Posts Tagged ‘cardiovascular disease’

SAFFLOWER OIL EACH DAY MIGHT HELP KEEP HEART DISEASE AT BAY

Monday, March 21st, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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RIGHT FOODS AID MEMORY AND PROTECT AGAINST DISEASE

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Lund, Sweden, October 15, 2010
Results from a new dietary intervention study indicate that by a selection of food products you can obtain a tangible reduction of the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well as improve cognitive functions.

Inger Björck
Inger Björck
Lund University
Antidiabetic Food Centre
Photo: www.lu.se

The test products were included in a food portfolio based on different food concepts with expected beneficial effects on risk factors of metabolic syndrome, i e type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Food that in different ways might subdue the low grade inflammation, the key factor in developing metabolic syndrome, was selected. Examples of food concepts that were included in the study are antioxidants, low GI food, wholegrain products and probiotics. The portfolio included, among others, food with slow carbohydrates, viscous dietary fiber, soy protein, oily fish, blueberries, almonds, cinnamon and vinegar.

Instead of studying each food concept separately they were combined in the same test diet with the aim to achieve, if possible, a more significant reduction of the harmful inflammation. Such a synergetic conception concerning food with focus on anti-inflammatory qualities is new - and resulted not only in moderate levels of inflammatory markers but also attenuated a number of other risk factors for the metabolic syndrome and improved cognitive performance.

The study has been carried out at Antidiabetic Food Centre at Lund University. The intervention included 44 healthy overweight adults. During periods of four weeks they were eating the especially designed food portfolio and a reference diet with low content of the components or qualities that characterized the food portfolio. Some products in the food portfolio are not yet available on the market as they were developed for the study. A number of different risk markers were registered before and after the end of the two test periods.

The results show that the food portfolio significantly reduced inflammation. Furthermore, LDL cholesterol was reduced by 33%, blood triglycerides by 14%, blood pressure by 8% and a thrombotic risk factor by 26%. In addition, the subjects’ cognitive functions were improved after the food portfolio compared with the reference food.

- The results are beyond expectations! I would like to say that there is no former study with similar effects in healthy volunteers. Our effects hit broadly on risk parameters and we have shown that by the means of food you can improve cognitive functions, says Inger Bjorck, professor in food related nutrition, who has been leading the study. The study has been carried out within the Antidiabetic Food Centre of Lund University, of which Inger Bjorck is the director.

- Our purpose was to find out which preventive effect can be obtained on established risk markers by combining food concepts with an expected positive impact on inflammation. Inger Bjorck emphasizes that the study has a politically explosive power.

- We hope that these results on healthy subjects will inspire more intense preventive efforts in society. It is not possible to tell precisely which food factors have greater or lesser impact on the research results.

- That’s the point. We believe in the idea of combined effects. Drug or specific products with health claims affect only one or maybe a couple of risk factors. By a combination of food you can in a simple and striking way affect many risk parameters simultaneously explains Inger Bjorck.

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