Further Evidence for Sterols Healthcare Benefits

Sterols and Cardiovascular HealthA new report points to plant sterols as an economical means of lowering cholesterol, reducing cardiovascular events in the elderly as well as improving their quality of life.  Daily consumption of plant sterols was found to reduce the number of cardiovascular events (CVE) per 10,000 people by 69 in men and 40 in women over a 20 year period.  These numbers include 10 men per 10,000 people and 7 women per 10,000 people who are prevented from having a CVE.

The results above assume at least 50% of the participants complied with daily supplementation of 3 grams/day of plant sterols.  This intake of plant sterols is sufficient to support a 12% reduction in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) according to a previous meta-analysis of 129 studies.

Currently Statin drugs in conjunction with a diet low in fat and sugar and high in oily fish, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, is the typical treatment protocol for individuals with high cholesterol.  The European Commission has actually approved health claims for cholesterol lowering with sterol-enriched foods.

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Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements Linked to Lower CHD Death Risk

Omega-3 and Coronary Heart DiseaseAccording to a new study that emphasizes the protective effects of supplementing the diet with Omega-3 fish oils, a 26% lower risk of dying from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) was associated with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid supplementation.

Over 22,000 individuals between the ages of 39 and 79 participated in this study that stretched over a 22 year period.  3 separate questionnaires were initially used to assess the use of Omega-3 over this time period.  Next participants with grouped into 3 groups Omega-3 supplement users (SU+n3), non Omega-3 supplement users (SU-n3) and non supplement users (NSU).  Variables like age, smoking, prevalent illnesses, education, dietary intake, social class and body mass index were taking into account for the purpose of statistical analysis.

At the beginning of the study it was found that supplement use was not associated with CHD mortality.  After adjusting for fish consumption, baseline food and supplement intake of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids was inversely associated with CHD mortality.  The SU+n3 group or individuals who became SU+n3 during the study had a lower risk of CHD mortality when compared to the NSU group.

Further study is needed.

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Blood Calcium May Be Linked to Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Calcium and Sudden Cardovascular ArrestA recent study has found patients have an increased risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) when they have a lower serum Calcium Level.  The risk of SCA was found to be over 2 times higher in patients with the lowest quartile of serum Calcium when compared with patients in the highest quartile of serum Calcium levels.

In the lowest quartile, participants had less the 8.95 mg/dl (Milligrams/deciliter) of serum Calcium.  In the highest quartile group, levels over 9.55 mg/dl of serum Calcium were seen.  Data for the study was taken from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (Oregon SUDS).  This study is the first of its kind to identify an association between low serum Calcium levels as measured prior to a SCA event and the elevated risk of this adverse event.  This was deemed important since many of the individuals who experience a SCA are not considered as a high risk for this type of catastrophic event under the usual guidelines used to evaluate risk.

There were however some limitation seen in the study findings.  Some of the participants with lower serum Calcium levels also had other issues which may have added to their risk factors of SCA.  Additionally the study was designed to be an observational one and therefore a causal mechanism could not be concluded.

Researchers agreed that additional study was needed.

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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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