Could Low Vitamin D Put Postmenopausal Women At a Higher Risk of Metabolic Syndrome?

According to new data the onset of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) in postmenopausal women may be closely linked to Vitamin D deficiency.  Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) was seen in 58% of postmenopausal women with either deficient or insufficient levels of Vitamin D when compared with a 40% occurrence in women with adequate Vitamin D levels.

Over 450 women participated in this study.  Participants ages were between 45 and 75 years and all participants had stopped menstruating for at the minimum of 1 year prior to the beginning of the study.  Additionally none of the participants had experienced any type of Cardiovascular Disease at the baseline.  35% of the participants were Vitamin D deficient and 33% of the participants had insufficient levels of Vitamin D.  A Vitamin D deficiency is usually defined as blood levels below 50 nanomoles/liter (nmol/L) and an insufficient Vitamin D level is defined as a blood level between 50 – 75 nmol/L.

Blood levels of the participants Vitamin D levels were measured and compared to the analyzed Metabolic Syndrome parameters of the participants.  Researchers found the lower the blood level of Vitamin D the greater the occurrence of Metabolic Syndrome.  Additionally researchers found an inverse relationship between blood triglycerides and HDL levels, 2 individual components of Metabolic Syndrome and Vitamin D levels.

Metabolic Syndrome involves a group of conditions that increase a person’s risk for stroke, heart disease and diabetes.    For the purposes of the study, participants meeting 3 of more of the criteria listed below were considered to have Metabolic Syndrome:

Waist circumference above 88 cm

High Blood Pressure (above 130/85 mmHG)

High Blood Sugar (fasting glucose levels over 100 mg/dl)

Abnormal triglycerides (above 150 mg/dl)

HDL below 50 mg/dl

Further studies are needed.

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Omega-3 Intake Linked to Lower Risk of Death and Heart Disease

Omega 3 and Cardiovascular HealthIn a new finding from the Framingham Heart Study, Omega-3 levels, not total cholesterol, were closely linked to overall risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death.

Findings from the 2,500 individuals participating in the Offspring cohort of the Framingham Heart Study, found that participants Omega-3 index had a significant association with 4 out of the 5 major outcomes, CHD (coronary heart disease) CVD, total mortality, and CVD mortality.

The Omega-3 index used for these findings is the total of EPA and DHA content of red blood cell (RBC) membranes.  Omega-3 index values over 8% were considered as low risk or optimal, while index values between 4% – 8% were categorized as intermediate risk and values below 4% were considered to be high risk participants.

The main outcome of the finding identified the risk of death to be about 34% lower in participants whose Omega-3 index was in the highest quintile compared to participants whose Omega-3 index was in the lowest quintile.  Additionally it was determined that a participants Omega-3 index was a better predictor of death risk as well as some measures of CVD disease, than a participants total cholesterol levels.

The study participants who had an average age of 66 had no CVD at the beginning of the study.  Data on 18 demographic and CVD risk factors were assessed at baseline and measurements of RBC EPA and DHA and total cholesterol were taken at the onset.  Follow ups on the study participants over a period of 7 years were performed.  Incidence of death (total, CVD related, cancer and other), CVD, CHD, and stroke were recorded.  These outcomes were then correlated against the participants Omega-3 index and total cholesterol.

Although the study was observational in nature, researchers did estimate that 1300 mg /day of EPA+DHA would be needed to push a participants Omega-3 index from the lowest to the highest quintile.    Further studies are needed.

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The Health Benefits of Vitamin E

Vitamin EVitamin E, an antioxidant, is a fat-soluble nutrient and can only be obtained through food or through supplementation.  It is well known for its benefits for the skin, however it also beneficially for the heart and the brain.  A deficiency of Vitamin E is usually caused by a genetic abnormality or a fat malabsorption disorder.

Health Benefits for the Skin:

People have long recognized that Vitamin E is good for their skin.               Vitamin E in addition to Vitamin C has been proven to provide anti-aging benefits by preventing oxidative damage caused by sunlight.  These two antioxidants are also able to protect the skin against UV irradiation as well as eliminate free radicals, known to break down the polyunsaturated fatty acid membranes that provide cellular protection for every cell.  These two antioxidants used in combination have been shown in studies to provide a synergistic benefit not seen by either antioxidant when taken by them self.  Additionally studies have shown people with vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses its pigmentation, who have taken Vitamin E supplements have improved re-pigmentation of the skin as well as a reduction in the worsening of the condition.  Reductions in inflammation and lesion growth have also been seen with Vitamin E supplementation.Brain

Health Benefits for the Heart:

Vitamin E aids in protecting cells from oxidative stress in addition to preventing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol from oxidation.  A severe deficiency of Vitamin E can cause cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.  Animal studies have shown beneficial effects of Vitamin E for atherosclerosis.  In a large study with almost 40,000 women participants over 45 years of age, cardiovascular death rates were reduced by 24% in participants supplementing with Vitamin E.  Women older than 65, experienced a 49% reduction in cardiovascular death rates and a 26% reduction in nonfatal heart attacks.

Health Benefits for Other Things:

New interest in Vitamin E and its ability to support brain health has prompted research.  Some studies have shown Vitamin E could provide protective effects against injuries occurring in brain cells caused by strokes, reducing the risk for neurodegenerative diseases.  It is believed that Vitamin E influences the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment as well.

Vitamin E also has been linked with benefits for individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL).  Studies have found supplementation with Vitamin E improved biochemistry features and microscopic tissue structures of patients with NAFL.

Increased Vitamin E supplementation during pregnancy may be needed to meet the increased needs of the body and to prevent gestational complications including several brain conditions.

In a study of over 29,000 male smokers who supplemented with Vitamin E for 5 – 8 years, a 32% reduction in prostate cancer incidence was seen when compared to the placebo group.

Over 90% of adults in the United States do not meet the average daily requirement of Vitamin E (around 15 mg) according to the Linus Pauling Institute.  Older individuals needing to improve their immunity should take higher dosages.

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Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose OilEvening Primrose Oil, EPO, is derived from a plant found in North America. This plant grows yellow flowers that bloom in the evening time, which is how the name of this essential fatty acid came to be.  EPO is found in the seeds of the plant and is approximately 25% essential fatty acids.  This means these oils are essential to our health however our bodies cannot make them.  Raw material manufacturers cold press the seeds of the flower to make the oil and then they encapsulate the raw material into a dietary supplement.   Evening Primrose Oil is an Omega-6 essential fatty acid and is a source of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) and LA (linoleic acid).

Evening Primrose Acid may help the following:

  • Promote Healthy Joints
  • Support the symptoms of PMS
  • Balance gastrointestinal health
  • Support a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Nourish the skin
  • Protect the integrity of the cell membrane
  • Balance hormones
  • Provide healthy nerve support
  • Improve brain function
  • Support the health of the central nervous system
  • Aid in the absorption of vitamins K, E and D

Here are 6 areas where research has shown EPO may provide healthy results:

1) Hormone Balance

Essential fatty acids are considered to be the building blocks of hormones.  Hormones are required for most every metabolic process in the body.  The essential fatty acids found in EPO reduce inflammatory prostaglandins, support hormone balance and support endocrine disorders like PCOS which can affect menstrual cycle regularity, fertility and ovulation.

Prostaglandin, hormone like chemicals found in the body, production is modulated by Evening Primrose Oil.  Prostaglandins also play a role in water retention, normal blood clotting and even in labor initiation in the birthing process.  Although there are many kinds of prostaglandins they all play a role in the functioning of a healthy body.  EPO helps to maintain and promote healthy prostaglandin levels.

2) Fertility

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to increase metabolic function and cervical mucus.  These are two key factors needed for healthy menstruation and ovulation.

3) PMS and Women’s Health

Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to support several symptoms associated with PMS like bloating, water retention, mood swings, acne, breast pain and irritability.  Usually these symptoms are related to imbalances in hormone levels and research shows EPO can moderate these symptoms when taken consistently.  EPO can also help support symptoms associated with menopause making it an essential nutrient for women’s health.

4) Healthy Skin

Evening of Primrose Oil which contains GLA is essential for skin health.  GLA has shown benefits in supporting skin issues related to inflammation as well as hormone imbalances.  The skin which is the body’s largest organ, needs the Omega-6 essential acids found in EPO to improve skin elasticity and to optimize cell membrane structure.  Research has found some benefits for individuals suffering from psoriasis, eczema and generalized skin redness and EPO supplementation.

5) Reducing Inflammation

Evening Primrose Oil is often used to promote balance throughout the inflammatory pathways in the body especially in the joints.  It is been use to support the diseases involving chronic inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and atopic dermatitis.  Research shows EPO can aid in dealing with symptoms associated with RA.

6) Health Hair

Hair loss common in both men and women is often associated with hormonal changes.  DHT, a male hormone, can cause hair follicles to shrink.  This reduces the hair’s lifespan and actually can actually slow down hair growth.  If DHT is high, which can happen to women with thyroid issues, PCOS and other chronic health issues, hair growth slows.  EPO can aid in stopping this hair loss.

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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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