Archive for the ‘stroke’ 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.”

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

_____________

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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>>>>>Read more in our HeartVigor.com Herbal Tea Pages.

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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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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HEPA FILTERS REDUCE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH AIR POLLUTION

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Burnaby, British Columbia
Using inexpensive air filters may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk that results from exposure to air pollution, according to researchers from Canada, who studied healthy adultsliving in a small community in British Columbia where wood burning stoves are the main sources of pollution. The researchers found that high efficiency particle air (HEPA)filters reduced the amount of airborne particulate matter, resulting in improved blood vessel health and reductions in blood markers that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ryan Allen MS, PhD
Ryan Allen MS, PhD
Assistant Professor,
Health Sciences,
Simon Fraser University,
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Photo: soeh.ubc.ca

The findings were published online ahead of the print edition of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“Our main objectives were to evaluate the potential for a simple intervention to improve indoor air quality and reduce pollution-related cardiovascular health risks and to better understand the mechanisms that contribute to air pollution related cardiovascular health problems” said Ryan Allen, PhD, assistant professor, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia. “Specifically, we were interested in learning more about the effects of residential wood smoke on the endothelium, the cells that line the inside of blood vessels, and on systemic inflammation, which is related to cardiovascular disease risk.”

Previous studies on the effects of air pollution on cardiovascular disease have been conducted primarily in urban areas and have focused largely on vehicle emissions,Dr. Allen noted. The results of those studies have indicatedpollution causes inflammation in the lungs and vessels and may also cause endothelial cells to function poorly, ultimately contributing to cardiovascular disease; however, few studies have been conducted in smaller communities or communities where woodsmoke is a main source of pollution, he added.

The researchers recruited 45 adults from 25 homes. Individuals from self reported tobacco smoking households were excluded from participating. Each participant’s home was monitored for two consecutive seven-day periods, during which time a HEPA filter (Honeywell model 50300) was operated in the main activity room and a quieter HEPA filter (Honeywell 18150) was operated in the participant’s bedroom. HEPA filters were operated normally during one seven-day period and without the internal filters in place during the other period. The order of filtration or non-filtration was random and participants did not know during which period the air was being filtered. Indoor pollution sampling equipment was placed in each home’s main activity room.Participants were asked to record their activities, locations and proximity to pollution sources every 60 minutes.Of the 25 homes enrolled in the study, 13 had woodstoves in use during the study period.

At the end of each 7 day period blood and urine samples were collected from each participant and markers of cellular injury, as well as the body’s response to that injury, were measured. Endothelial function also was evaluated using a fingertip device to evaluate blood volume in small blood vessels, and air samples were collected and analyzed.

Specifically, the researchers measured reactive hyperemia, a transient increase in blood flow which follows a period of ischemia, or blood flow shortage.A reduced reactive hyperemia index indicates blood vessels have an impaired response to changes in blood flow, and is an indicator of the earliest stages of atherosclerosis. Levels of a blood protein called C-reactive protein, which increase during inflammation, were also measured.

After analyzing their data, the researchers found portable HEPA filters reduced the average concentrations of fine particulates inside homes by 60% and woodsmoke by 75%, and their use was associated with improved endothelial function (a 9.4% increase in reactive hyperemia index) and decreased inflammation (a 32.6% decrease in C-reactive protein).

“Our results support the hypothesis that systemic inflammation and impaired endothelial function, both predictors of cardiovascular morbidity, can be favorably influenced by a reduction of particle concentration and add to a growing body of evidence linking short term exposure to particulate matter with a systemic inflammatory response,” Dr. Allen said.”Reducing air pollution appears to provide health benefits even if the pollution levels are already relatively low.”

HEPA filters offer an accessible option to help reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease that may be associated with inhaling wood smoke, especially as consumers turn more frequently to woodstoves as a source of heat, he added.

“HEPA filters are a potentially useful intervention since they are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and can effectively remove tiny particles that can be inhaled, to improve air quality inside homes where the majority of time is spent,” Dr. Allen noted. “The importance of residential wood smoke as a source of air pollution is likely to increase due to the rising costs of other fuels.”

Dr. Allen said future studies may help determine the health benefits of programs that promote the replacement of older, highly-polluting woodstoves with cleaner burning alternatives.

“Ultimately, the best safeguard against these health risks is to minimize the amount of air pollution that is created,” he said.

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ENGINEERING TEAM INVENTS “LAB ON A CHIP” FOR FAST, INEXPENSIVE BLOOD TESTS

Monday, January 10th, 2011

KINGSTON, R.I
While most blood tests require shipping a vial of blood to a laboratory for analysis and waiting several days for the results, a new device invented by a team of engineers and students at the University of Rhode Island uses just a pinprick of blood in a portable device that provides results in less than 30 minutes.

Mohammad Faghri, URI professor
Mohammad Faghri
URI professor of
mechanical engineering
Photo: mcise.uri.edu

“This development is a big step in point of care diagnostics, where testing can be performed in a clinic, in a doctor’s office, or right at home,” said Mohammad Faghri, URI professor of mechanical engineering and the lead researcher on the project. “No longer will patients have to wait anxiously for several days for their test results. They can have their blood tested when they walk into the doctor’s office and the results will be ready before they leave.”

With the new lab on a chip technology, a drop of blood is placed on a plastic polymer cartridge smaller than a credit card and inserted into a shoebox sized biosensor containing a miniature spectrometer and piezoelectric micro pump. The blood travels through the cartridge in tiny channels 500 microns wide to a detection site where it reacts with preloaded reagents enabling the sensor to detect certain biomarkers of disease.

Several patents are pending on the invention.

Compared to similar devices in development elsewhere, the URI system is much smaller, more portable, requires a smaller blood sample, and is less expensive. While the sensor costs about $3,200, each test costs just $1.50, which is the cost for the plastic cartridge and reagents.

The first cartridges the researchers developed focus on the detection of C-reactive proteins (CRP) in the blood, a preferred method for helping doctors assess the risk of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular diseases. From 2002 to 2004 (the only years for which data are available), the number of CRP tests paid for by Medicare tripled from 145,000 to 454,000, and it is estimated that those numbers have quadrupled since then.

Faghri said that additional cartridges can be designed to detect biomarkers of other diseases. The researchers are already working to engineer the device to detect levels of the beta amyloid protein that can be used as a predictor of Alzheimer’s disease. The device can also be engineered to detect virulent pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis B and H1N1 (swine) flu.

The next generation of the device will incorporate a hand-held sensor that will reduce manufacturing costs. Faghri also envisions a further miniaturization of the invention that can be adapted as a smartphone application. By embedding the biosensor in the cartridge and using the computer power of the phone, as well as its wireless communication capabilities, Faghri believes that patients may be able to conduct the tests themselves and have the results transmitted immediately to their doctor’s office via their phone. Among many other benefits, this should help to significantly reduce health care costs.

“We are already making progress on many of the steps toward the next generation of the system, and it won’t be long before we can begin to commercialize it,” Faghri said.

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A NEW DRUG TARGET IN ATHEROSCLEROSIS: THE ANAPHYLATOXIN C5a

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For decades, doctors have looked at fitness levels, weight, and overall health risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Now, they may soon add a new risk factor to the list: activation of the complement system. The complement system is usually implicated in immune responses, but now there’s a role for it in cardiovascular disease. In a new research report appearing in the January 2011 print issue of the FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), scientists from Europe and the United States show that anaphylatoxin C5a, a protein released when complement is activated, contributes to atherosclerotic disease. C5a causes plaques to break free from where they would be anchored to ultimately cause blockages elsewhere in the body. This new discovery not only shows that C5a is a new marker for identifying risk for heart attack and stroke, but it also establishes C5a as a new therapeutic target for preventing these problems.

Johann Wojta, Ph.D.
Johann Wojta, Ph.D.
Photo: meduniwien.ac

“Given the huge impact of cardiovascular disease in general, and atherosclerosis in particular, on public health, we feel that unraveling mechanisms involved in the development and progression of the disease are of utmost importance,” said Johann Wojta, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the University of Vienna in Austria. “Our findings have identified a particular component possibly involved in the development of atherosclerosis as a target for future therapies.”

To make this discovery, Wojta and colleagues treated white blood cells with the C5a. In turn, these cells responded with the production of specific enzymes capable of dissolving the inner wall of atherosclerotic plaques in coronary or brain vessels. This causes the plaques to rupture, break free from where they are anchored, and ultimately create a blockage of the vessels, leading to the development of more serious problems such as heart attacks or strokes. The researchers also showed that C5a was present in blood vessels of patients with myocardial infarction, but not in cardiac patients without infarct. This suggests that inhibiting C5a might provide a therapeutic tool in the prevention or treatment of atherosclerosis, as well as other diseases with immune system participation such as arthritis.

“Up to now, anaphylatoxin C5a has been mainly implicated in immunologic diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor in Chief of the FASEB Journal. “But now, this study shows that C5a, a product of an activated complement system may be responsible for the devastating effects of atherosclerosis.”

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CALL FOR TRUTH IN TRANS FATS LABELING BY THE FDA

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Case Western Reserve study shows how deceptive food labels lead to increased risk of deadly diseases.

Eric Brand
Eric Brand
Photo: inkedin.com

Did you know that when you pick up a product promoted as trans fat free, you may still be ingesting a significant amount of this potentially harmful substance? An article by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine student Eric Brandt, published in the January/February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, reveals that misleading labeling practices can result in medically significant intake of harmful trans fat, despite what you read on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labels. Indeed, consumers’ inability to identify high-risk foods may cause individuals to exceed the daily recommended value of 1.11 grams of trans fat from processed foods and lead to adverse long-term health side effects.

Ingestion of trans fat is a known public health concern. Top national health organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Heart Association, suggest trans fats be ingested in limited quantities. However, current FDA labeling protocol and policy prevents the public from accessing the true amount of trans fat contained in their food products.

Current law requires that fat content of greater than five grams be listed in one gram increments, less than five grams be listed in .5 gram increments, and lower than .5 grams as containing zero grams of fat. Meaning, if a product has .49 grams of trans fat, the label can list the trans fat content as zero, thus masking a significant amount of trans fat that can exceed recommended limits and potentially lead to various adverse health effects.

Trans fat consumption has been linked to increased risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and sudden cardiac death. Because the daily recommended amount of trans fat from processed foods is only 1.11 grams, one would only need to consume a few deceptively labeled trans fat foods to exceed the healthy recommended intake. As few as three deceptively labeled trans fat items would exceed the healthy recommended intake; for example, consuming three serving sizes each with .49 grams of trans fat, totaling 1.47 grams. Despite what seems to be a small amount of trans fat to ingest, research shows that increasing daily trans fat consumption from .9% to 2.1%, or from two grams to 4.67 grams, will increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.

In an effort to adhere to its mission and responsibility in “helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health,” Brandt recommends the FDA revise its labeling protocol in order to prevent misleading the public about the amount of trans fat they are consuming. He recommends the FDA require food labels to report trans fat content in smaller increments, enabling consumers to recognize significant levels of trans fat in food products and allow one to properly manage their consumption. The suggested change will increase awareness of accurate food trans fat content, empower informed food choices, and improve public health outcomes.

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EATING HEALTHIER MEANS LIVING LONGER

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

St. Louis, MO - December 22, 2010
According to new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. These illnesses may be affected by diet. In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers investigated empirical data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods were associated with reduced mortality.

By 2030, an estimated 973 million adults will be aged 65 or older worldwide. The objective of this study was to determine the dietary patterns of a large and diverse group of older adults, and to explore associations of these dietary patterns with survival over a 10 year period. A secondary goal was to evaluate participants’ quality of life and nutritional status according to their dietary patterns.

By determining the consumption frequency of 108 different food items, researchers were able to group the participants into six different clusters according to predominant food choices:

* “Healthy foods” (374 participants)
* “High-fat dairy products” (332)
* “Meat, fried foods, and alcohol” (693)
* “Breakfast cereal” (386)
* “Refined grains” (458)
* “Sweets and desserts” (339)

The “Healthy foods” cluster was characterized by relatively higher intake of low fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high calorie drinks, and added fat. The “High fat dairy products” cluster had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2% and whole milk and yogurt, and lower intake of poultry, low fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

The study was unique in that it evaluated participants’ quality of life and nutritional status, through detailed biochemical measures, according to their dietary patterns. After controlling for gender, age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the “High fat dairy products” cluster had a 40% higher risk of mortality than the “Healthy foods” cluster. The “Sweets and desserts” cluster had a 37% higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the “Healthy foods” cluster and the “Breakfast cereal” or “Refined grains” clusters.

According to lead author Amy L. Anderson, Ph.D., Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland, the “results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality. Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the “Healthy foods” dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population.”

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