Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Type of Diet Can Control Diabetes and Prevent Heart Disease?

Being the most common form of diabetes, type-2 diabetes is closely linked with obesity. Because of a high blood sugar level, diabetics are at a high risk of developing heart disease, kidney damage, stroke, and blindness.

Therefore, when one is diagnosed with diabetes, he or she will have to adhere closely to the diet suggested by the doctors in order to control the blood sugar level.

The latest findings, which appeared on December 16, 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, by Canadian researchers from St Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto indicated that a diet that is rich in nuts, beans and lentils is better than a high cereal-fiber diet in controlling diabetes and hence preventing heart disease.

In the study, 210 people with Type-2 diabetes were randomly selected to try 1 of 2 diets for 6 months. All the participants were prescribed with medications for controlling their blood sugar and had monthly blood tests.

An abundance of beans, peas, lentils, nuts and pasta were given to people who were on the low-glycemic index diet. They were also asked to have low-glycemic index breads like pumpernickel, quinoa and flaxseed and breakfast cereals including large flake oatmeal and oat bran.

On the other hand, people in the high fiber group were given a largely 'brown' diet, which included whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, potatoes with skins and whole wheat bread, crackers and cereals.

People in both groups were also encouraged to eat 3 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables daily.

The examination at the end of 6 months showed that those on the low-glycemic diet lost slightly more weight. They had not only significantly better control of their blood sugar but also higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called good cholesterol.

The results showed that the diet could be one of the many options available to people with diabetes, other medical conditions and even healthy people.

According to the researchers, many popular diets including the South Beach Diet and the Zone Diet already focus on low-glycemic index foods, which produce only small changes in blood glucose and insulin levels. In fact, many of the popular books on diets have already been ahead of the scientists in using it.

While food industry has an opportunity to produce modern foods with low-glycemic properties that can fit palatably into the diet, many of the traditional foods such as beans, pasta that were eaten by the older generations, can usefully be brought back into the diet.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is Obesity Epidemic Being Curbed?

Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), arthritis, certain types of cancer and other conditions are closely associated with overweight and obesity. However, while health experts are finding ways and means to combat obesity epidemic, the number of obese American adults has surpassed that of those who are overweight.

Body mass index (BMI), by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters, is employed to determine if a person is obese or overweight. A person is classified as overweight if the BMI is between 25 and 29. When BMI reads between 30 and 40, the person is obese. A person with BMI reaching or exceeding 40 is morbidly obese.

For example, a person with a height of 5 feet 5 inches (or 165 cm) will become overweight at 150 pounds (68 kg) and obese at 180 pounds (82 kg). An online BMI calculator provided by the United States National Institute of Health is available at http:

The latest figures reported (Jan 2009) by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicated that more than one-third of adults or over 72 million people were obese in 2005-2006. The report also showed that more than 34 percent of Americans are obese, compared to 32.7 percent, who are overweight, and just fewer than 6 percent are extremely obese.

The results were based on a 2005-2006 survey of 4,356 adults over the age of 20, taking part in a regular government survey of health, and these figures are the most current available. The heights and weights of the participants were measured during the physical examination, conducted in mobile examination centers.

The findings in the 1988 – 1994 surveys indicated that 33 percent of Americans were overweight, 22.9 percent were obese and 2.9 percent were morbidly obese. Since then, the numbers have continued to rise steadily.

In fact, in May 2008, CDC also reported that 32 percent of United States children were overweight, 16 percent were obese and 11 percent were extremely obese.

Childhood and adult obesity has been a great concern for the health authorities not only in the United States but also in many countries around the world. Unhealthy lifestyle and dieting habits are being blamed for creating such havoc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Drugs Can Help Trim The Weight?

Being obese or overweight, people are at high risk of getting heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Therefore, when one is overweight or obese, he or she will turn to weight management for help hoping to get rid of the extra weight in the body.

Although the ideal approach to reduce the weight is through managing the diet and increasing physical activities, this process could take a considerably long period. Some patients just do not have the patience to wait for the results. Many of them may seek help from their doctors for prescription of appropriate slimming pills (drugs) to trim the extra weight.

A recent study carried out on mice by researchers from the Harvard Medical School found that the hormone leptin, when combined with one of the 2 drugs approved by United States, could suppress the appetite of overweight people. The findings were published in the January 7 edition of the journal 'Cell Metabolism'.

Leptin is one that signals the brain to stop eating once the stomach is full, but such mechanism does not work effectively in most obese people.

The 2 drugs used in the study are Phenyl Butyric Acid (PBA) and Tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA). Not meant to treat obesity, these medications are normally prescribed for other maladies including neurological disease like Alzheimer and Huntington. Meanwhile, PBA is often used for liver dysfunction and cystic fibrosis, while TUDCA is employed in Chinese medicine for centuries, and is meant for treating liver ailments.

According to the researchers, the drugs seem to act as 'leptin sensitizers’ for mice to combat 'leptin resistance' in the brain's hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the primary brain region that responds to leptin, sending a signal that suppresses appetite.

In the study, weight was reduced in normal mice treated with the drugs. The researchers claimed that the evidence they gathered is the first success in sensitizing obese mice on a high-fat diet to leptin.

Naturally, such findings have given the scientists some sort of excitement because if this could work in humans, it could provide another viable option to treat obesity.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Underactive Thyroid Activity Could be a Reason for Weight Gain!

Once a person starts gaining weight, he or she will also start worrying because evidence has shown that overweight will ultimately lead one to diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and even certain type of cancer.

Besides genes, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity, weight gain can also occur among adults having lower thyroid activity.

Researchers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland found that middle-aged adults having mildly underactive thyroid gland, which still functions in the normal range, might prone to weight gain. Their findings appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine during April 2008.

Thyroid is a gland found in one’s neck, which produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. When a disorder known as hypothyroidism occurs, the gland would be underactive and this in turn causes symptoms like sensitivity to cold, dry skin, fatigue and weight gain. However, scientists are not sure whether thyroid function within standard range will lead to weight gain.

The new study examined the relationship between levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and body weight of more than 2,400 middle-aged adults. In order to stimulate hormone production in the thyroid gland, TSH is released by the brain. Lower activity in the thyroid is reflected when higher TSH levels are found in the blood.

According to the researchers, men and women in the study tended to gain weight when their TSH levels were relatively high but still normal, as compared with those with lower TSH concentrations. Moreover, those participants with TSH levels tipped upwards over the next several years were prone to weight gain.

Though the new findings revealed the possibility of weight gain because of modest increase in serum TSH concentrations within the reference range, it is still too early for scientists to start finding ways to treat obesity by dealing with thyroid hormones. In the meantime, the researchers suggested more research should be done to confirm their findings, and to understand why TSH levels are connected to weight.

The management of metabolism through interaction between the nervous system and hormone-producing glands is rather complex. While the entire system including thyroid hormones might affect weight and obesity risk, obesity might also be capable of influencing the system. In fact, several studies have shown that excess fat tissue might also directly affect TSH levels.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vitamin-D Help Babies Stay Away From Type-1 Diabetes!

Also known as, “juvenile diabetes” previously, Type-1 diabetes is usually found in children and young adults. For people with Type-1 diabetes, their bodies do not produce insulin, which is a hormone that can convert sugar (or glucose), starches and other food into energy.

Incidentally, a person who has Type-1 diabetes can develop medical complications such as heart disease (cardiovascular disease), blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage.

In a recent paper published in May 2008 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, researchers from Stockport National Health Service Foundation Trust and Booth Hall Children's Hospital in Manchester, United Kingdom reported that if small children were given supplemental Vitamin-D, they would be prevented from developing Type-1 diabetes later on.

Basing on a number of clues suggesting link between low Vitamin-D levels and Type-1 diabetes, the researchers reviewed all published research on Vitamin-D supplementation and diabetes risk, and found that infants given Vitamin-D supplement were 29 percent less likely to develop Type-1 diabetes than those who had not received supplements.

Nevertheless, they suggested that proper clinical trials should be carried out to determine the optimal dose and formulation of Vitamin-D, when and for how long Vitamin-D should be given to children.

Meanwhile, the researchers also advise parents to ask from their pediatricians for prescription of Vitamin-D supplements for their infants. Alternatively, they can also get the supplement over the counter, provided they adhere strictly to the manufacturers’ instructions.

Vitamin-D is produced in the skin when exposing in sunlight. A shortage of Vitamin-D can lead to a number of health problems.

As only little Vitamin-D is found in breast milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends Vitamin-D supplements for nursing infants. In United Kingdom, the public health authorities also urge parents to give their children Vitamin-D supplements for at least the first 2 years of their life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Can Nutrigenetic Diets Help Overweight Individuals Lose Weight?

When an individual becomes overweight or obese, he or she becomes a likely candidate for many medical disorders including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure (or hypertension). Therefore, he or she will always be advised to trim the weight by appropriate weight management program.

A finding, which appeared at the online journal BioMed Central: Nutrition Journal in November 2007, indicated that overweight individuals might lose weight and keep it off through personalized diets, based on an individual’s genetic makeup. The researchers also found that people on nutrigenetically tailored diets were more likely to stick to the diet, which means they had greater success in the long term.

Cheek cells were used to screen DNA for 24 variations in 19 genes known to affect nutrient metabolism. The researchers then compared the case histories of 50 individuals who were on nutrigenetic diets with those of 43 patients who did not receive a nutrigenetically tailored diet.

The patients participated in the study were attending a weight loss clinic in Athens, Greece. All of them followed a traditional weight management program that involved a Mediterranean diet, together with exercise and regular follow-up clinic visits. Nevertheless, the researchers modify the diet of the nutrigenetic group based on the genetic results of each individual in the group.

During the first few months, there was no difference was noticed in weight loss between the 2 groups. After about one year, however, the traditional diet group showed a slight average weight gain while the group on nutrigenetic diet continued to lose weight. 300 days later, individuals in the group on nutrigenetic diet were about 5-times more likely to have maintained their weight loss than that in the traditional diet group. Improvement in blood sugar levels was also noted in those in the nutrigenetic diet group.

The researchers believe that by adding a genetic, personalized component to a weight loss program may actually improve motivation and compliance. Meanwhile, the personalized diet might well optimize the content of macro- and micro-nutrients for the individual during a period when overall food consumption is reduced and energy expenditure is increased.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Would Vitamin Prevent Heart Disease?

Many studies have shown that vitamins such as Vitamin-C and Vitamin-E will help prevent heart disease. However, there is also research that highlighted the harmful side of vitamin.

Just like a nutrition scientist at MedStar Research Institute of Hyattsville, Maryland said, people should not just look at whether vitamin could help but should also worry about the potential harms vitamin will cause.

For instance, in a previous study, male smokers taking Vitamin-E had a high risk of bleeding strokes, while several other studies also found that Vitamin-E did not benefit heart health. Meanwhile, some research even suggested Vitamin-C might aid cancer instead of fighting it. A previous study on women at high risk of heart disease also indicated that Vitamin-C did not help prevent heart attack for these women.

In fact, a few long-term studies have been done to find out the effect of Vitamin on heart health. The latest one is co-called the “Physical Health Study” conducted by Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and several vitamin makers, commenced in 1997 that involved 14,641 male doctors aged 50 or older, with 5 percent of whom already had heart disease. These participants were divided into 4 groups and each given either Vitamin-C, Vitamin-E, both or dummy pills. The researchers prescribed 400 international units of Vitamin-E on every other day and 500 mg Vitamin-C on a daily basis.

After an average of 8 years, it was found that there was no difference in the rates of heart attack, stroke or heart-related deaths among the 4 groups. Nevertheless, there were 39 men in the group prescribed with Vitamin-E suffered bleeding strokes yet only 23 were found in other groups. In other word, there was a 74 percent greater risk of bleeding strokes for vitamin-takers.

Since the results were so clear, the researchers argued that they would be unlikely to change even if the study were done in women, minorities, or with different formulations of the vitamins. They even suggested people should save some money by stopping to buy these supplements.

Another study on Vitamin-B12 and Vitamin-B9 (folic acid) also found that these vitamins did not really prevent heart disease, which supported the results of the previous trials. The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford in England, and it involved more than 12,000 heart attack survivors.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Can Stroke Risk Be Reduced by High Level of Vitamin-C?

A high-level consumption of fruit and vegetable can benefit one’s health, including prevention of heart disease and many other medical disorders because of the high contents of Vitamin-C found in fruit and vegetable

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom indicated in the American Journal of Nutrition in January 2008 that people’s level of Vitamin-C might be an indicator of their likelihood of getting a stroke.

In a 10-year study, they examined some 20,000 middle-aged and older residents of Norfolk, United Kingdom and found 448 strokes in the participants during an average period of 9.5 years. They also noted that people having the highest Vitamin-C concentration at the beginning of the study had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke compared with those with the lowest levels of Vitamin-C.

In fact, the protective effect of Vitamin-C against stroke remained, even after the researchers took into accounts for factors that could affect the risk (stroke), such as alcohol intake, blood pressure level, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol level, diabetes, prior heart attack, physical activity, use of supplement, and social use.

According to the researchers, the level of Vitamin-C found in the blood is a good biomarker of fruit and vegetable consumption, which contain many nutrients that may be biologically active and protective for stroke. They also argued that their study supports the existing body of evidence, which proposed stroke could be protected with high consumption of fruit and vegetable.

While other health experts also agree that fruit and vegetable are linked with many health benefits, including reducing stroke risk, it is still not known why or how the benefit occurs, or what kinds of fruit and vegetable are effective. Therefore, the best way is to consume a wide variety of fruit and vegetable.

Meanwhile, there is still no concrete evidence on the optimum intake of fruit and vegetable for reduction of stroke and cardiovascular disease. However, it is believed that an intake of 5 to 9 servings on a daily basis could actually benefit. As such, the public is encouraged to adopt a higher intake of fruit and vegetable.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Neuroticism Might Lead to Heart Disease!

Neuroticism can be defined as an enduring tendency to experience negative emotional states. A neurotic person tends to experience negative feeling such as anger, anxiety, depression and guilt. People who are neurotic are worrisome and might have emotional vicissitudes. They simply could not respond to environmental stress appropriately and more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult.

In comparison, extroversion is the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self. Extroversive people are friendly and outgoing. They not only enjoy human interactions but also are enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious. A person, who is extroversive, is more likely to enjoy their time spent with people.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland reported in December 2007 in the Journal “Psychosomatic Medicine” that neuroticism could cause heart disease. To clarify the effects on heart by both neuroticism and extroversion, they looked at mortality in 5,424 middle-aged adults, who were followed for 21 years after they completed personality tests.

The findings revealed that an increasing degree of neuroticism was related to a higher risk of dying from any cause. However, the relationship disappeared after adjustments were made for other relevant factors like body weight, use of alcohol, social class and education. Furthermore, the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was higher when a person’s level of neuroticism rose. Such relationship was still significant even after statistical adjustment.

On the other hand, the researchers found that extraversion tended to reduce a person’s chance of dying from respiratory disease, although extraversion had no other effects on mortality.

In conclusion, the researchers believed that the link between neuroticism and death of cardiovascular disease could be related to gene, though the socioeconomic and behavioral factors should be included as well.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Which Hospital Should One Go For Heart Transplant?

When patients suffer serious heart disease that causes their hearts to fail, the only thing the doctor can do for them is to perform a heart transplant if everything else are tried for.

No doubt, heart transplant is a sophisticated surgery, yet it is not uncommon nowadays as many hospitals are doing such procedures. However, is there a way that the patients can evaluate which hospital is best for the procedure, in view of the high risk and cost involved? The key is to check the surgical volumes to see which hospitals teams operating at their peak skill level.

According to the prevailing guideline set by US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which qualifies hospitals for federal reimbursement, a hospital can be considered as a high-volume center if at least 10 procedures were performed every year. The previous figure was 12.

However, a new study, presented on January 30, 2008 at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, argued that the number of procedures should be at least 14 instead. The researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland studied 14,401 subjects who underwent heart transplant in the United States between 1999 and 2006.

Their findings indicated that patients’ mortality at 30 days and at 1 year after heart transplant increased as the annual procedure volume decreased. For example, a center that performs more than 40 heart transplants per year has less than 1 percent for the patient’s mortality rate 30 days after surgery. On the other hand, centers having less than 10 procedures performed, the 30-day mortality rate is increased by 80 percent.

However, once 14 cases per annum were reached, each additional procedure would have very little impact on the risk of death. Therefore, 14 were taken as threshold.

The researchers also revealed that the majority of the 143 United States medical centers that are licensed to perform heart transplant in fact do fewer than 14 cases per year. According to their figures, less than 5 centers do more than 40 and less than 10 do more than 30 procedures. They also blamed many low-volume hospitals just simply refuse to stop their program despite of very poor result.