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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Should Women on a Paleo Diet be Taking Iodine Supplements?

Iodine and the Paleo DietA new study found that women following the paleo diet, the “Caveman” diet which excludes both dairy products and iodized table salt, may increase their risk for an Iodine deficiency.

70 healthy postmenopausal women who were obese or overweight participated in this prospective randomized weight loss trial.  The study lasted 2 years.  The participants were randomly assigned to follow the paleo diet or a diet based on the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR).  At the beginning of the study both diet groups had matching Iodine levels which were measured by 24-h urinary iodine excretion (24-UIE) and 24-h urinary iodine concentration (24-UIC).  The paleo group experienced decreases in Iodine measures during the course of the study but no decreases were observed in the NNR group.

The paleo diet has experienced an increase in popularity among American fitness enthusiasts and the number of foods targeting paleo dieters is growing.  The diet encourages followers to eat lean meats, vegetables and most fruit but avoid corn, dairy, grains, potatoes and legumes.  This new study is the first to evaluate the effects of this diet on Iodine levels in the body.

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Magnesium Pills May Improve Blood Pressure in At-Risk Populations

Magnesium and High Blood PressureA new meta-analysis found individuals with pre-diabetes, insulin resistance or other non-communicable chronic disease have a higher risk for hypertension (High Blood Pressure) but supplementation with Magnesium may lower their blood pressure.

11 gold-standard randomized controlled trials were reviewed.  Researchers found Magnesium supplementation significantly decreased both systolic (4.18 mmHg) and diastolic (2.27 mmHg) blood pressure.  It is believed that Magnesium effects vascular tone and thus improves endothelium (the layer of cells lining blood vessels) function which directly lowers blood pressure.  Additionally Magnesium has been reported to have a synergistic effect when combined with medications that are considered to be antihypertensive.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists Magnesium as being involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, such as helping to maintain normal nerve and muscle functions, keeping our bones strong as well as supporting a healthier immune response.  This important mineral is also necessary for supporting healthy blood pressure and blood sugar management.  70% – 80% of the population in the United States is not achieving the recommended intakes of daily Magnesium.

Researcher concluded that a well-designed, double blind, randomized placebo-controlled clinical study is warranted to provide more substantial evidence as to the benefits of Magnesium supplementation on blood pressure as well as disease outcomes in patients with pre-diabetes, insulin resistance and other non-communicable chronic diseases.

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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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Adequate Magnesium Intakes May Boost Bone Health

Magnesium and BonesA new study points to increasing magnesium intakes which may reduce the risk of fractures in older women, but the benefits for older men are not as clear.

Data from over 3,700 individuals with an average age of 60, who participated in the Osteoarthritis Initiative, was used for this study.  During the 8 years of data analyzed 560 people developed new fractures.  Participants with the highest average intake of Magnesium (398 mg/day for men and 373 mg/day for women) had a significant reduction in the risk of developing fractures (53% for men and 62% for women).  When height was taken into account the risk of fracture reduction fell to 25% for men and 53% for women.

Since only 27% of the study participants reached the RDA for Magnesium (420 mg for men and 320 mg for women over 30), it is believed that this may account for the change in the  risk factors for both men and women when height is taken into account.

Further randomize controlled trails are needed to fully understand the role Magnesium plays in delaying and reducing fractures.

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Study Finds Magnesium May Ease Depression Symptoms

Anxiety restlesness and depressionIn this open-label randomized cross-over study, participants were adults experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of depression (scores of 5-19 on the Public Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)).  The enrollment in the study covered a period of over one full year.  This was done to minimize the number of cases of seasonal depression participating in this trial.  The study period lasted six weeks.  Participants supplemented with 248 mg of elemental magnesium per day.

PHQ-9 scores were reduced by a significant 6 points and Generally Anxiety Disorders-7 scores dropped 4.5 points. Reductions in PHQ-9 scores of 5 or more are considered clinically relevant changes in persons who are receiving treatment for depression.  The improvements seen, occurred no matter what gender, age or baseline depression score of the participant.  Additionally subjects taking pharmaceutical antidepressants during the study period saw even larger reductions in PHQ-9 scores.  Most participants taking the magnesium supplement saw some improvements in their scores within two weeks from the start of supplementation.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body.  The researchers hoped to see larger clinical trials that extend over a longer time period to verify the results of this study.

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Dietary Potassium Linked with Lower Blood Pressure

HypertensionA new meta-analysis of several population studies has found that increasing dietary potassium may help with supporting healthier blood pressure levels.  Researchers looked at the link between blood pressure and dietary potassium, sodium and the ratio between potassium and sodium.

Researchers found that the higher the dietary potassium, measured from dietary recall and urinary excretion, the lower the participants blood pressure no matter how much sodium was ingested.  Other interventional studies with potassium supplementation showed a direct benefit of potassium and blood pressure reductions.  Researchers also reviewed recent animal studies that showed the body’s ability to balance sodium and potassium levels in the blood.  This is critical for nerve and muscle function as well as normal cardiovascular function.

Decreasing sodium intake has always been the way to reduce blood pressure, but new evidence suggests increasing potassium may be as important in reducing hypertension.  When potassium intake is high the kidneys excrete more water and salt which in turn increases potassium excretion concluded researchers.  Currently many modern diets consist of a lot of processed foods with added sodium unlike the diets of our early ancestors which were higher in potassium and very low in sodium.  This dietary shift has increased the risks of developing hypertension.  Hypertension affects over a billion people worldwide and it is estimated that high blood pressure is responsible for a least 51% of the deaths caused by strokes and 45% of the deaths caused by heart disease.

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