexes.

Diabetes

There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

Chronic diseases

Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into your system and adds to chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Conclusion

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group has been formed, which noted that many Americans follow very poor diets. 46% of adults in the US have unhealthy diets; but children have even more poor diets, namely 56%. This is of concern, because in time this causes a variety of diseases discussed here. Instead of just treating the symptoms of these diseases, it is important to improve the diet people are on, which prevents the development of these diseases. A well-balanced diet not only prevents diseases, it also leads to longevity and healthy aging without Alzheimer’s disease. Take care of what you eat, and be sure it is healthy!

Part of this text was published before here.

Jun
13
2020

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

A recent publication came to the conclusion that a Mediterranean diet reduces heart attacks and strokes in diabetes. This Canadian and Spanish study compared prospective cohort studies and randomized trials (RCT). 41 reports (3 RCTs and 38 cohorts) formed the basis for this analysis.

Details of the study

Metaanalysis showed that a Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease incidence by 38%. It also reduced myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) by 35%. Next the authors compared the highest to the lowest adherents to the Mediterranean diet (Med diet). The highest Med diet adherents showed the following reductions:

Cardiovascular disease mortality: 21%

Coronary heart disease incidence: 27%

Coronary heart disease mortality: 17%

Stroke incidence: 20%

Stroke mortality: 13%

The conclusion was that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to prevent heart disease and strokes in people with diabetes.

Other studies

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. Again, the question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that it is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than the fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. And after dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

In a 2012 study from Spain it was found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil will increase the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles are called HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles, which cleans out plaques from arteries more efficiently than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Endothelial function

The endothelium is the lining of the arteries. Normal endothelial functioning involves widening of the arteries and maintaining its flexibility. The body achieves this through production of a signal molecule, called nitric oxide; the endothelial cells that line our arteries from inside produce it. Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide as well (Ref.1).

In a group of patients with poor endothelial function 2 tablespoons of olive oil (polyphenol rich) per day given over 4 months (the time of the study) showed a significant improvement of endothelial function.

The authors suggested that an enzyme in the endothelial cells, called nitric oxide synthase is being stimulated by components of polyphenol-rich olive oil. This leads to protracted release of nitric oxide, which in turn keeps blood vessels flexible and wide open. Other investigators found that olive oil can influence even a hereditary gene variant of endothelial nitric oxide synthase found in people with a history of premature heart attacks. This high-risk group of people should take extra virgin olive oil regularly to prevent premature heart attacks and strokes.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the arteries no longer can deliver adequate amounts of blood to vital organs like the heart or the brain. Endothelial dysfunction is also present in patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Introducing extra virgin olive oil in the diet of these patients will help restore their endothelial function.

Lowering blood pressure

In a study on 23 hypertensive patients it was shown as far back as in 2000 that extra virgin olive oil over 6 months allowed physicians to reduce high blood pressure medications by 48%. When the study was crossed over, the reverse was the case for the control group on sunflower oil. The polyphenols of olive oil released nitric oxide, which is known to lower blood pressure. This is an important finding. High blood pressure is a risk factor for the development of hardening of the coronary arteries. This leads to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, but also stroke. Regular intake of 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil often will reverse high blood pressure and restore normal endothelial function.

Preventing heart attacks and strokes

In April of 2013 The New England Journal of Medicine published a Spanish diet study that showed that a participants on a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts had 30% less heart attacks over 5 years than people on a low fat control diet. Other studies have also shown that olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids play a big role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. We also know that regular exercise reduces the risk further; so does keeping your body mass index below 25.0. Extra virgin olive oil is part of the protection from heart attacks and strokes. The study did not show any protection against cancer.

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Heart Attacks and Strokes in Diabetes

Conclusion

A Mediterranean diet reduced heart attacks and strokes in diabetic patients, but also in patients without diabetes. Here I attempted to show what the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet are that lead to such astounding positive effects. There is an emphasis on vegetables and fresh ingredients of food. In addition, olive oil and a lack of processed food are also important. With these wholesome ingredients the lining of the arteries works best. The body reduces cholesterol and lowers blood pressure. The end result is that there are less heart attacks and strokes, and people live longer.

Note: Part of this was previously published here and also here.

Mar
28
2020

Fasting Can Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Dr. Joel Kahn gave a lecture in Las Vegas in which he explained that fasting can prevent cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He spoke at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas. The conference took place from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019.

According to the CDC cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are hitting the middle age adults in large numbers. Part of the problem is obesity and diabetes, both of which cause an increase of cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and other related cardiovascular conditions caused 2.2 million hospitalizations in the US in 2016. This resulted in 415,000 deaths and a health care cost of $32.7 billion.

Fasting can improve the risk for cardiovascular disease

Dr. Kahn asked whether fasting can reduce the aging pathways, build up resilience and protect the heart from aging and heart disease. In a few words: eat less, live more! He showed with slides that fasting can indeed do that. One heart catheterization study showed that a fasting group had only 64% coronary artery disease compared to a non-fasting control group with 76%.

Another study showed that fasting patients had only 10.3% diabetes compared to controls with 22.0%. With heart catheterization 63.2% of fasting patients had cardiovascular disease while 75.0% of non-fasting control patients did have lesions in their coronary arteries.

Animal experiments confirmed that fasting had beneficial effects on heart health as well. In rats, researchers showed that fasting reduced infarct size and inflammation. It also preserved left ventricular function. With mice fasting produced less inflammatory response and less tissue damage.

Alternate day fasting shows benefit in clinical human trial

A 2019 publication reported about a 4-week randomized clinical trial on 60 healthy non-obese human subjects. The effect of alternate day fasting was compared to controls. On average there was a 37% calorie reduction in the alternate fasting group. The fasting group had improved fat mass, improved fat-to-lean ratio and cardiovascular markers. There was a reduction of age-associated inflammatory markers and low-density lipoprotein.

Fasting mimicking diet

A newer form of fasting is the fasting mimicking diet (FMD), which was invented and researched in depth by Dr. Valter Longo. Both animal experiments as well as human trials have shown that the FMD is safe and effective. It can be followed 5 days out of every month and will lead to some weight loss, an increase of telomeres, stem cells and lowered inflammatory markers.

My own experience with the fasting mimicking diet

My wife and I heard about the FMD from Dr. Longo when he spoke about it at the 2017 Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas. We immediately started the FMD in December of 2017 and have done it every month for 5 days since. But we never ordered the expensive meal kit. Instead, we calculated calories and use regular food to do the calorie-restricted diet. We eat 600 to 700 calories every day during the FMD days. In between we have unrestricted calories, but we noticed that we are more careful about our meal choices. I find that the result of the FMD is more energy, an improved sleep pattern and an easier way to keep my body-mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Here is a description of the effects of the FMD.

Use of FMD in high-risk patients

Dr. Khan said that the FMD is an ideal diet that the high-risk population of the US should use. 34% of the US population has a compromised metabolic condition. They are obese and at a high risk to develop diabetes. But on the FMD they gradually lose abdominal obesity, lower their cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which otherwise causes a high risk for heart attacks and strokes. The fasting blood sugar is lowering reducing the risk to get diabetes. The systolic and diastolic blood pressure comes down. And the C-reactive protein, which is a general inflammatory marker, becomes lower.

In non-obese patients the main effect of the FMD is a stimulation of stem cell release and telomere elongation. This postpones the aging process and with it delays the onset of cardiovascular diseases.

Fasting Can Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Fasting Can Prevent Cardiovascular Diseases

Conclusion

Dr. Joel Kahn gave a lecture at a Las Vegas conference that fasting can prevent cardiovascular diseases. He compared alternate day fasting with the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). The FMD was more effective in reducing danger markers, abdominal girth measurements and blood markers of cardiovascular diseases. Ultimately, he said, it was easier to follow an FMD where you only reduce your calorie intake to 600 to 700 calories per day for 5 days in one month. In those who are wanting to do this just for good health, the FMD increases stem cells and elongates telomeres. This postpones the aging process and keeps a person younger for longer. At the same time, it delays the onset of cardiovascular diseases.

Jan
25
2020

Nitric Oxide (NO) Can Provide You With Energy

Dr. Nathan S. Bryan explained that nitric oxide (NO) can provide you with energy. His presentation was given at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15, 2019 that I attended. Dr. Bryan worked at the Department of Human Genetics at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. In his 20 years of research he asked the following questions:

  • How does the human body produce NO?
  • There are people who cannot make NO; what went wrong in these people?
  • What are the clinical consequences when NO is missing?
  • How do you fix or restore your inborn NO production?

Mental disease is also closely related to heart disease and to strokes. Over 44 million patients in the US have a mental illness. Mental disease and heart disease are linked by the fact that both have higher rates of heart attacks and strokes. Marc de Hert et al. published a paper entitled: “The intriguing relationship between coronary heart disease and mental disorders”.

Mental health and heart disease related

Mental health and heart disease are related. Both show increased heart attack rates  and strokes. But there is another important finding: sexual dysfunction is common among psychiatric patients. The sexual dysfunction among schizophrenic patients was related to both the psychobiology and the pharmacotherapy. Emotional and sex-related problems were  more common in a patients group who experienced poor physical and emotional health.

Another finding that shows the importance of normal circulation is peripheral artery disease (PAD). A group of people with depression had an increase in PAD.

SPECT scans of brains as a tool to investigate circulation

SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography. It is a tool that Dr. Amen has used for years to study the brain.  He found, for instance that with chronic marijuana use the brain circulation develops deficiencies where certain parts of the brain are not properly perfused. This is associated with certain brain malfunctions. When the patient is rehabilitated the blood circulation to the brain gradually recovers. Dr. Bryan noted that there is a decrease in blood flow with every chronic disease. If we can restore blood flow to the region in the brain where where there is a blood flow disturbance, we can cure many neurological diseases.

Restoration of circulation with nitric oxide (NO)

Dr. Bryan showed vignettes of improved body circulation with systemic nitric oxide therapy. One example was that nitric oxide supports a healthy blood pressure. At the same time nitric oxide also improves endothelial function. A 13% increase in blood vessel diameter increases blood flow by 34%!

Thermographic images show a 49-year-old smoker with Raynaud disease in the hands. Within 10 minutes after nitric oxide application the poorly circulated fingers showed a sudden opening up and normal perfusion to the fingers.

Nitric oxide can repair skin damage

Before and after pictures showed the effect of anti-aging skin care serum with nitric oxide. The anti-aging skin care serum improved skin texture, increased elasticity, evened skin tone, restored moisture, reduced fine lines and wrinkles and created tighter and smoother skin. A chronic skin ulcer on a woman’s right chin disappeared in a matter of a few weeks and healed with hardly any scar formation.

Here are some final remarks on nitric oxide replacement

Dr. Bryan concluded with these remarks: Nitric oxide governs vascular structure and function. NO production undergoes an age-related decline. This leads to cardiovascular risks and neurological disorders. Restoring NO production improves tissue perfusion and vascular function. Strategies of nitric oxide production will positively affect general health and the aging process. Any anti-aging strategy should include nitric oxide as a tool.

Nitric Oxide (NO) Can Provide You With Energy

Nitric Oxide (NO) Can Provide You With Energy

Conclusion

Dr. Bryan gave a good overview of how nitric oxide (NO) can help people to improve their complexion, their perfusion, and how cardiac and neurological disorder can be prevented. Before and after pictures showed the effect of anti-aging skin care serum with nitric oxide. The anti-aging skin care serum improved skin texture, increased elasticity, evened skin tone, restored moisture, reduced fine lines and wrinkles and created tighter and smoother skin. A chronic skin ulcer on a woman’s right chin disappeared in a matter of a few weeks and healed with hardly any scar formation.

But these are only examples about skin appearance. Perhaps the more important aspect of nitric oxide is the repair of the lining of the arteries and the improvement of circulation to various organs. Nitric oxide can even prevent neurological disease with regular consumption.

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Oct
12
2019

Naps For Heart Health

In an article published online Sept. 9, 2019 a Swiss research group mentions naps for heart health. Specifically, they observed 3462 subjects over 5.3 years. The ones who napped for 5 minutes to an hour once or twice per week had 48% less heart attacks, strokes or heart failure than those who did not take naps during the day. When the researchers constructed survival curves, people who did not nap had the worst survival curves. On the other hand, the persons who napped once or twice per week had the best survival curves. The ones who napped 3 to 5 times per week or 6 to 7 times per week were in between the other survival curves.

Naps for heart health with adrenal gland fatigue

Adrenal gland fatigue is one of the clinical conditions where we know that naps rebuild energy. This is a hormone weakness where the adrenal glands can have reduced hormone production. The location of our adrenal glands is right above the kidneys. These hormone glands have a circadian rhythm. The highest amount of adrenal gland hormones production occurs in the morning and there is a gradual decline throughout the day. Our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) as well as any snacks lead to mini peaks of the adrenal gland hormone production. If we get enough sleep, there is no excessive stress in our lives and we do not smoke or abuse alcohol and drugs, most people will not know that they have adrenal glands as they are quietly working in the background. However, your adrenal glands may function in the lower end of normal bordering to adrenal gland fatigue.

Power naps during the day can normalize your adrenal gland hormones

When you take a power nap during the day, your adrenal gland hormone production normalizes. This makes you feel good and energetic. Patients who have adrenal gland fatigue feel more energy when they remove sugar and refined carbs from their diet. They also feel more energy when they have small snacks halfway through the morning and afternoon. Vitamin C as a supplement is useful as it stabilizes adrenal gland hormone production.

Discussion of the Swiss research regarding naps for heart health

There was no medical explanation given regarding why napping prolongs life. But it is entirely possible that those people who unknowingly have borderline adrenal gland fatigue are responding to building up their adrenal gland production. We know from the literature that stress kills. It would make sense that if the ACTH/adrenal gland hormone system is functioning better, mortality would be reduced. From people in Spain that value their “siesta” during the early afternoon we know that they are doing something right. Their life expectancy was an impressive 82.83 years in 2016 compared to 78.69 years for the US average. 

Naps For Heart Health

Naps For Heart Health

Conclusion

A Swiss study observed 3462 subjects over 5.3 years. The ones who napped during the day for 5 minutes to an hour had 48% less heart attacks, strokes or heart failure than those who did not take naps during the day. This resulted in less mortality of those who napped during the day. The researchers had no explanation for this observation. When I reviewed the literature regarding adrenal gland fatigue, I was impressed by the fact that many borderline patients get help from power naps and snacks of food between meals. Their ACTH/cortisol production can normalize this way and they survive better. At this point we do not know for sure why a nap reduces heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. 

More about adrenal gland fatigue here.

Jul
06
2019

Three Simple Steps Would Prevent Strokes And Heart Attacks

On June 10, 2019 researchers published a paper that stated that three simple steps would prevent strokes and heart attacks. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In the US about 610,000 people die of heart disease every year, which is about in every 4 deaths. Here are a few facts. First, there is the simple observation that patients do not control their high blood pressure enough to avoid a heart attack or stroke. Secondly, patients with high blood pressure need to restrict their salt intake, or they will develop heart attacks or strokes. Finally, patients need to avoid exposure to artificial trans fatty acids as this leads to direct damage of the lining of the arteries. Given enough time, this will cause heart attacks and strokes.

Impact of these three health measures

The researchers went to global data to obtain mean blood pressure readings for large populations. They also obtained data for sodium consumption and trans fatty acid intake this way. Data from pharmacies crosschecked the amount of dispensing of anti hypertensive medication prescribed by physicians. The authors used most recent Meta analyses for relative risk reduction for each intervention.

Treating hypertension aggressively in up to 70% of cases with high blood pressure would delay 39.4 million deaths over 25 years. At the same time reduction of salt intake by 30% would prevent 40 million deaths over 25 years. And finally, eliminating trans fatty acid would delay another 14.8 million deaths. A total of 94.2 million deaths would be prevented globally when all the three interventions are applied simultaneously.

The pathophysiology behind heart attacks and strokes

We need to understand why patients develop heart attacks and strokes. In the following I will explain this.

Elevated blood pressure

When blood pressure is high, the heart has to work overtime to pump the blood through the blood vessels. At the same time the higher pressure leads to inflammation of the lining of the arteries and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are deposited underneath the lining of the arteries. This leads to blockage of the smaller arteries, which translates into heart attacks and strokes.

Consumption of too much salt

Consumption of too much salt, namely sodium intake of more than 2300 mg a per day, is considered high. It can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms (pouches of arteries that can rupture). Sodium intake of 1500mg or less is considered normal. When you exceed that number, the body will retain sodium and water, which increases the blood pressure. This accelerates the process of hardening of the arteries and eventually causes heart attacks or strokes.

Hydrogenated fatty acids or trans fats

Hydrogenated fatty acids or trans fats still make their way into the grocery shopping basket. They are present in baked goods, snacks like chips, creamer and margarines. Think of cakes and cookies, crackers, piecrust, potato chips, corn chips and microwave pop corn. Deep fried food is also full of trans fats (french fries, doughnuts, fried chicken). Trans fats can make their way into frozen pizza crusts, non-dairy coffee cream, canned biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Above all do not buy any form of margarine. Hydrogenated fatty acids affect the arteries directly by increasing the harmful LDL cholesterol and decreasing the protective HDL cholesterol. This accelerates hardening of the arteries, which in turn causes heart attacks and strokes. 

Discussion of “three simple steps would prevent strokes and heart attacks”

The positive impact that this new study could have on the survival of patients is phenomenal. Over 25 years almost 100 million lives would be saved from heart attacks and strokes, which would be an enormous achievement. We are talking about 25 cities of 4 million people each saved around the planet. The researchers say that this is doable, because there are pockets globally where excellent care has already been given to patients, they have followed them through 25 years or more and their mortality was significantly reduced. 

My own experience in general practice

In my own medical practice from 1978 to 1995 I introduced a recall for patients with high blood pressure to reduce their mortality. They came in every 3 months for a blood pressure check. On that occasion I reviewed their antihypertensive medicine and asked whether they took their blood pressure with their own blood pressure monitor at home. I stressed that home monitoring blood pressure would be the latest development and they should do it. Surprisingly, the majority of patients were compliant. Among the recall patients the heart attack and stroke rates were very low.

Adding low salt (less than 1500 mg of sodium per day) and cutting out all trans fats introduces a new dimension into heart attack and stroke prevention. As explained above all of this has a direct bearing on reducing hardening of the arteries. This in turn prevents deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

Three Simple Steps Would Prevent Strokes And Heart Attacks

Three Simple Steps Would Prevent Strokes And Heart Attacks

Conclusion

The paper I reviewed here has investigated the effects that three simple measures will have on the mortality of the world population over 25 years. Treating up to 70% of patients with high blood pressure aggressively would delay 39.4 million deaths over 25 years. At the same time reduction of salt intake by 30% would prevent 40 million deaths over 25 years. And finally, eliminating trans fatty acid would delay another 14.8 million deaths. Physicians could prevent a total of 94.2 million deaths globally when they encourage their patients to apply all the three interventions simultaneously.We know this works by preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Let’s hope that this will not only be talk, but that physicians will pass on this news to their patients and that patients will follow the advice.

Jun
22
2019

Ultraprocessed Food Kills

The British Medical Journal published two papers that showed that ultraprocessed food kills. The first paper showed that highly processed food causes heart attacks and strokes. Another paper in the same journal showed that mortality is significantly increased when people consume highly processed food. Both papers were reviewed by CNN.

Food categories

Food questionnaires were administered over 24 hours every 2 years from every participant using the NOVA classification system.

There were 4 categories.

  • Category 1 consisted of “unprocessed or minimally processed” food. This included legumes, vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs, meats, poultry, fish and seafood, yogurt, grains and natural juice.
  • Next was category 2 of “processed ingredients”. This included salt, sugar, honey, olive oil, butter and lard.
  • Category 3 consisted of “processed foods“. This included breads, cheeses, beer, wine, and cured traditional ham and bacon.
  • Finally, category 4 consisted of “ultraprocessed foods”. This included sausages, flan, chorizo, mayonnaise, pizza, cookies, potato chips, chocolates candies, artificially sweetened beverages including whisky, gin and rum.

Study on cardiovascular risk

A study from France followed more than 105,000 people for 5.2 years. The participants filled out food questionnaires every 6 months. The foods consumed were classified according to the NOVA categories. The results showed that the men’s diet consisted to 17.6% of heavily processed foods while the diet of women consisted of 17.3% heavily processed food. Each 10% increment of highly processed food (called “ultraprocessed” food) had an association with 12% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, 13% more heart attacks and 11% more strokes. The researchers could also show that a decrease in ultraprocessed food was leading to less percentage of these diseases.

Mortality risk when consuming ultraprocessed food

A similar study involving close to 20,000 participants in Spain that had a long observation time of 15 years (from 1999 to 2014). The 4 food categories were as mentioned above.

A person eating more than 4 ultraprocessed items per day or more had a 62% increase of death rate in comparison to those who ate processed food less frequently. Each additional ultraprocessed food item added another 18% of mortality risk. Maira Bes-Rastrollo, professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Universidad de Navarra, Medical School said: “These results are in agreement with other recent results based on populations in France and the United States. If all the different study results align, despite the separate research groups using dissimilar populations, diverse age ranges and different methodologies, then this lends support to a possible cause-effect relationship between ultraprocessed foods and poor health.”

Discussion

You may remember that your grandparents reminded you not to eat “junk food”. Often junk food is consisting of ultraprocessed foods. Both of these independent studies from France and from Spain have shown that there is a significant risk of heart attacks and strokes associated with the consumption of ultraprocessed foods. In addition, there is also a significant mortality risk when you consume ultraprocessed food. The key is to learn from this and cut down on processed foods; instead eat foods that are less processed and are wholesome for you. Eat vegetables, fruit, nuts and stay away from the grocery store’s shelves with processed foods.

Ultraprocessed Food Kills

Ultraprocessed Food Kills

Conclusion

What your grandparents used to tell you about processed foods is now available as two separate publications from the British Medical Journal. The less processed food you consume, the healthier your food intake is. You will enjoy better health. This is the simple message. Avoiding ultraprocessed food will help you to avoid heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. In addition you will have a longer life expectancy. It is up to us to translate these findings into reality for ourselves.