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Category Archives: Heart Disease

Olive Oil’s Potentially Positive Heart Health Effects

by Jane Hart, MD
Olive Oil’s Potentially Positive Heart Health Effects : Main Image
Olive oil has become well known as a “healthy” fat when included as part of a balanced and healthy diet
Olive oil, when included in a healthy diet, has been linked to important health benefits, and now a study in Clinical Nutrition suggests that a daily dose of olive oil may be one important dietary option for heart and vascular disease prevention.

Olive oil may reduce heart disease risk factors

Prior studies have suggested that plant chemicals in olive oil, known as polyphenols, may help reduce risk factors for heart disease. This study looked at a particular aspect of that protection: the effect of olive oil on blood fats (lipids).

In this study, 200 healthy men were randomly assigned to three, three-week interventions of 25 ml per day of olive oil with low (2.7 mg per kg), medium (164 mg per kg), or high (336 mg per kg) content of olive oil polyphenols. Blood levels of various markers were measured before and after each intervention.

Results showed that, particularly at the higher amounts of polyphenols, participants who ate a little olive oil each day potentially reduced a toxic form of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which may lower their risk of heart and vascular disease.

“Our results provide further support to recommend the use of polyphenol-rich olive oil as a source of fat,” said Olga Castaner and colleagues from the Research Institute Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain.

It is important to point out, however, that it is not clear from studies to date whether the endpoint measured in this study is truly predictive of heart disease risk, and further research is needed to understand the role of olive oil in heart and vascular health.

Benefits of olive oil

  • Olive oil has become well known as a “healthy” fat and when included as part of a balanced and healthy diet has been linked to important health benefits including improved cholesterol levels and blood sugar control.
  • Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat, which research suggests is a better dietary option compared with saturated or trans fats, which increase your risk for chronic disease. Too much of any type of fat, however, is not good as oils are high in calories, so olive oil should be used in moderation.
  • When buying olive oil, choose virgin or extra-virgin olive oils, which are unrefined and retain more of the healthful contents.
  • A healthy diet is one important part of preventing heart and vascular disease and choosing healthy fats—such as olive oil—over unhealthy fats may be a step toward better health. Talk with a doctor about what else you can be doing to prevent heart and vascular disease based on your health history.

(Clinical Nutrition 2011;30:490–3)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
 
 

Flavorful Ways to Get Flavonoids—and Live Longer in the Process

These powerful antioxidants have been shown to prolong life
By Maureen Williams, ND
If you thought that everything that tastes good is bad for you, here is good news: a study found that drinking red wine and eating apples, strawberries, and even chocolate might prevent heart disease and postpone death.

What are flavonoids?

Flavonoids are compounds found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grain fiber such as in bran, tea, wine, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. Many flavonoids are strong antioxidants, which are believed to prevent atherosclerosis by reducing damage to the cells that line the blood vessels. Some flavonoids have other beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory effects and clot prevention.

Disease-fighting power

The report used data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, in which more than 34,000 postmenopausal women between 55 and 69 years old answered questionnaires about diet and other factors related to cardiac risk and stroke risk.

The women’s diets were analyzed for total flavonoid content as well as for seven specific types of flavonoids:

  • Anthocyanidins—found in blueberries, raspberries, and red wine
  • Flavanones—found in oranges, grapefruit, and lemons
  • Flavones—found in parsley and celery

The women whose diets contained high amounts of anthocyanidins were less likely to die from cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, and from any other cause than those who got little or didn’t get any. Flavanone intake was linked to lower risk of death due to coronary heart disease, and flavone intake to lower risk of death for any reason.

Get more in your meals

Specific foods reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and all causes. Try some of the following suggestions to get more of these foods in your diet:

  • Eating bran, apples, pears, strawberries, red wine, and chocolate protected the women against death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Eating apples, pears, red wine, and grapefruit protected them against death from coronary heart disease.
  • Adding bran to food prevented death from stroke.
  • Chocolate, though the effect was small, was found to prevent cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

The study’s authors speculated that, as information about food make-up becomes more precise, we will learn more about the effects of specific food compounds on health and disease. In the meantime, tasty ways to work in more flavonoids abound. Enjoy!

(Am J Public Health 2006;96:1815–20)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
Pear and Brie Quesadillas: Main Image

Pear and Brie Quesadillas

Quick Facts

Servings: 8
Cook Time: 8 min.

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http://www.healthharmonynature.com – Recipe Center

A small amount of flavorful Brie cheese goes a long way in these unusual and elegant Mexican inspired appetizers.

Ingredients

  • 4 flour tortillas, 10-inches (25cm) in diameter
  • 2 medium Bartlett pears, at the peak of ripeness
  • 4 oz Brie cheese*
  • 1/4 cup or more fresh salsa, red or green salsa can be used

Directions

  • Place the 4 tortillas on a flat working surface.
  • Slice and core the pears into thin pieces (about 1/4-inch (0.5cm) thick).
  • Slice Brie into 12 or more very thin slices.
  • To assemble quesadillas, place pear slices and cheese on each tortilla, leaving one side of the tortilla empty for folding over. Fold the tortilla to form a semi-circle, with the pear and cheese on the inside.
  • Heat a nonstick skillet. Place a folded tortilla in the pan and heat just until the cheese starts to melt. Gently turn the quesadilla over and continue heating until the tortilla is lightly browned.
  • Remove to a platter and repeat with each of the 4 tortillas.
  • Slice each quesadilla in half and drizzle about 1 Tbsp (15g) of salsa over the top. Serve with napkins or a plate and fork, as it can get quite messy!

* Allergy notes: The egg protein lysozyme is an unlabeled additive in some cheeses. People allergic to eggs should eliminate any cheese in this recipe.

Nutrition Facts

Calories 132
Calories from Fat 46 (35%)
(8%)Total Fat 5g
(5%)Cholesterol 14mg
(8%)Sodium 201mg
(3%)Potassium 122mg
Total Carbohydrate 18g
(9%)Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 6g
Sugar Alcohols 0g
(9%)Protein 5g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Nutrition facts are calculated by a food expert using nutritional values provided by the USDA for common products used as recipe ingredients. Actual nutritional values may differ depending on the amounts or products used and can be affected by cooking methods.
 

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The information presented here is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2011.

 

More Mediterranean Diet Benefits

More Mediterranean Diet Benefits: Main Image
By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Stomach cancer survival rates are relatively low, making pinpointing risk factors an important research goal. Among the things research has discovered that a person can do to lower his or her stomach cancer risk: enjoy the tasty and healthful Mediterranean style of eating.

More Mediterranean, less risk

The findings come out of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study, a long-term research effort focused on determining how nutrition and lifestyle factors affect risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Researchers collected diet information from 485,044 men and women aged 35 to 70 years, from ten European countries. They developed an 18-point scale to track how closely people were following a Mediterranean diet. (A higher score represented a “more Mediterranean” diet.)

After 9 years of follow-up:

• Compared to those not following a Mediterranean diet, people most closely following a Mediterranean diet had 33% lower risk of stomach cancer.

• Each 1-unit increase on the 18-point Mediterranean diet scale resulted in a 5% decreased risk of stomach cancer.

• Overall, sticking closely to a Mediterranean diet significantly reduced the risk of stomach cancer.

Enjoying Mediterranean fare

In addition to being tasty, the great thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it’s so good for you for many reasons. The Mediterranean diet is also linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, other cancers, and dementia. If you want to go Mediterranean:

• Focus on fresh vegetables and fruit, important staples in this style of eating.

• Aim to have two-thirds to three-quarters of your plate covered by vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans.

• Enjoy fish one to two times per week. Opt for wild-caught, seasonal fish when you can.

• Keep red meat to 3-ounce portions or less, a few times per week or less.

• Eat the right fats. Olive oil is used almost exclusively in the traditional Mediterranean diet. Also try avocados, a rich source of healthy, monounsaturated fats.

• Snack on nuts and seeds. Try walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and flaxseeds.

• Include fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir.

• Go whole…grains that is. Keep refined grains, such as those found in regular pasta, to small portions.

More stomach-protecting tips

In addition to enjoying Mediterranean food, reduce your stomach cancer risk by:

• Avoiding all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes

• Using alcohol in moderation or not at all: no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women; one drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard alcohol

• Not ignoring heartburn: It can signal the presence of H. pylori, a bacteria linked to increased stomach cancer risk, so alert your doctor

• Limiting salty, cured, and smoked foods, all of which increase stomach cancer risk

(Am J Clin Nutr 2010; 91:381–90; American Cancer Society. How is Stomach Cancer Staged? Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_stomach_cancer_staged_40.asp)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.