Archive for the ‘Heart’ Category

NEW ADVANCE ANNOUNCED IN REDUCING ‘BAD’ CHOLESTEROL

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Leicester, UK

Researchers identify enzyme that could be targeted to help body tackle LDL’s

Scientists from the University of Leicester and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have announced a major advance towards developing drugs to tackle dangerous, or ‘bad’, cholesterol in the body.

Prof. John Schwabe
Prof. John Schwabe
University of Leicester
Prof. of Structural Biology
Photo:le.ac.uk

They have filed two patents for developing targeted drugs that would act as a catalyst for lowering levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Two research papers published by the academics enhance the understanding of the regulation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.

LDL, the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol, is often linked to medical problems like heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries.

In the body, cells in the liver produce an LDL receptor that binds LDL and removes it from the blood, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.

The scientists have characterised an enzyme called IDOL that plays a key role in regulating the amount of LDL receptor available to bind with ‘bad’ cholesterol. Therefore targeting the enzyme with drugs could increase the levels of LDL receptors present, thus lowering circulating cholesterol in humans.

Professor John Schwabe, Head of Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, said: “Development of a drug that interferes with IDOL’s activity could help lower levels of LDL. Our research has greatly enhanced our understanding of this important process.”

Prof John Schwabe, Dr Ben Goult and Dr Louise Fairall at the University of Leicester in collaboration with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) published their research in the top research journals: Genes & Development and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The research was funded by The Wellcome Trust, the NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The study published in Genes & Development announced the first atomic structural information on IDOL and identified the E2 ligase, UBE2D that works with IDOL to degrade the LDL receptor.

In the second research article published in PNAS, the team elucidated the molecular basis for the stringent specificity of IDOL for the LDL receptor.

Professor Schwabe added: “Remarkably, IDOL only targets three proteins for degradation (all lipoprotein receptors) and this research paper greatly enhances our understanding of this specificity and identifies key residues involved in mediating this interaction.”

“A potential future drug that targets IDOL could be prescribed in conjunction with statin drugs, which also cut cholesterol levels by increasing production of the LDL receptor and these two studies make considerable headway towards this.”

>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

AMERICAN FIRST AT MONTREAL - PATIENT TREATED WITH BIOABSORBABLE HEART DEVICE

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Montreal, Canada, December 5, 2011
The interventional cardiology team at the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) used the world’s first drug eluting bioresorbable vascular scaffold to successfully treat a woman suffering from coronary artery disease. This landmark procedure was performed by Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay, interventional cardiologist and coordinator of the Coronary Unit, as part of the ABSORB EXTEND clinical trial. This successful intervention was a first in North America.

Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay
Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay
Coronary Unit
Montreal Heart Institute
Photo:icm-mhi.org

A breakthrough that could change the lives of patients The patient, a woman in her sixties, had suffered from chest pain for a number of months. She was diagnosed with a severe lesion to the heart main artery. She responded favorably to the procedure, was discharged after 24 hours and now, one month after, has regained a normal way of life with no more chest pain.

The investigational ABSORB bioresorbable vascular scaffold, developed by global healthcare company Abbott, is an innovative therapy that restores blood flow by opening a clogged vessel and providing support to the vessel while it heals. Once the vessel can remain open without the extra support, the bioresorbable scaffold is designed to be slowly metabolized until the device dissolves after approximately two years, leaving patients with a treated vessel free of a permanent metallic implant. With no metal left behind, the vessel has the potential to return to a more natural state. After the device has been metabolized, the patient’s vessel is free to move, flex, pulsate and dilate similar to an untreated vessel.

For Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay, it was important to be part of this first intervention, since during his postdoctoral studies he worked on early models of bioresorbable vascular scaffolds. “Treatments for coronary artery disease have progressed tremendously from the days of balloon angioplasties and metal stents leading to improved clinical outcome in our patients,” said Dr. Tanguay, who is also an associate professor of Medicine at the Universite de Montreal. “By effectively opening up a blocked artery without leaving a permanent implant behind in the blood vessel, this bioresorbable vascular scaffold has the potential to revolutionize how we treat our patients.”

A revolution in the way we treat patients with coronary artery disease

This treatment is available in Canada as part of Abbott’s global ABSORB EXTEND clinical trial which is a significant milestone toward making this innovative technology available to heart disease patients in Canada. In Canada, the clinical trial is conducted at four centers, including the Montreal Heart Institute (Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay), Institut Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie de Quebec (Dr. Eric Larose), University of Ottawa Heart Institute (Dr. Marino Labinaz) and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto (Dr. Christopher E. Buller). The ABSORB EXTEND trial will enroll approximately 1,000 patients from up to 100 centers in Europe, Asia Pacific, Canada and Latin America.

The device is made of polylactide, a proven biocompatible material that is commonly used in medical implants such as dissolvable sutures. ABSORB has CE Mark and is authorized for sale in Europe. It is under clinical investigation around the world with more than 500 patients treated with the device.

>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

ENVIRONMENT AND DIET LEAVE THEIR PRINTS ON THE HEART

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Cambridge, UK,
A University of Cambridge study, which set out to investigate DNA methylation in the human heart and the ‘missing link’ between our lifestyle and our health, has now mapped the link in detail across the entire human genome.

Dr. Roger Foo
Dr. Roger Foo
BHF Intermediate
Research Fellow
Cambridge University;
Hospitals NHS
Foundation Trust
Photo:cam.ac.uk

The new data collected greatly benefits a field that is still in its scientific infancy and is a significant leap ahead of where the researchers were, even 18 months ago. Researcher Roger Foo explains: “By going wider and scanning the genome in greater detail this time - we now have a clear picture of the ‘fingerprint’ of the missing link, where and how epigenetics in heart failure may be changed and the parts of the genome where diet or environment or other external factors may affect outcomes.”

The study originally began investigating the differences in DNA methylation found in the human heart. Researchers compared data from a small number of people with end stage cardiomyopathy who were undergoing heart transplantation, and the healthy hearts of age-matched victims of road traffic accidents.

DNA methylation leaves indicators, or “marks”, on the genome and there is evidence that these “marks” are strongly influenced by external factors such as the environment and diet. The researchers have found that this process is different in diseased and normal hearts. Linking all these things together suggest this may be the “missing link” between environmental factors and heart failure.

The findings deepen our understanding of the genetic changes that can lead to heart disease and how these can be influenced by our diet and our environment. The findings can potentially open new ways of identifying, managing and treating heart disease.

The DNA that makes up our genes is made up of four “bases” or nucleotides - cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymie, often abbreviated to C, G, A and T. DNA methylation is the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to cytosine.

When added to cytosine, the methyl group looks different and is recognised differently by proteins, altering how the gene is expressed i.e. turned on or off.

DNA methylation is a crucial part of normal development, allowing different cells to become different tissues despite having the same genes. As well as happening during development, DNA methylation continues throughout our lives in a response to environmental and dietary changes which can lead to disease.

As a result of the study, Foo likens DNA methylation to a fifth nucleotide: “We often think of DNA as being composed of four nucleotides. Now, we are beginning to think there is a fifth - the methylated C.”

Foo also alludes to what the future holds for the study: “…and more recent basic studies now show us that our genome has even got 6th, 7th and 8th nucleotides… in the form of further modifications of cytosines. These are hydroxy-methyl-Cytosine, formylCytosine and carboxylCytosine = hmC, fC and caC! These make up an amazing shift in the paradigm…”

As in most studies, as one question is resolved, another series of mysteries form in its place. The study shows that we are still on the frontier of Epigenetics and only just beginning to understand the link between the life we lead and the body we have.

>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Pages.

OMEGA-3 REDUCES STROKE SEVERITY

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Quebec City, August 25, 2011

Jasna Kriz
Jasna Kriz
Neurosciences
University Laval
Photo:ulaval.ca

Frederic Calon
Frederic Calon
Neuroscience
University Laval
Photo:ulaval.ca

A diet rich in omega-3s reduces the severity of brain damage after a stroke, according to a study conducted by University of Laval researchers. The team, co directed by professors Jasna Kriz and Frederic Calon, showed that the extent of brain damage following a stroke was reduced by 25% in mice that consumed DHA type omega-3s daily. Details of the study can be found on the website of the journal Stroke. Researchers observed that the effects of stroke were less severe in mice that had been fed a diet rich in DHA for three months than in mice fed a control diet. In mice from the DHA group, they saw a reduction in the concentrations of molecules that stimulate tissue inflammation and, conversely, a larger quantity of molecules that prevent the activation of cell death.

“This is the first convincing demonstration of the powerful antiinflammatory effect of DHA in the brain,” underscored Frederic Calon of Universite Laval’s Faculty of Pharmacy. This protective effect results from the substitution of molecules in the neuronal membrane: DHA partially replaces arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid known for its inflammatory properties.

“The consumption of omega-3s creates an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective environment in the brain that mitigates damage following a stroke,” summarized Jasna Kriz, of Universite Laval’s Faculty of Medicine. “It prevents an acute inflammatory response that, if not controlled, is harmful to brain tissue.”

Professor Calon believes that this antiinflammatory effect is likely transferable to humans. “Since DHA is readily available, inexpensive, and reduces the risk of a number of health problems without causing significant side effects, the risk benefit ratio tends to favor the regular consumption of fish or DHA,” he concluded.


>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

MARRIAGE IS GOOD FOR THE HEART

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

ROCHESTER, NY - August 22, 2011
Giving your heart to a supportive spouse turns out to be an excellent way to stay alive, according to new research from the University of Rochester. Happily wedded people who undergo coronary bypass surgery are more than three times as likely to be alive 15 years later as their unmarried counterparts, reports a study published online August 22 in Health Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

Kathleen B. King, PhD, RN, FAAN
Kathleen B. King
Professor Emeritus
University of Rochester
School of Nursing
Photo: .rochester.edu

“There is something in a good relationship that helps people stay on track” says Kathleen King, professor emerita from the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester and lead author on the paper.

In fact, the effect of marital satisfaction is “every bit as important to survival after bypass surgery as more traditional risk factors like tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure,” says coauthor Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

But the marriage advantage plays out differently for men and women. For men, marriage in general is linked to higher survival rates and the more satisfying the marriage, the higher the rate of survival. For women, the quality of the relationship is even more important. While unhappy marriages provide virtually no survival bonus for women, satisfying unions increase a woman’s survival rate almost fourfold, the study found.

“Wives need to feel satisfied in their relationships to reap a health dividend,” explains Reis. “But the payoff for marital bliss is even greater for women than for men.”

Some studies have suggested that marriage is not beneficial for women, Reis explains. But by factoring in the level of satisfaction, this research provides a more nuanced picture. “A good marriage gets under your skin whether you are male or female,” he says.

The researchers tracked 225 people who had bypass surgery between 1987 and 1990. They asked married participants to rate their relationship satisfaction one year after surgery. The study adjusted for age, sex, education, depressed mood, tobacco use, and other factors known to affect survival rates for cardiovascular disease.

Fifteen years after surgery, 83 percent of happily wedded wives were still alive, versus 28 percent of women in unhappy marriages and 27 percent of unmarried women. The survival rate for contented husbands was also 83 percent, but even the not-so-happily married fared well. Men in less-than-satisfying unions enjoyed a survival rate of 60 percent, significantly better than the 36 percent rate for unmarried men.

“Coronary bypass surgery was once seen as a miracle cure for heart disease,” says King. “But now we know that for most patients, grafts are a temporary patch, even more susceptible to clogging and disease than native arteries. So, it’s important to look at the conditions that allow some patients to beat the odds.”

King is skeptical of the widespread belief that a major health scare like going through bypass surgery leads to life changing behavior. “The data show that many people go back to the lifestyle that they had before,” she says.

King says that this study points to the importance of ongoing relationships for both men and women. Supportive spouses most likely help by encouraging healthy behavior, like increased exercise or smoking cessation, which are critical to long-term survival from heart disease. She also suggests that a nurturing marriage provides patients with sustained motivation to care for oneself and a powerful reason to “stick around so they can stay in the relationship that they like.” These are qualities of the relationship that likely existed before bypass surgery, and continued afterward, says King.

The study cites earlier research showing that people with lower hostility in their marriages have less of the kind of inflammation that is linked to heart disease, which may help explain why people in this study benefited from satisfying marriages.

>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

MECHANISM DISCOVERED FOR HEALTH BENEFIT OF GREEN TEA

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

One of the beneficial compounds found in green tea has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease, according to new research in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. This may be one of the underlying mechanisms for the health benefits of green tea, which has attracted wide interest for its ability to help control inflammation, improve immune function and prevent cancer.

Emily Ho
Emily Ho
Associate Professor
Principal Investigator
Linus Pauling Institute
Photo: oregonstate.edu

Pharmaceutical drugs are available that perform similar roles and have been the subject of much research, scientists say, but they have problems with toxicity. A natural food product might provide a long term, sustainable way to accomplish this same goal without toxicity, researchers said.

“This appears to be a natural, plant-derived compound that can affect the number of regulatory T cells, and in the process improve immune function,” said Emily Ho, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

“When fully understood, this could provide an easy and safe way to help control autoimmune problems and address various diseases,” Ho said.

The findings have been published in Immunology Letters, a professional journal.

There are many types of cells that have different roles in the immune system, which is a delicate balancing act of attacking unwanted invaders without damaging normal cells. In autoimmune diseases, which can range from simple allergies to juvenile diabetes or even terminal conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this process goes awry and the body mistakenly attacks itself.

Some cells exist primarily to help control that problem and dampen or “turn off” the immune system, including regulatory T cells. The number and proper function of those regulatory T cells, in turn, is regulated by other biological processes such as transcription factors and DNA methylation.

In this study, OSU scientists did experiments with a compound in green tea, a polyphenol called EGCG, which is believed to be responsible for much of its health benefits and has both anti-inflammatory and anticancer characteristics. They found it could cause a higher production of regulatory T cells. Its effects were not as potent as some of those produced by prescription drugs, but it also had few concerns about long-term use or toxicity.

“EGCG may have health benefits through an epigenetic mechanism, meaning we aren’t changing the underlying DNA codes, but just influencing what gets expressed, what cells get turned on,” Ho said. “And we may be able to do this with a simple, whole-food approach.”

Laboratory studies done with mice, Ho said, showed that treatment with EGCG significantly increased the numbers and frequencies of regulatory T cells found in spleen and lymph notes, and in the process helped to control the immune response.

“Epigenetic regulation can be potentially exploited in generating suppressive regulatory T cells for therapeutic purposes, and is of significant clinical importance for the suppression of autoimmune diseases,” the researchers said in their study.

The research was done by scientists from OSU, the University of Connecticut, and Changwon National University in South Korea. The work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station.

>>>>>Read more in our HeartVigor.com Green Tea Page.

DRUG CAN REVERSE OVERGROWN HEARTS TO HELP PREVENT HEART FAILURE

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

DALLAS, TX

The drug, a type of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor being evaluated in numerous ongoing clinical trials, has been shown to reverse the harmful effects of autophagy in heart muscle cells of mice. Autophagy is a natural process by which cells eat their own proteins to provide needed resources in times of stress. The new study appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Joseph Hill, MD PHD
Joseph Hill, MD PHD
University of Texas
Professor of Cardiology
Photo: utsouthwestern.edu

“This opens the way for a new therapeutic strategy in hypertensive heart disease, one we can test for potential to promote regression of heart disease,” said Dr. Joseph Hill, chief of cardiology and director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Hill, senior author of the study, and other researchers have shown previously that all forms of heart disease involve either too much or too little autophagy, normally an adaptive process. For example, in the presence of high blood pressure, the heart enlarges, or hypertrophies, and autophagy is turned on. Ultimately, the hypertension stressed heart can go into failure.

Prior research from Dr. Hill’s laboratory has shown that HDAC inhibitors blunt disease-associated heart growth, so researchers designed this study to determine what impact a particular type of HDAC inhibitor had on autophagy.

The researchers engineered mice with overactive autophagy and induced hypertrophy leading to heart failure. Scientists then gave the mice an HDAC inhibitor known to limit autophagy.

“The heart decreased back to near its normal size, and heart function that had previously been declining went back to normal,” Dr. Hill said. “That is a powerful observation where disease regression, not just disease prevention, was seen.”

Dr. Hill noted that the research that led to this finding started decades ago and included studies led by Dr. Kern Wildenthal, former president of UT Southwestern and now president of Southwestern Medical Foundation.

“This is one of those exciting, but rare, examples where an important finding made originally in yeast moved into mouse models and is soon moving to humans,” Dr. Hill said. “That’s the Holy Grail for a physician scientist - to translate those sorts of fundamental molecular discoveries through preclinical studies and ultimately in humans.”

>>>>>Read all the latest news in our HeartVigor.com News Index Page.

CANADIAN MAPLE SYRUP - NEXT SUPER FOOD?

Friday, April 1st, 2011

New York, NY

There’s more good news about pure maple syrup from the University of Rhode Island (URI). Researchers there have now identified 54 compounds in maple syrup from Canada, double the amount previously reported, and many with antioxidant activity and potential health benefits. In laboratory studies, they acted as anti cancer and anti inflammatory agents. Initial studies also suggest that maple compounds may inhibit enzymes relevant in Type 2 diabetes management.

Dr. Navindra Seeram
Dr. Navindra Seeram
Assistant pharmacy
professor at URI
Photo: uri.edu

These new findings were presented on March 30th at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, CA, during a day long session exclusively examining the bioactive compounds found in natural sweeteners. The session was organized and chaired by Dr. Navindra Seeram, assistant pharmacy professor at URI and a lead scientist on the maple syrup research team.

According to the URI research team, maple syrup contains a cocktail of polyphenol compounds, several with antioxidant properties and many with well documented health benefits. “We found a wide variety of polyphenols in maple syrup,” said Seeram. “It is a one stop shop for these beneficial compounds, several of which are also found in berries, tea, red wine and flaxseed, just to name a few,” Seeram continued. “Not all sweeteners are created equal. When choosing a sweetener, pure maple syrup may be a better choice because of the range of antioxidant compounds not found in other sweeteners.”

Maple syrup may prove to be relevant in Type 2 diabetes management, although the findings must be verified in clinical trials. “We discovered that the polyphenols in maple syrup inhibit enzymes that are involved in the conversion of carbohydrate to sugar,” said Seeram. “In fact, in preliminary studies maple syrup had a greater enzyme inhibiting effect compared to several other healthy plant foods such as berries, when tested on a dry weight basis. By 2050, one in three people will be afflicted with Type 2 diabetes and more and more people are looking for healthier diets, so finding a potential anti-diabetic compound in maple syrup is interesting for the scientific community and the consumer,” said Seeram.

Five of the 54 antioxidants in maple syrup were identified for the first time in nature, and are unique to the natural sweetener. Among the five new compounds never before identified, one polyphenol is of particular interest. Given the common name of Quebecol, in honor of the province of Quebec, this compound is created during the process of boiling down maple sap into maple syrup. “We don’t know yet whether the new compounds contribute to the healthy profile of maple syrup, but we do know that the sheer quantity and variety of identified compounds with documented health benefits qualifies maple syrup as a champion food,” commented Seeram, whose findings have recently been published in the Journal of Functional Foods. Dr. Seeram’s work at URI is supported by a grant funded by The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, in conjunction with the Conseil pour le developpement de l’agriculture du Quebec (CDAQ) and Agriculture and Agri Food Canada (AAFC) on behalf of the Canadian Maple Syrup Industry.

Attendees at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting also heard promising results from other Canadian researchers who are studying the health benefits of maple syrup. “Part of our New Generation of Maple 2020 strategy is to work with talented scientists to discover and share more knowledge about maple syrup. We are excited that this line of research receives interest from all over the world,” says Serge Beaulieu, President of the Federation and member of the Canadian Maple Industry Advisory Committee. Genevieve Beland, Marketing Director for the Federation, adds “Maple is the most important food derived from the pure sap of trees, and given its amazing potential for human health and great nutritional value, it is a natural choice for a healthy lifestyle.” The Federation’s members produce about 80 percent of the worldwide supply of the natural sweetener.

>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

SAFFLOWER OIL EACH DAY MIGHT HELP KEEP HEART DISEASE AT BAY

Monday, March 21st, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio

A daily dose of safflower oil, a common cooking oil, for 16 weeks can improve such health measures as good cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and inflammation in obese postmenopausal women who have Type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

This finding comes about 18 months after the same researchers discovered that safflower oil reduced abdominal fat and increased muscle tissue in this group of women after 16 weeks of daily supplementation.

Martha A. Belury
Martha A. Belury
Associate professor
Human nutrition
Ohio State University
Photo: osu.edu

This combination of health measures that are improved by the safflower oil is associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that can increase risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

These new findings have led the chief researcher to suggest that a daily dose of safflower oil in the diet - about 1 2/3 teaspoons - is a safe way to help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

“The women in the study didn’t replace what was in their diet with safflower oil. They added it to what they were already doing. And that says to me that certain people need a little more of this type of good fat - particularly when they’re obese women who already have diabetes,” said Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

“I believe these findings suggest that people consciously make sure they get a serving of healthy oil in their diets each day - maybe an oil and vinegar dressing on a salad, or some oil for cooking. And this recommendation can be extended to everyone.”

The research appears online and is scheduled for future print publication in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Safflower oil contains linoleic acid, which is a PUFA - a polyunsaturated fatty acid. Research dating back to the 1960s has suggested that these dietary oils from plant sources can help prevent heart disease, said Belury, who holds the Carol S. Kennedy professorship in nutrition. But attention to these fats has declined as omega-3 fish oils have gained popularity among consumers, she said.

“The health benefits of omega-3 PUFAs seem convincing, but I think there’s also a place for omega-6 PUFAs. We’ve known for a long time that polyunsaturated oils are very beneficial for cardiovascular disease prevention, and these data we are adding now show that these oils can also help with other aspects of metabolic syndrome, including even glycemic control,” Belury said. “We suspect it could be through a mechanism that is not yet identified.”

In the first study, published in September 2009, Belury and colleagues had compared the effects of safflower oil and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound naturally found in some meat and dairy products, on obese postmenopausal women with Type 2 diabetes. CLA had a reputation from previous studies for contributing to weight loss. Safflower oil’s association with reduced abdominal fat took the researchers by surprise.

For this current research, the scientists performed a secondary analysis of data collected from that clinical trial, applying a powerful statistical analysis to the results and also checking to see how long it took for any effects of the oils to appear in the women’s health profiles. The scientists had taken blood samples every four weeks during the study to obtain these measures.

In almost all cases in this analysis, safflower oil supplementation improved metabolic measures while CLA did not show any effects for glycemic or lipid control. Sixteen weeks of CLA supplementation did reduce total body fat and lowered the women’s body mass index (BMI), a common health measure of weight relative to height.

Several of the beneficial effects of safflower oil were evident after 16 weeks of supplementation. On average among all of the women tested, these included:

An increase in insulin sensitivity of about 2.7 percent as measured by a formula known as the quantitative insulin sensitivity check index. Higher insulin sensitivity is important for the transfer of sugar, or glucose, from the blood into the tissues, where it is used for energy. Insulin resistance, or lowered insulin sensitivity, is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes.

A small, but significant, .64 percent decrease in a blood protein called HbA1C, which is a marker of long term presence of excess glucose in the blood.

A roughly 17.5 percent decrease in C reactive protein, a protein in the blood that rises in the presence of inflammation. A growing body of research suggests that high levels of this protein increase the risk for a heart attack.

The researchers had documented in the previous study that safflower oil also lowered fasting blood sugar levels by between 11 and 19 points on average. Blood sugar is considered normal if it falls below 110 milligrams per deciliter; the women’s average blood sugar levels ranged from 129 to 148 after 16 weeks of safflower oil supplementation.

Within 12 weeks, the safflower oil led to a 14 percent increase in HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, as well as an increase in adiponectin, a hormone that regulates levels of blood sugar and fats and which influences insulin levels. Higher levels of adiponectin could be expected to increase the efficiency of dietary fat burning, Belury said.

People with metabolic syndrome generally have three or more of the following conditions: excess fat in the abdominal area, borderline or high blood pressure, cholesterol problems that foster plaque buildup in arteries, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance and a high level of triglycerides, a form of fat in the blood.

At the start of the study, the women were obese and had Type 2 diabetes, low HDL cholesterol and high levels of C-reactive protein and the HbA1c protein. Though in many cases their health measures were still high or low enough at the end of the study to leave them at increased risk for heart disease, Belury said the safflower oil could function as a complementary intervention in combination with medications used to control their disorders.

“We don’t know the long term effects of safflower oil from this study alone, but I certainly think it’s possible that the risk for cardiovascular problems could be significantly decreased in this high-risk group if supplementation were continued,” Belury said.

She noted that the total dose of dietary oils the women took between their normal diets and the safflower oil supplementation amounted to 9.8 percent of their daily calories - a level that falls within federal guidelines for vegetable oil consumption. The women had been instructed not to change their diets during the study, and self reports of their food intake showed that their eating habits did not change while they were taking the supplements.

“A small change in eating behavior to alter the fatty acid content of the diet might improve metabolic measures in people already consuming what is considered to be an adequate amount of dietary linoleic acid,” Belury said. “What is needed in our diet is PUFAs to help with cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in this country.”

>>>>>Read all the latest in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

TAI CHI FIGHTS DEPRESSION IN ELDERLY

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Los Angeles, CA

The numbers are, well, depressing: More than 2 million people age 65 and older suffer from depression, including 50 percent of those living in nursing homes. The suicide rate among white men over 85 is the highest in the country - six times the national rate.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky
Dr. Helen Lavretsky
UCLA professor
in residence
of psychiatry
Photo: ucla.edu

And we’re not getting any younger. In the next 35 years, the number of Americans over 65 will double and the number of those over 85 will triple.

So the question becomes, how to help elderly depressed individuals?

Researchers at UCLA turned to a gentle, Westernized version of tai chi chih, a 2,000 year old Chinese martial art. When they combined a weekly tai chi exercise class with a standard depression treatment for a group of depressed elderly adults, they found greater improvement in the level of depression - along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy - than among a different group in which the standard treatment was paired with a weekly health education class.

The results of the study appear in the current online edition of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“This is the first study to demonstrate the benefits of tai chi in the management of late life depression, and we were encouraged by the results,” said first author Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor in residence of psychiatry. “We know that nearly two thirds of elderly patients who seek treatment for their depression fail to achieve relief with a prescribed medication.”

In the study, 112 adults age 60 or older with major depression were treated with the drug escitalopram, a standard antidepressant, for approximately four weeks. From among those participants, 73 who showed only partial improvement continued to receive the medication daily but were also randomly assigned to 10 weeks of either a tai chi class for two hours per week or a health education class for two hours per week.

All the participants were evaluated for their levels of depression, anxiety, resilience, health related quality of life, cognition and immune system inflammation at the beginning of the study and again four months later.

The level of depression among each participant was assessed using a common diagnostic tool known as the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, which involves interviewing the individual. The questions are designed to gauge the severity of depression. A cut off score of 10/11 is generally regarded as appropriate for the diagnosis of depression.

The researchers found that among the tai chi participants, 94 percent achieved a score of less than 10, with 65 percent achieving remission (a score of 6 or less). By comparison, among participants who received health education, 77 percent achieved scores of 10 or less, with 51 percent achieving remission.

While both groups showed improvement in the severity of depression, said Lavretsky, who directs UCLA’s Late Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program, greater reductions were seen among those taking escitalopram and participating in tai chi, a form of exercise that is gentle enough for the elderly.

“Depression can lead to serious consequences, including greater morbidity, disability, mortality and increased cost of care,” Lavretsky said. “This study shows that adding a mind body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults, who may also have other, coexisting medical conditions, or cognitive impairment.

“With tai chi,” she said, “we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications.”

>>>>>Read more on aging in our HeartVigor.com Aging Page.

>>>>>Read more in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

HERBAL TEA - BENEFITS AND LORE

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Boston, MA

These days, there is a lot of talk about health benefits from drinking teas. Green, black, and oolong are considered the three major classes, and each comes from the age old Camellia sinensis tea bush. But there is an even wider variety of herbal teas - infusions derived from anything other than C. sinensis.

Diane McKay and Oliver Chen
Antioxidants Research
Laboratory scientists
Diane McKay and Oliver Chen
Photo: Stephen Ausmus

According to folklore, some herbal teas also provide benefits. But there is little clinical evidence on the effects of drinking these teas. Now, Diane McKay and Jeffrey Blumberg have looked into science based evidence of health benefits from drinking three of the most popular herbals in America. McKay and Blumberg are with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. Both work at the center’s Antioxidants Research Laboratory, which Blumberg directs.

One popular herbal, chamomile tea, has long been considered a soothing brew. In the early 20th century, it was mentioned in a classic children’s book about a little rabbit named Peter. At the end of a rough day, Peter’s mom served him some chamomile tea. Interestingly, when Blumberg and McKay reviewed scientific literature on the bioactivity of chamomile, they found no human clinical trials that examined this calming effect.

They did, however, publish a review article on findings far beyond sedation - describing test tube evidence that chamomile tea has moderate antioxidant and antimicrobial activities and significant antiplatelet clumping activity. Also, animal feeding studies have shown potent anti inflammatory action and some cholesterol lowering activity.

The researchers also published a review article describing evidence of bioactivity of peppermint tea. In test tubes, peppermint has been found to have significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential. When animals were fed either moderate amounts of ground leaves or leaf extracts, researchers also noted a relaxation effect on gastrointestinal tissue and an analgesic and anesthetic effect in the nervous system.

The researchers found several human studies involving peppermint oil, but they found no data from human clinical trials involving peppermint tea. McKay and Blumberg have concluded that the available research on herbal teas is compelling enough to suggest clinical studies.

McKay has led a human clinical trial to test whether drinking hibiscus tea affects blood pressure. She tested 65 volunteers, aged 30 to 70 years, who were pre or mildly hypertensive. Blood pressure readings of 120/80 or greater are considered a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

For 6 weeks, about half the group was randomly selected to drink 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily. The others drank a placebo beverage containing artificial hibiscus flavoring and color. All participants were advised to follow their usual diet and maintain their normal level of activity. Before the start of the study, blood pressure was measured twice - 1 week apart - and at weekly intervals thereafter.

The findings show that the volunteers who drank hibiscus tea had a 7.2 point drop in their systolic blood pressure (the top number), and those who drank the placebo beverage had a 1.3 point drop.

In a subgroup analysis of the 30 volunteers who had the highest systolic blood pressure readings (129 or above) overall at the start of the study, those assigned to drink hibiscus tea showed the greatest response to hibiscus tea drinking. Their systolic blood pressure went down by 13.2 points, diastolic blood pressure went down by 6.4 points, and mean arterial pressure went down by 8.7 points.

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The 2010 study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. “This data supports the idea that drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily incorporated into the diet may play a role in controlling blood pressure, although more research is required,” says McKay.
By Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS national program (#107) described at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.

Diane L. McKay is with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111-1524; (781) 608-7183.

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RESEARCHER LISTS MORE THAN 4,000 COMPONENTS OF BLOOD CHEMISTRY

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Edmonton, Alberta - Feb. 24, 2011
After three years of exhaustive analysis led by a University of Alberta researcher, the list of known compounds in human blood has exploded from just a handful to more than 4,000. “Right now a medical doctor analyzing the blood of an ailing patient looks at something like 10 to 20 chemicals,” said U of A biochemist David Wishart. “We’ve identified 4,229 blood chemicals that doctors can potentially look at to diagnose and treat health problems.”

Hannah Gardener, Sc.D.
Dr. David Wishart
University of Alberta
biochemist
Photo: ualberta.ca

Blood chemicals, or metabolites, are routinely analyzed by doctors to diagnose conditions like diabetes and kidney failure. Wishart says the new research opens up the possibility of diagnosing hundreds of other diseases that are characterized by an imbalance in blood chemistry.

Wishart led more than 20 researchers at six different institutions using modern technology to validate past research, and the team also conducted its own lab experiments to break new ground on the content of human blood chemistry.

“This is the most complete chemical characterization of blood ever done,” said Wishart. “We now know the normal values of all the detectable chemicals in blood. Doctors can use these measurements as a reference point for monitoring a patient’s current and even future health.”

Wishart says blood chemicals are the “canary in the coal mine,” for catching the first signs of an oncoming medical problem. “The blood chemistry is the first thing to change when a person is developing a dangerous condition like high cholesterol.”

The database created by Wishart and his team is open access, meaning anyone can log on and find the expanded list of blood chemicals. Wishart says doctors can now tap into the collected wisdom of hundreds of blood research projects done in the past by researchers all over the world. “With this new database doctors can now link a specific abnormality in hundreds of different blood chemicals with a patient’s specific medical problem,” said Wishart.

Wishart believes the adoption of his research will happen slowly, with hospitals incorporating new search protocols and equipment for a few hundred of the more than 4,000 blood-chemistry markers identified by Wishart and his colleagues.

“People have being studying blood for more than 100 years,” said Wishart. “By combining research from the past with our new findings we have moved the science of blood chemistry from a keyhole view of the world to a giant picture window.”

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DIET SODA MAY RAISE ODDS OF VASCULAR EVENTS; SALT LINKED TO STROKE RISK

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

LOS ANGELES,

Study Highlights:
- Drinking diet soda daily is linked to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular related deaths.

- High salt intake may double the risk of ischemic stroke, independent of sodium’s role in hypertension.

Even if you drink diet soda - instead of the sugar variety - you could still have a much higher risk of vascular events compared to those who don’t drink soda, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011.

In findings involving 2,564 people in the large, multiethnic Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), scientists said people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events than those who reported no soda drinking.

Hannah Gardener, Sc.D.
Hannah Gardener, Sc.D.
Epidemiologist
University of Miami
Miller School
of Medicine
Photo: med.miami.edu

“If our results are confirmed with future studies, then it would suggest that diet soda may not be the optimal substitute for sugar sweetened beverages for protection against vascular outcomes,” said Hannah Gardener, Sc.D., lead author and epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Fla.

In separate research using 2,657 participants also in the Manhattan study, scientists found that high salt intake, independent of the hypertension it causes, was linked to a dramatically increased risk of ischemic strokes (when a blood vessel blockage cuts off blood flow to the brain).

In the study, people who consumed more than 4,000 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium had more than double the risk of stroke compared to those consuming less than 1,500 mg per day.

At the start of both studies, researchers assessed diet by a food frequency questionnaire.

NOMAS is a collaboration of investigators at Columbia University in New York and Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, launched in 1993 to examine stroke incidence and risk factors in a multiethnic urban population. A total of 3,298 participants over 40 years old (average age 69) were enrolled through 2001 and continue to be followed. Sixtythree percent were women, 21 percent were white, 24 percent black and 53 percent Hispanic.

In the soda study, researchers asked subjects at the outset to report how much and what kind of soda they drank. Based on the data, they grouped participants into seven consumption categories: no soda (meaning less than one soda of any kind per month); moderate regular soda only (between one per month and six per week), daily regular soda (at least one per day); moderate diet soda only; daily diet soda only; and two groups of people who drink both types: moderate diet and any regular, and daily diet with any regular.

During an average follow up of 9.3 years, 559 vascular events occurred (including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by rupture of a weakened blood vessel). Researchers accounted for participants’ age, sex, race or ethnicity, smoking status, exercise, alcohol consumption and daily caloric intake. And even after researchers also accounted for patients’ metabolic syndrome, peripheral vascular disease and heart disease history, the increased risk persisted at a rate 48 percent higher.

In the sodium research, 187 ischemic strokes were reported during 9.7 years of follow-up. Stroke risk, independent of hypertension, increased 16 percent for every 500 mg of sodium consumed a day, the scientists calculated. Those figures included adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, alcohol use, exercise, daily caloric intake, smoking status, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and previous heart disease.

Only a third of participants met the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend daily sodium intake fall below 2,300 mg, or about a teaspoon of salt, Gardener said. Only 12 percent of subjects met the American Heart Association’s recommendations to consume less than 1,500 mg a day. Average intake was 3,031 milligrams.

“The take home message is that high sodium intake is a risk factor for ischemic stroke among people with hypertension as well as among those without hypertension, underscoring the importance of limiting consumption of high sodium foods for stroke prevention,” Gardener said.

Participants’ reporting their dietary behavior is a key limitation of both studies, Gardener said.

In the soda study, investigators also lacked data on types of diet and regular drinks consumed, preventing analysis of whether variations among brands or changes over time in coloring and sweeteners might have played a role.

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WHAT MAKES FRUCTOSE FATTENING? OHSU RESEARCHERS FIND ANSWERS IN THE BRAIN

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore.

The dietary concerns of too much fructose is well documented. High fructose corn syrup has become the sweetener most commonly added to processed foods. Many dietary experts believe this increase directly correlates to the nation’s growing obesity epidemic. Now, new research at Oregon Health & Science University demonstrates that the brain - which serves as a master control for body weight - reacts differently to fructose compared with another common sweetener, glucose. The research is published in the online edition of the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism and will appear in the March print edition.

Jonathan Purnell, MD
Jonathan Purnell, MD
Assistant Professor,
of medicine OHSU School
of Medicine
Photo: ohsu.edu

“We know from animal models that the brain responds uniquely to different nutrients and that these responses can determine how much they eat,” said Jonathan Purnell, M.D., an associate professor of medicine (endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition) in the OHSU School of Medicine.

“With newer technologies such as functional MRI, we can examine how brain activity in humans reacts when exposed to, say, carbohydrates or fats. What we’ve found in this case is that the brain’s response to fructose is very different to the response to glucose, which is less likely to promote weight gain.”

Functional MRI allows researchers to watch brain activity in real time. To conduct the research, nine normal weight human study subjects were imaged as they received an infusion of fructose, glucose or a saline solution. When the resulting brain scans from these three groups were compared, the scientists observed distinct differences.

Brain activity in the hypothalamus, one brain area involved in regulating food intake, was not affected by either fructose or glucose. However, activity in the cortical brain control areas showed the opposite response during infusions of the sugars. Activity in these areas was inhibited when fructose was given but activated during glucose infusion.

This is an important finding because these control brain areas included sites that are thought to be important in determining how we respond to food taste, smells, and pictures, which the American public is bombarded with daily.

“This study provides evidence in humans that fructose and glucose elicits opposite responses in the brain. It supports the animal research that shows similar findings and links fructose with obesity,” added Purnell.

The OHSU Advanced Imaging Research Center, the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at OHSU, the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, the USDA-ARS Project, the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation, and the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health, funded this research.

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NEW EXPLANATION FOR HEART HEALTHY BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE

Monday, February 7th, 2011

WASHINGTON

In time for the chocolate giving and chocolate noshing fest on Valentine’s Day, scientists are reporting discovery of how this treat boosts the body’s production of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) - the “good” form of cholesterol that protects against heart disease. Just as those boxes of chocolates get hearts throbbing and mouths watering, polyphenols in chocolate rev up the activity of certain proteins, including proteins that attach to the genetic material DNA in ways that boost HDL levels. Their report appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, one of 39 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.

Midori Natsume, Ph.D., and colleagues note that studies have shown that cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease by boosting levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and decreasing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Credit for those heart-healthy effects goes to a cadre of antioxidant compounds in cocoa called polyphenols, which are particularly abundant in dark chocolate. Until now, however, nobody knew exactly how the polyphenols in cocoa orchestrated those beneficial effects.

The scientists analyzed the effects of cocoa polyphenols on cholesterol using cultures of human liver and intestinal cells. They focused on the production of apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), a protein that is the major component of “good” cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B (ApoB), the main component of “bad” cholesterol. It turns out that cocoa polyphenols increased ApoA1 levels and decreased ApoB levels in both the liver and intestine. Further, the scientists discovered that the polyphenols seem to work by enhancing the activity of so-called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs). SREBPs attach to the genetic material DNA and activate genes that boost ApoA1 levels, increasing “good” cholesterol. The scientists also found that polyphenols appear to increase the activity of LDL receptors, proteins that help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.

Other recent research on the health benefits chocolate published in ACS journals:

* New evidence that dark chocolate helps ease emotional stress

* Study finds that people are programmed to love chocolate

* Natural ACE inhibitors in chocolate, wine and tea may help lower blood pressure

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