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Monday
Aug042014

Do Bad Teeth = Heart Trouble?

The link between poor dental health and cardiovascular disease is still being examined, but results of a large study that looked at data from nearly 16,0000 people from 39 countries add to a growing body of evidence suggesting an association between oral and heart health. All had coronary heart disease and at least one other risk factor for heart problems. Nearly 70 percent were current or former smokers, and it appears the oral health of the participants also left a lot to be desired. Responses to a questionnaire showed that one quarter of the study participants experienced gum bleeding while they brushed their teeth (a sign of gum disease); 41 percent said that they had fewer than 15 teeth left and 16 percent reported having no teeth at all. The research team, from the Uppsala University in Sweden, identified links between periodontal disease (including bleeding gums), tooth loss and other risk factors for heart disease, such as large waist circumference, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. However, the study’s lead author acknowledged that more research is needed to determine whether practicing good dental hygiene can actually help lower the risk of heart disease.

My take? One of the first studies linking oral health and heart disease was published online in the journal Stroke on July 31, 2003. It showed that the more teeth a person has lost, the more likely he or she is to have both advanced periodontal infections and plaques in the carotid arteries that supply the brain with blood. Conceivably, oral health may contribute to heart disease through processes involving inflammation. A secondary contributor to a link may be inadequate nutritional intake. If you lack teeth, you can't optimally process your food and may not get adequate amounts of heart-healthy nutrients and fiber. Research suggests that people with poor oral health should have cardiac exams even if they have no symptoms of heart disease, and the new study supports this recommendation.

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Sources:
Olga Vedin et al, “Periodontal disease in patients with chronic coronary heart disease: Prevalence and association with cardiovascular risk factors,” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, April 10, 2014, doi: 10.1177/2047487314530660

Friday
Aug012014

What Works Best for Your Allergies? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed using acupuncture as a form of relief for allergies: Acupuncture for Allergies? Check out the article and let us know what you use or do for relieving allergies.

Thursday
Jul312014

Beer Marinade – Quick Tip for Healthier Barbeques

Barbeque season in fast approaching in the U.S. and although the tradition offers a lot in the way of social benefits, grilling foods has proven to be decidedly unhealthy. Fortunately, a group of European scientists have come up with a way to cut back on harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogens that can form when meat is cooked on the grill or elsewhere at very high temperatures. The compounds have been associated with tumors, birth defects and reproductive problems in lab animals and with colorectal cancer in humans. The trick to reducing the PAHs in your barbequed steaks and chops, according to the research team, is to marinate them first in beer. The investigators from Universidade do Porto in Portugal reported that four hours of marinating meat in regular or nonalcoholic pilsner or dark ale reduced the PAHs in meat by slightly more than half compared with meat that hasn’t been marinated. Overall, the researchers found that using dark ale (which contains more antioxidants than the other brews) cut PAHs by 53 percent. The nonalcoholic pilsner beer marinade cut PAHs by 25 percent and the regular Pilsner beer reduced them by only 13 percent. When the researchers performed their study, they cooked pork to well done on a charcoal grill.

Sources:
Olga Viegas et al, “Effect of Beer Marinades on Formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Charcoal-Grilled Pork,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014, 62 (12), pp 2638–2643 DOI: 10.1021/jf404966w

Wednesday
Jul302014

Getting Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Video)

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to optimal brain and nervous system development in the fetus. Dr. Weil discusses how we have an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids due to our diet. Dr. Weil also suggests taking an omega-3 supplement derived from molecularly distilled fish oils that are naturally high in both EPA and DHA and low in contaminants.

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Tuesday
Jul292014

Can Vitamin A Prevent Breast Cancer?

Sweet potatoes and carrots provide us with carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Our bodies convert these naturally occurring compounds to vitamin A, and new research suggests that one form of these derivatives, retinoic acid, may help protect against breast cancer. A study from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia showed that exposing pre-cancerous cells to retinoic acid turns them back into normal cells with a normal genetic signature. No such effect was seen when the researchers exposed cancerous and aggressive breast cancer cells to retinoic acids, which the researchers said suggests a small window of opportunity for retinoic acid to play its cancer-protective role. They also reported that lower concentrations of retinoic acid than the one used in this study had no effect and that higher doses actually yielded a smaller effect. Now, the researchers plan to investigate whether the amount of retinoic acid used will work in animals. If it does, human tests of the effects would come next. In addition to carrots and sweet potatoes, foods that contain carotenoids include broccoli, squash, cantaloupe, mangos and apricots, while vitamin A as retinoic acid can be found in beef liver and other organ meats, salmon, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.

Sources:
M.F. Arisi et al, “All trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) induces re-differentiation of early transformed breast epithelial cells,” International Journal of Oncology, DOI: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2354, 2014.

Monday
Jul282014

Beans for Bad Cholesterol

How often do you eat lentils, kidney beans, hummus (made with chickpeas) or split pea soup? These are all examples of “pulses” or foods based upon them. Each pulse is part of the legume family, but the term refers only to dried, low-fat seeds, so it excludes both fresh beans and fatty seeds such as peanuts.

New research from Canada shows that one ¾ cup daily serving of pulses could lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by as much as five percent. And that drop would result in a five to six percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to study leader John Sievenpiper, M.D., Ph.D. Unfortunately, the average consumption of pulses is only about a half serving per day in the U.S. and Canada, the team reported. To reach their conclusion, the investigators reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that gathered data on 1,037 people. They found that adding pulses to the diet benefitted men more than women, possibly because their cholesterol levels were generally higher and their diets poorer. The researchers found that participants in some of the studies they analyzed complained of bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation when they first added pulses to their diets, but the symptoms subsided over the course of the study.

My take? There are many important advantages to adding pulses to your diet. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber; are enjoyable additions to meals if prepared properly; and are among the most inexpensive foods you can buy - the ultimate refutation of the notion that "you have to be rich to eat healthy." Legumes are also heart-healthy; their high fiber content lowers cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels. A study of more than 15,000 middle-aged men across the U.S., Europe and Japan for 25 years found the consumption of legumes was associated with an 82 percent reduction in risk of death from heart disease. Most varieties of beans and lentils are also high in folate, a vitamin that helps prevent the build-up of the amino acid homocysteine - elevated levels of which are a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Whether you enjoy pluses as dips and spreads like hummus, paired with nutritious whole grains such as the ever-popular beans and rice, or merely to bulk up soups, stews and salads, they deserve a prominent place in your anti-inflammatory kitchen!

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Sources:
John L. Sievenpiper et al, “Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials,” CMAJ, 2014 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.131727

Friday
Jul252014

How Often Do You Use Sunscreen? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed sunscreen and the best forms of sun protection while outside: Sunscreen Snafu? Check out the article and let us know when and how often you use sunscreen.

Thursday
Jul242014

Female Fertility: The Stress Factor

When pregnancy just isn’t happening, the problem could be a stressed-out prospective mother. A new study from Ohio State found that an enzyme that signals stress shows up more often in the saliva of women who fail to conceive after 12 months of trying than in women who have less trouble getting pregnant. The researchers followed 500 American women age 18 to 40 who had no known fertility problems when they began trying to conceive. The women were followed for 12 months or until they became pregnant. Researchers took saliva samples when the study began and again in the morning after the first day of the women’s first menstrual period after joining the study. Those who had higher levels of alpha-amylase were 29 percent less likely to conceive each month and twice as likely not to conceive after trying for a year. An earlier study in the U.K. concluded with the same results. The Ohio State researchers noted that stress is not the only or the most important impediment to pregnancy, but suggested that women who are having trouble getting pregnant consider stress-management techniques including yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Sources:
C.D. Lynch et al, “Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study,” Human Reproduction, doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu032

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