NEW EXPLANATION FOR HEART HEALTHY BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE

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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ROASTING COFFEE BEANS A DARK BROWWN PRODUCES VALUED ANTIOXIDANTS:UBC FOOD SCIENTISTS

February 2nd, 2011

Vancouver, British Columbia

Food scientists at the University of British Columbia have been able to pinpoint more of the complex chemistry behind coffee’s much touted antioxidant benefits, tracing valuable compounds to the roasting process. Lead author Ami Ya Zheng Liu and co author Prof. David Kitts found that the prevailing antioxidants present in dark roasted coffee brew extracts result from the green beans being browned under high temperatures.

Their findings will appear in a forthcoming issue of Food Research International.

Liu and Kitts analyzed the complex mixture of chemical compounds produced during the bean’s browning process, called the “Maillard reaction.” The term refers to the work by French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who in the 1900s looked at how heat affects the carbohydrates, sugars and proteins in food, such as when grilling steaks or toasting bread.

Antioxidants aid in removing free radicals, the end products of metabolism which have been linked to the aging process.

“Previous studies suggested that antioxidants in coffee could be traced to caffeine or the chlorogenic acid found in green coffee beans, but our results clearly show that the Maillard reaction is the main source of antioxidants,” says Liu, an MSc student in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS).

“We found, for example, that coffee beans lose 90 per cent of their chlorogenic acid during the roasting process,” says Kitts, LFS food science professor and director of the Food, Nutrition and Health program.

The UBC study sheds light on an area of research that has yielded largely inconsistent findings. While some scientists report increased antioxidant activity in coffee made from dark roasted beans, others found a decrease. Yet other theories insist that medium roast coffees yield the highest level of antioxidant activity.

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HEPA FILTERS REDUCE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH AIR POLLUTION

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

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

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

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

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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ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES COULD POSE HEALTH RISKS

December 3rd, 2010

Riverside, Calif. - December 3, 2010
Safety evaluation of e-cigarettes is urgently needed, researchers say.

Prudence Talbot
Prudence Talbot
Professor of Cell Biology
Director, UCR Stem Cell
Center and Stem Cell Core Facility
Photo: ucr.com

Electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes), also called “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” are increasingly used worldwide even though only sparse information is available on their health effects. In the United States, e-cigarettes are readily available in shopping malls in most states and on the Internet. But how safe are e-cigarettes?

To address this question, researchers at the University of California, Riverside evaluated five e-cigarette brands and found design flaws, lack of adequate labeling, and several concerns about quality control and health issues. They conclude that e-cigarettes are potentially harmful and urge regulators to consider removing e-cigarettes from the market until their safety is adequately evaluated.

Unlike conventional cigarettes, which burn tobacco, e-cigarettes vaporize nicotine, along with other compounds present in the cartridge, in the form of aerosol created by heating, but do not produce the thousands of chemicals and toxicants created by tobacco combustion. Nothing is known, however, about the chemicals present in the aerosolized vapors emanating from e-cigarettes.

“As a result, some people believe that e-cigarettes are a safe substitute for conventional cigarettes,” said Prue Talbot, the director of UC Riverside’s Stem Cell Center, whose lab led the research. “However, there are virtually no scientific studies on e-cigarettes and their safety. Our study - one of the first studies to evaluate e-cigarettes - shows that this product has many flaws, which could cause serious public health problems in the future if the flaws go uncorrected.”

Study results appear in this month’s issue of Tobacco Control.

Talbot, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, was joined in the study by Anna Trtchounian, the first author of the research paper. Together, they examined the design, accuracy and clarity of labeling, nicotine content, leakiness, defective parts, disposal, errors in filling orders, instruction manual quality and advertizing for the following brands of e-cigarettes: NJOY, Liberty Stix, Crown Seven (Hydro), Smoking Everywhere (Gold and Platinum) and VapCigs.

Their main observations are that:

- Batteries, atomizers, cartridges, cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information regarding e-cigarette content, use and essential warnings.

- E-cigarette cartridges leak, which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children, adults, pets and the environment.

- Currently, there are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarettes products and accessories, including cartridges, which could result in nicotine contamination from discarded cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the environment.

- The manufacture, quality control, sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.

Electronic cigarette
e-cigarette fluid leaking
out of a cartridge,
making it difficult to
handle without touching
the nicotine solution.
Photo: ucr.com

The study was funded by a grant to Talbot from the University of California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP).

“More research on e-cigarettes is crucially needed to protect the health of e-cigarette users and even those who do not use e-cigarettes,” said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC TRDRP. “Contrary to the claims of the manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes being ’safe,’ in fact, virtually nothing is known about the toxicity of the vapors generated by these e-cigarettes. Until we know any thing about the potential health risks of the toxins generated upon heating the nicotine-containing content of the e-cigarette cartridges, the ’safety’ claims of the manufactureres are dubious at best.

“Justifiably, more information about the potential toxic and health effects of e-cigarette vapors is necessary before the public can have a definitive answer about the touted safety of e-cigarettes. Hopefully, in the near future, scientists can provide firm evidence for or against the claimed ’safety’ of e-cigarettes as a nicotine-delivery tool.”

UC TRDRP supports research that focuses on the prevention, causes, and treatment of tobacco related disease and the reduction of the human and economic costs of tobacco use in California.

______________________ ABOUT ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES

E-cigarettes consist of a battery, a charger, a power cord, an atomizer, and a cartridge containing nicotine and propylene glycol. When a smoker draws air through an e-cigarette, an airflow sensor activates the battery that turns the tip of the cigarette red to simulate smoking and heats the atomizer to vaporize the propylene glycol and nicotine. Upon inhalation, the aerosol vapor delivers a dose of nicotine into the lungs of the smoker, after which, residual aerosol is exhaled into the environment.

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SLEEP APNEA, OBESITY - HIGHER RISK FOR AGRESSIVE HEART DISEASE

November 30th, 2010

Chicago, Ill - November 30, 2010
People with sleep apnea at higher risk for aggressive heart disease.

Joseph Schoepf, M.D
Joseph Schoepf, M.D
Professor of radiology
and medicine and director
of cardiovascular imaging
at the Medical University of
South Carolina in Charleston, S.C.
Photo: muschealth.com

People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder associated with obesity, have more noncalcified or “bad” plaque in their coronary arteries, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

“Our study reveals that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are prone to developing an aggressive form of atherosclerosis that puts them at risk for impaired blood flow and cardiovascular events,” said Uwe Joseph Schoepf, M.D., professor of radiology and medicine and director of cardiovascular imaging at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C.

OSA is caused by obstruction of the upper airway during sleep and is characterized by periodic pauses in breathing, which last for 10 or more seconds. OSA is also commonly associated with snoring.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, millions of Americans have OSA, and approximately half of them are overweight. In the study, 49 obese patients, mean age 61, with OSA and a mean body mass index (BMI) of 33, and 46 obese patients without the disorder (mean age of 60 and mean BMI of 30) underwent coronary CT angiography (cCTA), which provides detailed pictures and information on plaque buildup and narrowing in the vessels. The OSA group included 26 men and 23 women, and the matched control group included 22 men and 24 women.

The imaging revealed that the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries was not significantly different between the two groups, but the overall composition of vessel plaque was notably different.

“Compared to the non OSA group, the patients with OSA had a significantly higher prevalence of noncalcified and mixed plaque,” Dr. Schoepf said.

Noncalcified plaque is considered bad plaque, because it is more vulnerable to rupturing and causing a blood clot, which could lead to a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.

Patients with OSA also had a significantly higher prevalence of vessel narrowing and more extensive vessel involvement. Eightyeight percent of OSA patients had narrowing in at least one vessel, compared to 59 percent of non OSA patients. One third of OSA patients had narrowing in four vessels.

“Coronary CT angiography is an effective way to noninvasively diagnose noncalcified and mixed plaque,” Dr. Schoepf said. “With technological advancements that are lowering the radiation dose required for cCTA, this exam could become a screening tool for obese individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

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MCMASTER SCIENTISTS TURN SKIN INTO BLOOD

November 7th, 2010

Hamilton, Ontario - November 7, 2010
Making blood from skin does not require the middle step of changing a skin stem cell into a pluripotent stem.

Mick Bhatia
Mick Bhatia
Scientific director of the
McMaster Stem Cell and
Cancer Research Institute
Photo: mcmaster.ca

In an important breakthrough, scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make human blood from adult human skin.

The discovery, published in the prestigious science journal Nature today, could mean that in the foreseeable future people needing blood for surgery, cancer treatment or treatment of other blood conditions like anemia will be able to have blood created from a patch of their own skin to provide transfusions. Clinical trials could begin as soon as 2012.

Mick Bhatia, scientific director of McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and his team of researchers have also shown that the conversion is direct. Making blood from skin does not require the middle step of changing a skin stem cell into a pluripotent stem cell that could make many other types of human cells, then turning it into a blood stem cell.

“We have shown this works using human skin. We know how it works and believe we can even improve on the process,” said Bhatia. “We’ll now go on to work on developing other types of human cell types from skin, as we already have encouraging evidence.”

The discovery was replicated several times over two years using human skin from both young and old people to prove it works for any age of person.

John Kelton, hematologist and dean and vice-president of health sciences for McMaster University said: “I find this discovery personally gratifying for professional reasons. During my 30 years as a practicing blood specialist, my colleagues and I have been pleased to help care for cancer patients whose lives were saved by bone marrow transplants. For all physicians, but especially for the patients and their families, the illness became more frustrating when we were prevented from giving a bone marrow transplant because we could not find a perfect donor match in the family or the community. “Dr. Bhatia’s discovery could permit us to help this important group of patients.”

__________________

“CIHR is proud to invest in the excellent research that is being undertaken by Mick Bhatia’s laboratory at the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University,” said Alain Beaudet, president of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

__________________

“The Bhatia research effort is building on significant findings in recent years, which have shown that human skin cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent cells that have the potential to become all cell types. “The pioneering findings published today are the first to demonstrate that human skin cells can be directly converted into blood cells, via a programming process that bypasses the pluripotent stage. Producing blood from a patient’s own skin cells, has the potential of making bone marrow transplant HLA matching and paucity of donors a thing of the past.”

Cynthia Dunbar, MD, Head, Molecular Hematopoiesis Section, Hematology Branch, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

__________________

“Bhatia’s convincing demonstration that skin cells can be directly converted to hematopoietic progenitor cells is exciting and will immediately change the paradigms regarding the best way forward for production of hematopoietic cells to be used in regenerative medicine and in the study of human blood diseases,” said Cynthia Dunbar, head of the molecular hematopoiesis section of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.

__________________

“Bhatia’s approach detours around the pluripotent stem cell stage and thus avoids many safety issues, increases efficiency, and also has the major benefit of producing adult-type l blood cells instead of fetal blood cells, a major advantage compared to the thus far disappointing attempts to produce blood cells from human ESCs or IPSCs.” Christine Williams, PhD, Director of Research, Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, Toronto, ON, Canada.

__________________

“This groundbreaking work from Mick Bhatia’s lab is both fascinating and important. It heralds a new age by discovering a role for ‘directed differentiation’ in the treatment of cancers and other disorders of the blood and immune system,” said Sam Weiss, professor and director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary.

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DAILY DOSE OF BEET JUICE PROMOTES BRAIN HEALTH IN OLDER ADULTS

November 2nd, 2010

Winston-Salem, N.C. - November 2, 2010
Researchers for the first time have shown that drinking beet juice can increase blood flow to the brain in older adults - a finding that could hold great potential for combating the progression of dementia.

Daniel Kim-Shapiro
Daniel Kim-Shapiro
Director, Center for Translational
Science in Functional Health
Professor, Department of Physics
Wake Forest University
Photo: ctsfh.wfu.edu

The research findings are available online in Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, the peer reviewed journal of the Nitric Oxide Society and will be available in print soon.

“There have been several very high-profile studies showing that drinking beet juice can lower blood pressure, but we wanted to show that drinking beet juice also increases perfusion, or blood flow, to the brain,” said Daniel Kim-Shapiro, director of Wake Forest University’s Translational Science Center; Fostering Independence in Aging. “There are areas in the brain that become poorly perfused as you age, and that’s believed to be associated with dementia and poor cognition.”

High concentrations of nitrates are found in beets, as well as in celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables like spinach and some lettuce. When you eat high nitrate foods, good bacteria in the mouth turn nitrate into nitrite. Research has found that nitrites can help open up the blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen specifically to places that are lacking oxygen.

In this study, the first to find a link between consumption of nitrate rich beet juice and increased blood flow to the brain, Translational Science Center researchers looked at how dietary nitrates affected 14 adults age 70 and older over a period of four days.

On the first day, the study subjects reported to the lab after a 10 hour fast, completed a health status report, and consumed either a high or low nitrate breakfast. The high nitrate breakfast included 16 ounces of beet juice. They were sent home with lunch, dinner and snacks conforming to their assigned diets.

The next day, following another 10 hour fast, the subjects returned to the lab, where they ate their assigned breakfasts. One hour after breakfast, an MRI recorded the blood flow in each subject’s brain. Blood tests before and after breakfast confirmed nitrite levels in the body.

For the third and fourth days of the study, the researchers switched the diets and repeated the process for each subject.

The MRIs showed that after eating a high nitrate diet, the older adults had increased blood flow to the white matter of the frontal lobes - the areas of the brain commonly associated with degeneration that leads to dementia and other cognitive conditions.

“I think these results are consistent and encouraging - that good diet consisting of a lot of fruits and vegetables can contribute to overall good health,” said Gary Miller, associate professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and one of the senior investigators on the project.

To make the sometimes-bitter beet juice tastier - so a greater number of people will drink it and reap its health benefits - the university has worked with a company to create a new beet juice based beverage. The university is currently looking into ways of marketing the beverage.

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

NATURAL EGGSHELL MEMBRANE

November 2nd, 2010

The newest supplement comes from a little known natural healing remedy.

Natural Eggshell Membrane has been used externally for years to treat many skin and flesh ailments. It is now available for internal use to treat bone and joint conditions.

Eggshell Membrane is the thin tough filmy protein fibers attached to the inside of the eggshell. For treating skin ailments it can be peeled by hand from raw chicken eggs at home.

To make Natural Eggshell Membrane supplements the membrane is harvested from eggs that are used for food additives and commercially sold egg products.

The active ingredients of Eggshell Membrane include hyaluronic acid (HA), chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. They are a cost effective alternative to steroids and chemical drugs that can interfere with heart health.

External use:
Place the Eggshell Membrane wet side down directly on a cut or scratch to promote healing. A bandage can be placed over top to protect the injury further. The Membrane should be left on at least until it dries to be effective. Eventhough one treatment is usually enough, another application can be made the next day if needed.

The Membrane contains anti microbial substances that speed up healing time with greatly reduced scarring.

Use Eggshell Membranes to remove boils and to heal ingrown toenails. Skin burns will also benefit quite well with a covering of Eggshell Membrane. Other uses include clearing up blackheads and pimples.

Placing the Membrane on a tough to remove splinter will draw it closer to the surface of the skin, enabling you to remove it easier.

Internal use:
Osteoarthritis sufferers have their symptoms significantly reduced with Natural Eggshell Membrane supplements.

Trials have shown that after only 10 days of using a daily 500 milligram capsule of Natural Eggshell Membrane, joint pain and stiffness were greatly reduced. 500 milligrams of Membrane extract was also found to be far superior to 3 doses of 500 milligram of glucosamine and chondroitin in the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Side effects:
As far as safety is concerned, the traditional anti inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and Advil, all have potential side effects. The trade off to reduce pain and inflammation and ease mobility are headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation. Anti inflammatory drugs that reduce blood clotting and can also cause bleeding in the stomach and intestines. Not to mention increased events of stroke or heart attack, further cartilage destruction and increased joint deterioration.

Where-as there are no known side effects for Natural Eggshell Membrane, except for people with egg allergies.

Definitely worth a try to safely aid with the treatment of osteoarthritis and joint pain.

>>>>>Learn about other supplements in our HeartVigor.com SUPPLEMENTS Page.

CONSUMING POLYUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS MAY LOWER THE INCIDENCE OF GUM DISEASE

October 26th, 2010

St. Louis, MO - October 26, 2010
New study in Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicates link.

Asghar Naqvi, MD
Asghar Naqvi, MD
MPH,FRCP(C),FACC
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center
Harvard Medical School
Photo: harvard.edu

Periodontitis, a common inflammatory disease in which gum tissue separates from teeth, leads to accumulation of bacteria and potential bone and tooth loss. Although traditional treatments concentrate on the bacterial infection, more recent strategies target the inflammatory response. In an article in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like fish oil, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, shows promise for the effective treatment and prevention of periodontitis.

“We found that n-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are inversely associated with periodontitis in the US population,” commented Asghar Z. Naqvi, MPH, MNS, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. Thus, a dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis. Given the evidence indicating a role for n-3 fatty acids in other chronic inflammatory conditions, it is possible that treating periodontitis with n-3 fatty acids could have the added benefit of preventing other chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including stoke as well.”

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative survey with a complex multistage, stratified probability sample, investigators found that dietary intake of the PUFAs DHA and (EPA) were associated with a decreased prevalence of periodontitis, although linolenic acid (LNA) did not show this association.

The study involved over 9,000 adults who participated in NHANES between 1999 and 2004 who had received dental examinations. Dietary DHA, EPA and LNA intake were estimated from 24 hour food recall interviews and data regarding supplementary use of PUFAs were captured as well. The NHANES study also collected extensive demographic, ethnic, educational and socioeconomic data, allowing the researchers to take other factors into consideration that might obscure the results.

The prevalence of periodontitis in the study sample was 8.2%. There was an approximately 20% reduction in periodontitis prevalence in those subjects who consumed the highest amount of dietary DHA. The reduction correlated with EPA was smaller, while the correlation to LNA was not statistically significant.

In an accompanying commentary, Elizabeth Krall Kaye, PhD, Professor, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, notes that three interesting results emerged from this study. One was that significantly reduced odds of periodontal disease were observed at relatively modest intakes of DHA and EPA. Another result of note was the suggestion of a threshold dose; that is, there seemed to be no further reduction in odds or periodontal disease conferred by intakes at the highest levels. Third, the results were no different when dietary plus supplemental intakes were examined. These findings are encouraging in that they suggest it may be possible to attain clinically meaningful benefits for periodontal disease at modest levels of n-3 fatty acid intakes from foods.

Foods that contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish like salmon, peanut butter, and nuts.

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

CARDIAC WAKEUP CALL FOR CANADIAN TEENS

October 26th, 2010

Montreal, Quebec - October 26, 2010
Poor sleep patterns and lack of proper sleep could be threatening thousands of Canadian adolescents with premature heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Brian McCrindle
Brian McCrindle,MD,
MPH,FRCP(C),FACC
Pediatric cardiologist
Hospital for Sick Children
Toronto, Canada
Photo: sickkids.ca

Poor sleep patterns and lack of proper sleep could be threatening thousands of Canadian adolescents with premature heart disease and stroke, warns Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher Dr. Brian McCrindle, a pediatric cardiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

“Sleep disorders in kids are on the increase. They are marching hand in hand with other increasing cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, a poor diet, and high levels of unhealthy cholesterol,” Dr. McCrindle today told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010, cohosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

“Teens who experience more disordered sleep - in terms of duration, quality, and pattern - have a higher body mass index and a correspondingly higher risk of overweight and obesity,” says Dr. McCrindle. “This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of cholesterol, another risk factor.”

Over 1,600 students in grade 9 (ages 14 to 16) participated in the Healthy Schools screening program run by Heart Niagara. Overall, 22 per cent of students rated their sleep as fairly or very bad. Fourteen per cent of students reported difficulty staying awake during the day one to two times a week. Five per cent reported problems staying awake during the day more than three times a week.

Significant numbers of children are already taking prescription or over the counter medications for sleep disorders, says Dr. McCrindle. Seventeen per cent of the students in this study reported regularly taking sleep medication.

The children who participated in the study used a questionnaire to track their overall sleep quality, frequency of sleep disturbances, and their use of sleep medication. Blood pressure, total blood cholesterol, and waist circumference measurement were also recorded.

Studies relate poor sleeping habits or not getting enough sleep with higher levels of blood pressure and other poor health conditions. And, conversely, physical inactivity and poor eating habits can affect one’s sleep. “It is a perfect example of harmful synergy at work,” says Dr. McCrindle. “It’s like the chicken and egg conundrum: lack of physical activity and poor food choices negatively affect quality of sleep - and on the other hand, lack of sleep can lead to being too tired to exercise and not taking the time to eat properly.”

Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson says that more than half of kids between the ages of five and 17 aren’t active enough to support optimal development. “Just as we’ve made it a priority to alert adults to the perils of an unhealthy lifestyle, we must start earlier than ever to ensure that our kids become properly educated from the start.”

Dr. Abramson says that a great place to start is at the school level, where our children spend many of their days. “The healthy choice should be the easy choice in schools,” she says. “One of the best ways to ensure kids get their 90 minutes of daily physical activity is a school environment which supports and promotes physical activity.”

She says we need to lead by example as adults to help kids have healthy lives outside the classroom as well. “Parents can be good role models. If we work together on achieving healthier lifestyles by eating healthfully and being physically active on a regular basis, hopefully this disturbing trend in poor sleep and risk factors in teens can be reduced.”

Dr. Abramson says if teens having serious difficulty with sleep should speak to their doctors to find solutions, which are available. For others she offers these sleeping tips:

- Commit to a sound sleep routine. Not getting enough sleep, or poor quality sleep, can make it very difficult to handle everyday stress.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday - even on weekends.
- Sleep primarily at night. If you nap during the day, keep your naps short. Save your longest sleep for the night.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Avoid upsetting conversations, arguments, or anything that causes you distress before bed.
- Don’t eat or drink large amounts before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the evening.
- Be physically active - regular activity can help with a more restful sleep, however, for some exercising right before bed may make getting to sleep more difficult.
- Go to bed when you are tired and turn out the lights.
- Life changes in the teen years cause stress, speak to a parent or doctor about ways to deal with anxiety.

According to Dr. McCrindle, one of the great healthcare deficiencies in Canada is that, although there is a push to recognize guidelines for management of risk factors in adults, there is nothing for our children.

“The bottom line is that sleep disorders seem to be on the increase among children and it is affecting their heart health,” he says. “That is very bad news indeed.”

This is the latest data from Heart Niagara Inc., a nonprofit corporation which partnered with school boards and public health officials in a grade 9 physical education curriculum enrichment program designed to prevent chronic disease.

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

MARATHONS DAMAGE THE HEARTS OF LESS FIT RUNNERS FOR UP TO 3 MONTHS

October 25th, 2010

Montreal, Quebec - October 25, 2010
V02 max test can help determine who is at risk.

Dr. Eric Larose
Dr. Eric Larose
Institut universitaire de
cardiologie et
de pneumologie de Quebec
Laval University
Photo: canscmr.org

Is running a marathon good for you or can it damage the heart?

A team of researchers and runners from the Heart and Stroke Foundation have come up with a practical way of answering the question. They used data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to find out what is really going on in the marathoner’s heart as the kilometers pile up.

“Marathon runners can be a lot less fit than they think,” Dr. Eric Larose today told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

Lack of real aerobic fitness may directly impact the ways the heart organizes itself to survive the stress of marathon running, says Dr. Larose.

His research found that the magnitude of abnormal heart segments was more widespread and significant in a group of less fit runners. During the marathon, they had signs the heart might be at greater risk of damage than that of runners who had better training or at least had better exercise capacity.

“Without proper training, marathon running can damage your heart. Fortunately the exercise induced injury is reversible over time,” said Dr. Larose. “But it could take up to three months to completely recover.”

They studied the effects using MRI measurements, which propel research beyond the traditional stethoscope as a means of estimating and measuring heart function.

The left ventricle of the heart is divided into 17 segments that make up the heart as a whole. When a segment is injured - or stressed out - during the marathon, its neighbours on either side can take over to perform the function of the damaged area. This makes the heart as a whole appear stronger and fitter than is really the case when considering each individual segment.

It also makes it practically impossible for physicians to arrive at an accurate assessment of the heart health of the marathoner when only considering the whole heart.

“The heart isn’t simply playing tricks - this may be an important adaptive survival mechanism, like the way the brain can switch function after a stroke,” says Dr. Larose. “Unfortunately, as a result, the data produced by traditional means may be inconsistent and misleading.

“This means that, short of performing MRI in everyone, we are left with only one practical test that can accurately tell runners their level of cardiac fitness under stress, ” says Dr. Larose, who is professor of medicine at Laval University and a cardiologist and clinical researcher at Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (IUCPQ) in Québec City.

That test is V02 max - the ultimate measure of aerobic endurance.

V02 max directly measures body oxygen consumption and it is the best test to provide an accurate measure of a safe maximum heart rate (number of beats per minute) for runners. In V02 testing, treadmills or stationary bicycles may be used to establish cardiac fitness.

Dr. Larose took healthy amateur runners and performed a full evaluation on them six to eight weeks before, and then immediately after, they ran a marathon. They underwent exercise tests, blood analysis, and magnetic resonance imaging.

“What we did notice in this study is a runner with less preparation before the marathon had lower V02 max, so they had lower exercise capacity. Compared to those runners with better training, they became more dehydrated and their hearts showed greater signs of injury. The less well trained runners also experienced greater loss of function associated with lower blood flow and greater irritation of heart segments.”

Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson says that with the increasing popularity of marathon running, especially among boomers who are putting a marathon on their ‘to do’ lists, runners need to train properly, stay hydrated, and most importantly, speak to their physicians about what is right for them.

“You can do it - physical activity is very important for your heart health. Just be smart about it: train and get medical advice,” says Dr. Abramson. “Not everyone will need extensive testing before training to run a marathon but speaking to your doctor about your cardiac risk is important.”

Dr. Larose says there is no substitute for a visit to a healthcare professional and, when appropriate, to get the V02 test to measure risks to your heart.

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