Archive for September, 2008

STEPHANE DION’S CARBON TAX EXPLAINED

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

EXCERPTS FROM THE LIBERAL PARTY GREEN PLAN

The time has come to do what is right - not what is easy - for our environment and for our future.

That is why the Liberal Party of Canada has introduced the Green Shift, a bold plan that will cut income taxes, put a price on pollution, fight poverty and position Canada to be a leader in the 21st century global economy.

Our plan is as powerful as it is simple. We will cut taxes on those things we all want more of such as income, investment and innovation, and we will shift those taxes to what we all want less of: pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste.

Energy costs are soaring all over the world. While energy prices continue to rise, we need to encourage energy efficiency. We need to change wasteful habits. We need to discourage polluting activities.

But an economic slow-down is also threatening Canada - too many jobs are disappearing. So we need to create new, well-paying, green jobs. We also need a fairer and more progressive tax system so that we help all Canadians become part of the solution to the climate change crisis while protecting lower- and middle-income Canadians and more vulnerable Canadians - seniors, the disabled, etc. - from rising energy costs.

Over four years, the length of a government’s usual mandate, we will put an increasing price on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas. This greenhouse gas pollution is what traps heat in our atmosphere and causes climate change.

Higher energy costs will be off-set by tax cuts. We will dramatically reduce other taxes, for individuals and for businesses. We will make sure that this dramatic tax shift is revenue neutral.

It cannot be, and we commit that it will not become, a tax grab by government. This commitment will be enshrined in legislation, and we will have the Auditor General look at the numbers and confirm this each and every year to Canadians.

But putting money back in the hands of Canadians is only part of the solution. Investing in renewable energy and conservation - helping families to use less and pay less - is also key to our plan. As part of our broader climate change plan, Canadians will have access to a full suite of programs to help them reduce their own carbon footprint and the pollution they produce.

This will allow Canadians to save even more money on their own energy costs, while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

Our plan includes many other tax measures that will ensure no one gets left behind - specific measures for low-income earners, for families, for rural and Northern residents.

By the fourth year of our plan, we expect that a family with two children and a combined income of $20,000 will save almost $2,500; a family with two children earning $40,000 a year will save nearly $2,000; a family with two children earning $60,000 will save over $1,300, as will a family earning $80,000.

To attract investment and create jobs, our plan will also see corporations having their tax rates cut so they can invest more money in reducing their own pollution and increasing their energy efficiency.

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Editors note: Explained this way it almost makes sense.

American Dietetic Association on “Health Implications of Dietary Fiber”

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Adequate intakes of dietary fiber help protect against cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders. Usual intakes of dietary fiber in this country are only half of the recommended levels, so there is a need to promote high-fiber foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits to people of all ages. Not all dietary fibers are equally effective in their physiological effects, so it is best to obtain fiber from a wide range of sources. The American Dietetic Association encourages consumers to consume adequate amounts of fiber, particularly from food sources, according to a new ADA position statement published this month on the health implications of dietary fiber:

It is the position of The American Dietetic Association that the public should consume adequate amounts of dietary fiber from a variety of plant foods.

The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org.

HALF A BAR OF DARK CHOCOLATE PER WEEK REDUCES HEART ATTACK RISK

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

An Italian study, the first outcome of a large epidemiological investigation, finds new beneficial effects of chocolate in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Maybe gourmands are not jumping for joy. Probably they would have preferred bigger amounts to sup-port their passion. Though the news is still good for them: 6.7 grams of chocolate per day represent the ideal amount for a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease. A new effect, demonstrated for the first time in a population study by the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University in Campobasso, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Milan.

The findings, published in the last issue of the Journal of Nutrition, official journal of the American So-ciety of Nutrition, come from one of the largest epidemiological studies ever conducted in Europe, the Molisani Project, which has enrolled 20,000 inhabitants of the Molise region so far. By studying the participants recruited, researchers focused on the complex mechanism of inflammation. It is known how a chronic inflammatory state represents a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease, from myocardial infarction to stroke, just to mention the major diseases. Keeping the inflammation process under control has become a major issue for prevention programs and C reactive protein turned out to be one of the most promising markers, detectable by a simple blood test.

The Italian team related the levels of this protein in the blood of examined people with their usual chocolate intake. Out of 11,000, researchers identified 4,849 subjects in good health and free of risk factors (normal cholesterol, blood pressure and other parameters). Among them, 1,317 did not use to eat any chocolate, while 824 used to have chocolate regularly, but just the dark one.

“We started from the hypothesis says Romina di Giuseppe, 33, lead author of the study that high amounts of antioxidants contained in the cocoa seeds, in particular flavonoids and other kinds of polyphenols, might have beneficial effects on the inflammatory state. Our results have been absolutely encouraging: people having moderate amounts of dark chocolate regularly have significantly lower levels of Creactive protein in their blood. In other words, their inflammatory state is considerably reduced.” The 17% average reduction observed may appear quite small, but it is enough to decrease the risk of cardio vascular disease for one third in women and one fourth in men. It is undoubtedly a remarkable outcome”.

Chocolate amounts are critical. “We are talking of a moderate consumption. The best effect is obtained by consuming an average amount of 6.7 grams of chocolate per day, corresponding to a small square of chocolate twice or three times a week. Beyond these amounts the beneficial effect tends to disappear”.

From a practical point of view, as the common chocolate bar is 100 grams, the study states that less than half a bar of dark chocolate consumed during the week may become a healthy habit. What about the milk chocolate? “Previous studies the young investigator continues, have demonstrated that milk interferes with the absorption of polyphenols. That is why our study considered just the dark chocolate”.

Researchers wanted to sweep all the doubts away. They took into account that chocolate lovers might consume other healthy food too, as wine, fruits and vegetables. Or they might exercise more than others people do. So the observed positive effect might be ascribed to other factors but not to cocoa itself. “In order to avoid this researcher says we “adjusted” for all possible “confounding” parameters. But the beneficial effect of chocolate still remained and we do believe it is real”.

“This study says Licia Iacoviello, Head of the Laboratory of Genetic and Environmental Epidemiology at the Catholic University of Campobasso and responsible for the Molisani Project is the first scientific outcome published from the Molisani Project. We consider this outcome as the beginning of a large series of data which will give us an innovative view on how making prevention in everyday life, both against cardiovascular disease and tumors”.

“Maybe Giovanni de Gaetano, director of the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Campobasso, adds time has come to reconsider the Mediterranean diet pyramid and take the dark chocolate off the basket of sweets considered to be bad for our health”.

For more heart health related news visit our News Page.

AUDIO RELAXATION PROGRAM MAY HELP LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE IN ELDERLY

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

- Study highlights an audio-guided relaxation CD with background sounds of ocean waves and a calming voice may lower blood pressure in elderly people.
- Listening to Mozart also significantly lowered blood pressure in the study, but to a lesser degree.
- The technique has been used for chronic pain, but had never been tested in the hypertensive elderly.

An audio relaxation program lowered blood pressure more than a Mozart sonata in a group of elderly people with high blood pressure, researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s 62nd Annual Fall Conference of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research.

In a study of 41 elderly participants at three retirement facilities:
- Twenty participants listened three times a week for four months to a 12-minute audio-guided relaxation training program (ATP) with background sounds of ocean waves and a calming voice.
- The group of 21 participants listened to a 12-minute Mozart sonata three times a week for four months.
- Researchers recorded systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and heart rate before and after each session.

The ATP group lowered their:
- blood pressure from 141/73 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) to 132/70 mmHg and
- heart rates from 73 to 70 beats per minute.

The Mozart music listeners also lowered their:
- blood pressure levels from 141/71 mmHg to 134/69 mmHg and - heart rates from 69 to 66 beats per minute.

The decrease in systolic blood pressure was greater in the ATP group than the Mozart group: 6.4 percent (9 mmHg) versus almost 5 percent (7 mmHg).

For both groups, the reduction in systolic blood pressures after intervention were statistically significant, although it may not reach clinical significance.

“Physiologic augmentation is difficult to achieve, especially with blood pressure study, because people can only lower their blood pressure to a certain extent,” Tang said. “A 3 percent-5 percent change has been used as the cutting point in clinical research. It has been suggested that a 5 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure would result in a 9 percent reduction in coronary heart disease related death and 14 percent reduction in stroke related death.”

However, the drop in diastolic blood pressure approached, but didn’t reach, a statistical difference, with slightly more than a 4 percent drop in the ATP group and a 2.8 percent drop in the music group. The decline in heart rate showed no difference between the two groups, she added.

“Higher systolic blood pressure is very prevalent in the elderly population,” said Jean Tang, Ph.D., ARNP, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Seattle University. “This program may provide yet another way to help manage hypertension in conjunction with medication, lifestyle changes, exercise, diet and stress management.”

The hypertension rate in Americans more than 65 years old is between 60 percent and 80 percent, with isolated systolic hypertension accounting for 65 percent to 75 percent of cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The ATP sessions consisted of listening with headphones to a CD of ocean waves in the background - a binaural sound that is calming while a voice guides listeners to relax from head to toe and do deep abdominal breathing. Binaural tones are a special kind of stereophonic sound that incorporates two tones which are of two different frequencies for brainwave entrainment.

The Mozart sonata group listened to 12 minutes of music.

“The binaural sound regulates the brain waves to the alpha range, which produces a calming effect allowing participants to concentrate,” Tang said. “The relaxation method affects the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers the blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels.”

The relaxation therapy program, used for years to correct TMJ problems (acute or chronic inflammation of the temporomandibular joint which connects the lower jaw to the skull), for chronic pain, cancer patients and to train athletes, had never been used in the elderly for blood pressure reduction.

“Both groups did really well in reducing their blood pressures,” Tang said. “But the guided relaxation group did a little bit better. It is very possible that the guided relaxation group members were better able to connect their mind with their body. Some in the classical music session may have just sat through it without consciously trying to relax their body.

“We had some participants in the ATP group that were skeptical; they didn’t like the man’s voice and wanted to switch to the music group. But even when they didn’t like the program, their blood pressure was reduced after the intervention.”

Healthcare providers can use the simple program not only to help patients manage stress, but as a supplemental option to lower blood pressure, Tang said. “This is a self-regulation tool that promotes patient autonomy in managing their health. Nursing homes or senior living facilities may use this without a doctor’s order. It’s noninvasive, available and has been around for 20 years.”

However, long-term adherence to the program may be a problem in elderly people with high blood pressure, Tang said. Although a few individuals reported their doctors reduced their hypertension medications after regular program use, a three-month follow-up showed that only 52 percent of participants continued to use the relaxation technique regularly.

For more Heart News Visit our Heart News Page.

EATING FISH WHILE PREGNANT LEADS TO BETTER INFANT DEVELOPMENT

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Both higher fish consumption and longer breastfeeding are linked to better physical and cognitive development in infants, according to a study of mothers and infants from Denmark. Maternal fish consumption and longer breastfeeding were independently beneficial.

“These results, together with findings from other studies of women in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, provide additional evidence that moderate maternal fish intake during pregnancy does not harm child development and may on balance be beneficial,” said Assistant Professor Emily Oken, lead author of the study.

The study, which appeared in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted by researchers from the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and the Maternal Nutrition Group from the Department of Epidemiology at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark. These findings provide further evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and compounds in breast milk are beneficial to infant development.

The study team looked at 25,446 children born to mothers participating in the Danish Birth Cohort, a study that includes pregnant women enrolled from 1997-2002. Mothers were interviewed about child development markers at 6 and 18 months postpartum and asked about their breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum. Prenatal diet, including amounts and types of fish consumed weekly, was assessed by a detailed food frequency questionnaire administered when they were six months pregnant.

During the interviews mothers were asked about specific physical and cognitive developmental milestones such as whether the child at six months could hold up his/her head, sit with a straight back, sit unsupported, respond to sound or voices, imitate sounds, or crawl. At 18 months, they were asked about more advanced milestones such as whether the child could climb stairs, remove his/her socks, drink from a cup, write or draw, use word-like sounds and put words together, and whether they could walk unassisted.

The children whose mothers ate the most fish during pregnancy were more likely to have better motor and cognitive skills. For example, among mothers who ate the least fish, 5.7% of their children had the lowest developmental scores at 18 months, compared with only 3.7% of children whose mothers had the highest fish intake. Compared with women who ate the least fish, women with the highest fish intake (about 60 grams - 2 ounces - per day on average) had children 25% more likely to have higher developmental scores at 6 months and almost 30% more likely to have higher scores at 18 months.

Longer duration of breastfeeding was also associated with better infant development, especially at 18 months. Breastmilk also contains omega-3 fatty acids. The benefit of fish consumption was similar among infants breastfed for shorter or longer durations.

Women in the U.S. have been advised to limit their fish intake to two servings a week because some fish contains high traces of mercury, which has demonstrated toxic effects. Information regarding mercury levels was not available in this population, but most women consumed cod, plaice, salmon, herring, and mackerel, fish types that tend to have low mercury content. In this study, consumption of three or more weekly servings of fish was associated with higher development scores, so in this case the nutrient benefits of prenatal fish appeared to outweigh toxicant harm.

“In previous work in a population of U.S. women, we similarly found that higher prenatal fish consumption was associated with an overall benefit for child cognitive development, but that higher mercury levels attenuated this benefit,” says Dr. Oken. “Therefore, women should continue to eat fish - especially during pregnancy - but should choose fish types likely to be lower in mercury.”

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The Danish National Birth Cohort was financed by the Danish National Research Foundation, Danish Pharmaceutical Association, Ministry of Health, National Board of Health, Statens Serum Institut, BIOMED, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, Danish Heart Association, Danish Medical Research Council, and Sygekassernes Helsefond. This project was also supported by the Early Nutrition Programming Project. Dr. Oken was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (HD44807) and a fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation, Inger and Jens Bruun Foundation.
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For more diet related news, visit our DIET NEWS PAGE on HeartVigor.com.

Press Release; Sept. 2008; harvard.edu

MAJOR INTERNATIONAL STUDY SHOWS LOWERING HEART RATE LESSENS RISK OF HEART ATTACKS IN PATIENTS WITH CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE AND A HEART RATE ABOVE 70 BEATS PER MINUTE

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Montreal - For the first time, a major international study has demonstrated that using a medication to lower high heart rate in patients with coronary artery disease and a heart rate above 70 beats per minute can significantly lessen - by 30 percent or more - the risk of those patients suffering major cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, a finding which could change the medical management of the disease.

The Montreal Heart Institute led the Canadian portion of the study, which involved almost 11,000 patients in 33 countries on four continents. The much-anticipated study results were presented this week at the 2008 European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich, Germany and published simultaneously in the medical journal The Lancet.

The study, called BEAUTIfUL, followed 10,917 patients who had known heart disease and evaluated whether using a medication, a selective heart rate lowering agent ivabradine, would help prevent them from developing serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks. All the patients were already receiving the guideline-recommended cardiovascular therapy, including the use of antiplatelet agents (by 94% of the study patients), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) (91%), beta-blockers (87%), as well as lipid-lowering agents (76%).

The results showed there was a neutral effect overall in the study, but that using the drug to lower heart rate had a significantly positive impact on patients who started with an elevated resting heart rate, defined as greater than 70 beats per minute.

BEAUTIfUL data conclusively demonstrated that these patients with an elevated resting heart rate greater than 70 bpm are more likely to die or suffer another cardiovascular event than patients with a lower resting heart rate. The increase in risk is 34% for cardiovascular death, 46% for myocardial infarction (heart attack), 56% for heart failure and 38% for coronary revascularisation. In those patients, the addition of the heart rate-lowering treatment resulted in a 36 percent lowering of the risk of hospitalization for fatal and non-fatal myocardial infarction (p=0.001) and a 30 percent lowering of the risk of coronary revascularization (p=0.016).

“The results from BEAUTIfUL support the role of selectively reducing heart rate in patients with known coronary heart disease who have a baseline heart rate more than 70,” said Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, the study’s Canadian lead investigator, member of the study steering committee, director of the Montreal Heart Institute Research Centre and professor of medicine at the Universite de Montreal. “What is most interesting about the results is that by lowering heart rate sufficiently in these patients we can indeed have the potential to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events over and above what we can achieve with the best standard of care we have available right now.”

Ivabradine is not yet approved or available in Canada.

PRESS RELEASE - Sept. 3, 2008 - icm-mhi.org