Dietary Potassium May Alleviate Hardening of the Arteries

Potassium and Hardening of the ArteriesA new mouse study recently published shows Potassium may protect against vascular calcification (hardening of the arteries).  Additionally increased aortic stiffness was also seen in the mouse model when compared with normal Potassium fed mice.  Arterial stiffness in humans is usually a predictor of heart disease and cardiovascular mortality.

Mice prone to atherosclerosis were fed a diet with low (.3% by weight), normal (.7% by weight) or high (2.1% by weight) levels of Potassium.  The study lasted 30 weeks.  Researchers found that mice fed a diet low in Potassium had a significant increase in vascular calcification and mice feed a diet high in Potassium had noticeably reduced levels of vascular calcification.  Increased aortic stiffness as using pulse wave velocity measured by echocardiography in live animals was seen in the mice fed a diet low in Potassium.  The three different levels of dietary Potassium were seen in the serum blood levels of Potassium taken from the three different groups.

Researchers found even a small change in mean serum potassium levels when compared to the group in the normal level of dietary Potassium supplementation caused changes in both vascular calcification and arterial stiffness.  Researchers also believe that this study established a potential causative role of Potassium intake in the regulation of atherosclerotic vascular calcification and stiffness.  This opens the door for a new strategy for controlling vascular disease.

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Heart Failure 12 Times More Likely in People with Vitamin D Deficiency

Heart Failure and Vitamin DIn a recent study the risk of heart failure (HF) was over 12 times higher in elderly individuals who were Vitamin D deficient that in individuals who had an adequate Vitamin D status.

Over 130 elderly people 60 years and older who were receiving care for cardiac issues participated in this study.  Vitamin D deficiency was established at below 30 ng/ml for the purposes of this study.  Below 20 ng/ml was considered severely deficient.  This is in contrast with the more widely recognized practice of considering Vitamin D deficiency to be below 20 ng/ml.  Researchers also looked at the health ABC scale to analyze a participant’s risk of heart failure, a higher percentage score showing a higher heart failure risk.

65% of the participants were considered to be Vitamin D deficient (62% of these participants were considered to be severely deficient).  Participants with a Vitamin D deficiency were over 12 times more likely to have heart failure compared with participants who did not have a Vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D deficient men participants were over 15 times more likely to have heart failure when compared with women participants and heart failure was over 4 times more likely to occur in obese participants with a Vitamin D deficiency than participants who were not obese.  Vitamin D deficient participants who also experienced hearth arrhythmias had an almost 4 times higher risk of experiencing heart failure when compared with participants who had other forms of cardiovascular disease.

 Researchers concluded that “The risk of HF was present in more than half of the elderly and was strongly associated with Vitamin D deficiency”.  These results are consistent with earlier studies showing the importance that adequate Vitamin D status plays in the elderly for providing both cardiovascular benefits and in supporting bone health.

The study was observational and no causal effect of Vitamin D deficiency on heart failure could be established.  The size of the study was small making the need for larger more randomized controlled studies important in the future to further strengthen these study results.

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Omega-3 Supplements May Slash Cardiac Death Risk

Omega-3 Reduces Cardiac Death RiskAccording to a new meta-analysis supplementing with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids may reduce the risk of coronary mortality by an average of 8%.  The reduction in the risk of death in people with elevated LDL cholesterol or triglycerides was higher at 17%.

Data from 14 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) which encompassed over 71,000 participants was reviewed.  Each of the trials lasted over 6 months and looked at cardiac deaths as the primary outcome.  Researchers compared frequencies of coronary mortality between groups supplementing with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids and the control groups.  In addition to seeing the statistically significant 8% reduction in cardiac death risk for participants supplementing with Omega-3’s, participants who were supplementing with more than 1 gram of total Omega-3’s (EPA and DHA) saw a reduction of cardiac death of almost 30%.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cardiac deaths account for almost 66% of all cardiovascular disease deaths in the United States and 42% of all cardiovascular disease deaths in the world yearly.  The results of this meta-analysis match up with the conclusions in a recent Science Advisory put out by the American Heart Association which points to EPA and DHA Omega-3 supplementation as being a “reasonable” secondary preventive measure of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

More studies are planned.

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Does Iron Supplementation Promise Lower Heart Attack Risk?

Iron and HeartA new study identifies low levels of iron as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide and researchers look at iron supplementation as a low cost method for reducing the risk of heart disease.

Genomic data from over 48,000 people was used in this study.  Genetic variations were used as a way to determine a person’s iron level and its link to their cardiovascular disease risk (CVD).  Researchers looked at a trio of points located in the genome (the genetic material of an organism) where a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), an alteration in the DNA, can increase or decrease the iron status of a person. These SNPs were identified as rs1800562 and rs1799945 in the HFE gene and rs855791 in the TMPRSS6.  When these SNPs were reviewed researchers found those participants with the SNPs for higher iron status had reduced risks for coronary artery disease (CAD).

Current research has shown mixed results regarding iron and cardiovascular disease.  High iron stores have also been associated with increased risks factors for CVD, like Type 2 Diabetes.  Observational studies have also shown a protective effect of increased iron levels on CAD as wells as an increased death rate in patients with iron deficiency and heart failure.

This study used the Mendelian randomization technique, which has been proven effective in accounting for reverse causation, lifestyle factors or environmental factors.  The World Health Organization estimates approximately 2 billion people worldwide do not get enough iron from their diet, which can lead to anemia, shortness of breath, increased risk of infections, heart palpitations, and may cause tiredness.

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Choline,-An Underused, Essential Nutrient

CholineCholine is an essential vitamin-like nutrient that is useful for helping the body to maintain optimal health.  Only recently has this vital nutrient gained attention for its role in supporting healthy liver function, prenatal development, brain and heart health and athletic performance and recovery.  As a matter of fact Choline is the most recent nutrient to receive an RDI (reference daily intake) from the FDA.  Choline was classified as an essential nutrient in 1998 by the Institute of Medicine.  This important nutrient is not as readily available through our foods as originally thought and approximately 90% of all Americans are not meeting IOM’s (Institue of Medicine) recommended daily intakes of 425 mg for adult women and 550 mg for adult men.

Choline helps cleanse the liver of fats that can accumulate in this organ.  This in turn helps maintain normal liver function.  This is important since today almost 40% of the population now has NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).  Growing obesity levels is a key factor in the rise of this disease.  Without adequate levels of Choline fat transport out of the liver slows down and fat accumulates in the liver causing damage.  In healthy adults deprived of Choline for 42 days between 77% and 80% developed signs of liver dysfunction according to one study.  This damage did reverse itself once the participants were given a high-choline diet.

Choline, an essential building block of cells, is needed in larger quantities during pregnancy.  Pregnant women use twice the recommended levels of Choline, however only about 10% of pregnant women meet these higher levels.  Growing evidence link Choline, like folic acid, to the prevention of neural tube defects in newborns.  One study found a 2.4-fold higher risk of neural tube defects in participants with low blood levels of Choline during mid-pregnancy.  Additionally, Choline seems to lower cortisol levels and may reduce the baby’s response to stress.  It looks like Choline makes Omega-3 DHA more available to the prenatal brain supporting healthier cognitive development.  Pre-Eclampsia risks (onset of high blood pressure during pregnancy) have been reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy with Choline supplementation.

Choline has shown benefits for lowering homocysteine levels.  Homocysteine is an inflammatory marker associated with greater risks for heart disease, stroke, cancer, bone fractures and cognitive decline.  Choline converts homocysteine into the amino acid methionine thereby preventing the building up of homocysteine in the body.

Choline supports faster communication between muscle fibers and the brain which helps support additional muscle recovery after repetitive motion exercise which boosts overall workout performance.  Choline also helps in the optimization and synthesis of nitric oxide.  Nitric Oxide increases the flow of nutrients and oxygen into the muscles increases pump during exercise.  Active people are a greater risk of Choline depletion ultimately causing a reduction in performance and the breakdown of muscle cells to support adequate Choline supplies to the brain.

Food sources of Choline are not typically a part of most American diets.  Egg yolks and Beef liver are examples of Choline-rich foods.  Salmon, broccoli, peanuts, brussel sprouts and chicken also contain Choline but in smaller amounts and do not provide the amount of Choline needed in a day making supplementation a must.

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Omega-3 May Shorten Hospital Stay in Heart Surgery Patients

Strong Hearth ChalkboardA new review has found that a reduction in the time spent in the hospital and a reduction in the risk of complications was seen in open heart surgery patients supplementing Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids daily.

19 randomized, controlled trials were reviewed.  Reductions of 1.4 days in the length of time spent in the hospital as well as a 22% reduction in the incidence of Post-Operative Atrial Fibrillation (POAF) were seen.  Dosages of 2 grams/day were best for reducing arrhythmias.  Researchers did acknowledge that the shorter recovery time could be due to the reduction in POAF.  However the researchers strongly felt the findings of this meta-analysis show promise for using Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids as a perioperative therapy (therapy given before, during and after a surgical procedure).

Researchers concluded that it would make sense for patients exposed to extra-corporeal circulation (circulation of the blood outside the body, as through a heart lung machine) to experience stronger systemic inflammatory response syndrome since they come into contact with blood with non-endothelial surfaces.  The Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids showed a positive impact on systemic inflammation reduction, the reductions seen in POAF, the shorter lengths of hospitals stays as well as other unknown improvements in clinical outcomes.

Larger scale, well designed, randomized, controlled trials are needed.

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Vitamin D Blunts Negative Impact of Statins in Diabetes Patients Post Exercise

Vitamin DA new study shows patients with Type 2 Diabetes who are taking statin drugs and supplementing with Vitamin D improves their cardio respiratory fitness as well as muscle mitochondria.

28 individuals participated in this randomized controlled trial.  Data from the participants upon completion of the trial showed that participants cardio respiratory fitness decreased by 8.4% after 12 weeks of simvastatin therapy. These individuals also experienced a 3.6% decrease in mitochondrial content.   Participants who were taking the simvastatin therapy but were also supplementing with Vitamin D however showed a decrease in cardio respiratory fitness of only .6% and a 12.1% improvement in mitochondrial content.  Participants who only took Vitamin D without the simvastatin therapy saw an increase in cardio respiratory fitness of 7.1% and a 16.7% increase in mitochondrial content.

Researchers believe that the statin simvastatin in inclined to cause a decline in exercise-mediated cardio respiratory fitness in adults with Type 2 Diabetes by interrupting the synthesis of CoEnzyme Q10.

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