Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Fried Food Is Not Good For Older Women?

Every year, stroke affects nearly 800,000 people in the United States. It is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States.

A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the loss of brain functions because the blood supply to the brain is disturbed. Both ischemia (lack of blood flow) caused by blockage or hemorrhage (leakage of blood) could cause a stroke.

In a paper published on March 1, 2012 in the ‘Annals of Neurology’, researchers from University of North Carolina found that older women who ate high amounts of transfer fats found in fried foods and baked goods were at a greater risk of stroke than women who ate less fatty diets.

Data was taken from a large study on eating habits of 87,025 post-menopausal women, who aged between 50 and 79. These women were generally in good health at the time of enrolment.

The findings showed that women who ate diets high in trans-fatty acids (6.1 grams a day) had a 39 percent higher risk of stroke due to a blocked artery than women who ate 2.2 grams of trans-fatty acids per day. However, researchers did not find any significant association between stroke risk and how much total fats women ate, or their level of dietary cholesterol. They also found that aspirin could help lower the risk of stroke among post-menopausal women.

While the availability and consumption of trans fat have declined in the United States as a result of banning by public health and legislation campaign for the use of trans fat in many fast food restaurants and in food preparation, trans fat has not completely disappeared.

Trans fat commonly occurs in foods because of partial hydrogenation, a food processing method in which a liquid vegetable oil is transformed into a solid fat. Trans fat can lower the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL) and raise the bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL). This could in turn raise the likelihood of getting hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and of course stroke.

As such, researchers suggested that older women should adopt a diet low in trans fat and should also take aspirin to help lower their risk of stroke, especially at the onset of menopause.

On the other hand, health experts not involving in the study argued that it is possible that women who ate a lot of trans fat were also unhealthy: the might have less physical activity, smoke and have higher level of diabetes. Therefore, they recommend these women should have a balanced diet avoiding trans fat and including healthy oils and daily physical activity. They believed this would help prevent stroke and other lifestyle related disease including heart disease and hypertension.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It‘s Only The Calories Count, Not Source!

There is undoubtedly that overweight and obesity can bring along many unwanted ailments including high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke and even certain types of cancer. People who are overweight or obese will start to adopt different kinds of diet plan to help them reduce weight.

Different diet plan will have their own specified proportion of fat, carbohydrates and protein. It seems, however, that weight loss does not really depend on the source of the calories.

Researchers from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana reported on January 18, 2012 in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ that there were no differences in weight loss or the reduction of fat between 4 diets with different proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein. It is adherence that matters. Those participants who adhered better lost more weight than those who did not.

As shown in earlier research, certain diets like those with very low carbohydrates work better than others though there has been no consensus among researchers.

Participants were assigned to 1 of the 4 diets: Average protein, low fat and higher carbohydrates; High protein, low fat and higher carbohydrates; Average protein, high fat and lower carbohydrates; High protein, high fat and lower carbohydrates. All the diets were designed to reduce 750 calories a day.

Their weight, fat mass and lean mass were checked after 6 months and again at 2 years after starting the diets. At 6 months, participants lose more than 4.1 kilos of fat and approximately 2.3 kilos of lean mass, though they regained some of these at the 2-year mark. Nevertheless, people who managed to adhere to their diet were able to keep a weight loss of more than 3.6 kilos after 2 years including a nearly 1.4 kilos loss of abdominal fat, a drop of more than 7 percent.

During the 2-year period, many of the participants dropped out and those who completed it did not have the diets exactly the same as what had been assigned.

For instance, all the 4 diet groups ended up getting about 20 percent of their calories from protein after 2 years. This was quite different from what the researchers had hoped for: 2 diet groups get 25 percent of their calories from protein and the other 2 groups get 15 percent of their calories from protein.

The findings suggested that all diet plans can work and it is adherence that can help the weight loss success. People should choose the diet that is comfortable for them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Drop In Trans Fat For Americans

A study that was published in the Feb 8, 2012’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association’ revealed that Americans consume less trans fat today than they did 10 years ago.

Trans fat (trans fatty acid) is created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil to make it more solid. It is also known as partially hydrogenated oil. It can be found in fried foods such as French fries and doughnuts, and baked foods including pastries, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and shortenings.

By studying the white adults in the United States between 2000 and 2009, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the average level of trans fatty acids of these participants dropped 58 percent.

This is certainly good news for Americans’ health because too much consumption of trans fat will raise the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or bad cholesterol) and lower the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL or good cholesterol). In turn, the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and Type-2 diabetes would be higher. As suggested by the American Heart Association (AHA), the daily consumption of trans fat should not exceed more than 1 percent of the total daily calories.

While the researchers could not figure out the exact reason of the drop, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began in 2003 to require trans fat content to be listed on products’ nutrition labels. Moreover, manufacturers also began removing trans fat from their foods and educational information about the health risks of trans fat was increased too. All of these factors could have contributed to the decline.

As the study did not include other ethnic groups, the findings could not be generalized to the population as a whole. Further research is required to examine if there will be a drop in cholesterol levels occurred along with the decline in trans fat levels. Meanwhile, the researchers plan to analyze their data to better assess the effectiveness of public health measures in cutting down trans fat levels.

Friday, March 09, 2012

More Women Are Affected By Heart Disease!

It is thought that heart disease is more common among men. But as what NIH (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) has announced, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States and it is also a leading cause of disability among women.

Heart disease, rather than breast cancer, has become the number one killer for women in Malaysia. The statistics provided by the Heart Foundation Malaysia (HFM) showed that 1 in 3 women died of heart disease while only 1 in 8 women died of breast cancer. In fact, heart disease is the major cause of death in government hospitals, which accounted for about 25 percent of all deaths.

In Goa, a state in India, 10 to 11 percent of the population is being hit by heart diseases. While heart disease is spread across the genders, women seem to be leading and this is a situation that has never prevailed in Goa. Initially, heart disease was restricted to the age group above 50 years but now people between 30 and 40 are diagnosed with heart disease.

According to cardiac experts, more women die of heart disease especially after menopause when the oestrogen level in their body changes. When one grows older, the risk of getting heart disease also rises. However, the latest trend does show that those below the age of 40 have also developed heart disease due to their unhealthy eating habits, smoking and alcohol consumption. Other modifiable risk factors include high cholesterol level, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stress.

It is important that the younger adults should adopt a healthy lifestyle by avoiding alcohol consumption and smoking, having a balanced diet, exercising at least 30 minutes or getting for a brisk walk everyday and learning how to handle stress.

People could lower their high cholesterol risk factor by consuming low cholesterol food items and avoiding food high in animal fat like dairy products, egg yolk, coconut milk and seafood except fish. People should also consume less salt, sugar and oily food to lower other risk factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and obesity.

Friday, March 02, 2012

How To Lower Irregular Heartbeat Risk?

According to some estimates, up to 9 percent of Americans will develop atrial fibrillation (AF) by the time they reach their 80s. AF is the most common heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Though it may cause no symptoms, it is often associated with palpitations, fainting and chest pain. It could eventually lead to stroke and heart failure.

AF might be treated with medications to either slow the heart rate to normal range (range control) or revert the heart rhythm back to normal (rhythm control). People with AF are often prescribed with blood-thinning drugs to prevent stroke.

A new study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported on January 26, 2012 in the journal ‘Circulation’ that older adults who had the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were 30 percent less likely to later develop an irregular heartbeat than those with the lowest blood levels of omega-3.

The omega-3 fatty acids measured in the study were eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They can be found in oily fish and some enriched foods like eggs and in fish oil supplements.

While some previous studies have suggested that people who ate a lot of fish had a lower risk of developing AF, these studies relied on questionnaires answered by participants about how much fish they ate, which could only estimate the amount of omega-3s they consumed.

To get a more accurate measurement, the researchers sampled blood from 3,326 adults aged over 65. These participants’ health was tracked over the next 14 years (1992-2006) and 789 were found to develop AF.

Researchers’ analysis showed that those with the top 25 percent omega-3 levels in the bloodstreams at the beginning of the study were about 30 percent less likely to develop AF, comparing with those with the bottom 25 percent blood levels. Of the 3 omega-3 fatty acids, high DHA levels were linked to a 23 percent lower risk for AF, but no reduced risk was found for EPA and DPA.

Other heart experts not involved in the study cautioned that the study did not prove eating fish could lower AF risk. The study, however, did provide some idea that the fatty acids found in fish could work by stabilizing the excitability of heart muscle cells. Meanwhile, they also suggested further studies should be carried out to find out how fish oil might be used as a potential preventive measure against AF.