Category Archives: Heart Health

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.

Yogurt: The New Heart-Healthy Food?

Yogurt: The New Heart-Healthy Food? : Newswire - Logo
By Maureen Williams, ND
Yogurt: The New Heart-Healthy Food? : Main Image
Eating 100 grams or more per day may play a role in stroke and atherosclerosis prevention
Yogurt that is cultured with gut-friendly bacteria may help you stay well during a course of antibiotics, but what can it do for your heart? A new study found that older women who regularly ate yogurt had less thickening of the carotid arteries’ walls. Thickening of these arterial walls is a sign of atherosclerosis and has been linked to higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

Looking at diet and carotid artery health

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 1,080 women over 70. They answered questions about their intake of dairy and other foods and about their health. Three years later, they underwent medical tests including ultrasound measurements of carotid artery wall thickness.

The researchers made the following observations about dairy intake and carotid wall thickness:

  • Women who ate at least 100 grams (almost 4 ounces) of yogurt daily had less carotid artery thickening than women who ate less yogurt.
  • Previous research suggests that the 0.024 ml difference in carotid wall thickness between yogurt eaters and noneaters seen in this study might be associated with a large difference in risk of stroke or heart attack.
  • Other dairy products, such as cheese and milk were not related to carotid wall thickness.

Yogurt eaters have healthier blood vessels

Although this type of study cannot prove that eating yogurt improves arterial or cardiovascular health, it does show a relationship. The study’s authors felt the relationship they observed was strong enough to suggest that eating “100 grams or more per day may play a role in stroke and atherosclerosis prevention.”

Remember, the proven ways to keep artery walls healthy are to eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, stay physically fit, maintain a proper weight, manage stress, and don’t smoke.

Live well with live food

Here are some other good reasons to include yogurt in your regular diet:

  • Keep the digestive tract moving smoothly. Studies show that yogurt with living cultures can help people with diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. It may also be helpful in treating heartburn and peptic ulcer disease.
  • Cancer prevention. Yogurt and other fermented dairy products have been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Cavity prevention. Yogurt-eating has been found to reduce the levels of cavity- and gum disease-causing bacteria in the mouth.
  • Diabetes prevention. Eating low-fat dairy foods like low-fat yogurt is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Boost the immune system. Some studies have found that the bacteria in probiotic yogurt with live active cultures can stimulate immune cells and prevent infections, including the common cold.

(Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:234–9)

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 on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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