Updated July 17, 2006
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 High Carb Diet Not Helpful

January 31, 2000 - Maybe people shouldn't be eating high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets after all. According to a new study, replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates did not have the benefits experts said it would.
     Researchers led by Dr. Gerald Reaven at Stanford University School of Medicine, found that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet resulted in higher blood levels of triglycerides - a type of fat - and lower levels of good cholsterol called HDL. The diet did not lower bad cholesterol, called LDL.
     They studied the effects of a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on 8 healthy volunteers. The subjects were randomly assigned to either a high-carbohydrate diet - where 60% of total calories came from carbohydrates, or a low-carbohydrate diet - where 40% of the calories came from carbohydrates. Each diet contained the same amount of total calories. The volunteers stayed on their assigned diets for 2 weeks, ate normally for 2 weeks and then were again randomly assigned to a diet.
     Those who were on the 60% carbohydrate diet had higher levels of triglycerides than those on the 40% carbohydrate diet. Past studies have shown that high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets lower good cholesterold. Increases in triglyceride levels are new findings. These increases in triglyceride levels, along with lower HDL levels, are associated with blockages in the blood vessels.
     It is critical that they kept the calories the same and they kept the saturated fat the same in both diets. Saturated fat is thought to be a major marker of blood cholesterol levels. When you drop the saturated fat in the diet, what do you replace it with? A very high carbohydrate diet has now been shown to adversely affect cholesterol. "It is reasonable to suggest that the clinical use of current dietary guidelines aimed at decreasing risk of coronary heart disease be re-examined," the researchers concluded.
Source: American Journal of Cardiology (2000;85:45-48)

 Food Bars Help Leg Pain

June, 1999 - Some peripheral-artery disease (PAD) patients may soon be able to relieve calf pain by eating food bars designed for their condition. Among 41 patients with PAD, those who ate 2 enriched food bars per day for 2 weeks were able to walk pain-free for a 66% longer distance than before, according to Andrew Maxwell, MD.
     Consuming even one food bar per day benefited patients, Dr. Maxwell said. The 13 patients who ate one bar per day had a 20% increase in pain-free walking, compared with an 18% increase among those on a placebo bar, he reported to the American College of Cardiology.
     Dr. Maxwell designed the food bars to contain a high dose of L-arginine, which enhances nitric-oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, or widen, allowing increased blood flow. Patients with PAD have high levels of another substance called ADMA, that inhibits nitric oxide. Dr. Maxwell found in previous research that giving patients high quantities of L-arginine in pill form countered ADMA, restoring blood flow in the leg, relieving patients' pain. However, the pill form tasted bitter and the large doses needed to improve blood flow also irritated patients' stomachs.
     The researchers then mixed L-arginine with some soy protein and coated it in vanilla or cranberry flavoring, creating a food bar. The bar (180 calories, 3 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein) will soon be available as what they call a "medical food," meaning it must be taken under a doctor's supervision but it will not be a prescription treatment. This means it will not be covered by health insurance. Patients will have to foot the bill for the food bars, which will cost $1.70 each.
Source: Medical Tribune 40(7):6, 1999

 Lifestyle Counts In Heart Disease

January 28, 2000 - A new study finds that it is not true that infant and childhood experiences are the key predictors of adult heart disease. This study finds that the most important factors of heart health are adult lifestyle and other adult risk markers. This is the first study to measure the importance of each stage of life to the risk of heart and blood vessel disease, according to Dr. Douglas Lamont. His findings are published in the January 29th issue of the British Medical Journal.
     To estimate heart disease risk, the scientists measured the thickness of the walls of the carotid arteries. Previous studies links thicker carotid artery walls with higher rates of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), heart disease, and stroke. The study also showed that carotid artery walls were thicker among the 35 men and 36 women with heart disease than among the 119 men and 157 women without heart disease.
     Among the women in the study, the most significant predictors of risk were a high ratio of their waist measurements to their hip measurements and a history of cigarette smoking. For the 154 men, however, carotid artery wall thickness was related more to their blood pressure and blood sugar 2 hours after eating than to any other factors.
     Things as birth weight and social class at birth played small roles in predicting cardiovascular disease, say the authors. On the other hand, biological markers like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes; socio-economic circumstances in adult life; and lifestyle factors like cigarette smoking, alcohol use, exercise, physical activity, and diet; accounted for much more of the risk.
     In fact, they say, most variation in carotid wall thickness was explained "exclusively by factors from adulthood. Although it is clearly important to promote good maternal and child health, adult lifestyles should remain the focus of intervention for reducing risk of heart disease," Lamont concludes.
Title: Adult Lifestyle Affects Heart Disease Risk
Source: British Medical Journal 2000;320:273-278

 RX Meds Deplete Nutrients

March 22, 2000 - Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause nutritional losses affecting your health. A new book, "The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs," by two pharmacists describes the health problems that can come from such nutritional losses. More than 1,000 brand name medications are listed.
     "Our main purpose was to alert people to the tremendous amount of scientific research showing that drugs deplete nutrients," said Pelton. "People should know about this so they can supplement on their own or get some advice on how to supplement." All claims in the book are documented by studies from peer-reviewed medical journals.
     For example, oral contraceptives deplete folic acid, vitamins B6, B12, B1, B2, B3, C and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. Folic acid is involved in cellular division. "So if a woman is low in folic acid, she's going to have trouble making new cells correctly, and that affects bone marrow, which replenishes the blood supply. Women who are deficient in folic acid can become anemic, and end up with cervical dysplasia" or develop abnormal cells in the uterus, Pelton explained. Folic acid deficiency can also cause birth defects and increase the risk of breast cancer. In addition, Pelton explained, folic acid is necessary to metabolize homocysteine. High homocysteine levels indicate risk for heart disease.
     In another example, Pelton said that many drugs deplete levels of coenzyme Q10, which is critical for heart function. CoQ10 lowering drugs include cholesterol-control drugs, antidiabetic drugs, blood pressure lowering drugs, beta-blockers and some antidepressants. Pelton suggested that chronic depletion of CoQ10 may be partly responsible for the rising rate of congestive heart failure.
     What to do? People should take nutritional supplements to compensate. They may also want to have their levels of some nutrients checked by a doctor. The depletions caused by drugs may be made even worse by stress, environmental pollution, poor diets and other factors. By knowing that some drugs can trigger deficiencies and by taking action, drug side effects may be reduced, suggested Pelton.
     The book is published by Morton Publishing Company, Englewood, Colorado, (303) 761-4805.
Source: Medical PressCorps News Service

 Extra Olive Oil Beats Blood Pressure

March 29, 2000 - Italian scientists report that patients with high blood pressure reduced the amount of high blood pressure drugs they needed by switching to a diet low in saturated fat and rich in olive oil. Some of the patients were able to stop their high blood pressure pills altogether.
     "A slight reduction in saturated fat intake, along with the use of extra-virgin olive oil, greatly lowers the need for high blood pressure meds, "lead author Dr. L. Ferrara says in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Patients who increased their intake of sunflower oil did not get the same benefit.
     In the study, researchers studied 23 patients with mild to moderate high blood pressure who normally ate a diet with 34% of calories from fat and 11% from saturated fat. The patients switched to a diet with 26% of calories from fat and 6% saturated fat. About half of them increased their monounsaturated fat by eating more extra-virgin olive oil while the other half increased their polyunsaturated fat by eating more sunflower oil.
     After 6 months, patients switched to the other diet and remained on it for another 6 months. By the end of the study, the investigators found that patients had a lower resting blood pressure on the olive oil diet compared to the sunflower oil diet. While on the olive oil diet, patients were able to reduce their daily dose of high blood pressure medication by 48% compared with a reduction of only 4% while on the sunflower oil diet. Furthermore, 8 patients did not require any blood pressure medication at all while on the olive oil diet. All patients required drug therapy while on the sunflower diet.
     The authors believe that olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure drugs because it contains polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds that may help dilate arteries, reducing blood pressure. Sunflower oil does not contain polyphenols.
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine 2000;160:837-842

 CLA reduces Body Fat In Humans Too

January 5, 2001 - CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) reduces body fat, according to a new report. CLA is a fatty acid found in dairy products, beef, poultry and eggs.
     Dr. Ola Gudmundsen says that CLA has already been shown to reduce body fat in animals. To measure the dose of CLA needed to reduce body fat in humans, they did a randomized, double-blind study of 60 overweight people.
     People in the study took either placebo (9 grams olive oil) or CLA every day for 12 weeks. CLA dose was either 1.7 grams, 3.4 grams, 5.1 grams or 6.8 grams daily. The CLA and placebo groups were very similar in all respects. Special x-rays were used to measure body composition at study start, at 6 weeks and at 12 weeks.
     Forty-seven people completed the study. Eight who withdrew did so because of adverse events. "Significantly more reduction in body fat was found in the CLA groups compared to the placebo group," say the researchers. Reduction of body fat was most significant within the groups taking 3.4 g and 6.8 g of CLA.
Source: J Nutr 2000;130:2943-2948

 Cut Calories To Lower Cholesterol

February 6, 2001 - People wanting to lower their cholesterol levels are usually told to reduce their fat intake. However, a new study shows that cutting back on calories may be more effective.
     Researchers studied the role of total calories and fat on cholesterol. Eleven lean men with high cholesterol levels and a family history of heart disease participated. They ate one of 4 diets with varying levels of fat and carbohydrate for 4 weeks.

These results suggest that lowering calory intake is an important factor in changing cholesterol levels," writes Dr. Peter Jones. "These findings suggest that lowering calory intake rather than fat intake has benefits as great as a low-fat, low-calorie diet."
Source: Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:262-267

 Cut Calories To Lower Cholesterol

December 2, 2000 - MUFAs are monounsaturated fatty acids. They are found in foods like olive and peanut oils. A new study shows that a diet high in MUFAs improves cholesterol levels more than the American Heart Association's low-fat "Step 2" diet.
     "It is now time to reevaluate what the best diet is for lowering risk of heart disease," Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton and colleagues say. "On the basis of these results, it seems that a high-MUFA, cholesterol-lowering diet is better than a low-fat diet such as the Step 2 diet," they write.
     The researchers compared the cholesterol-lowering effects of the Step 2 diet with 3 high-MUFA diets and a typical American diet in a crossover study of 22 healthy patients. The 3 high-MUFA diets contained olive oil, peanut oil or a combination of peanuts and peanut butter as source of MUFAs.
     The high-MUFA diets lowered total cholesterol by 10% and LDL by 14%. The high-MUFA diets also lowered triglycerides by 13%, while the Step 2 diet increased triglycerides by 11% (remember that we want triglyceride levels to go down). The high-MUFA diets had no effect on HDL, while the Step 2 diet lowered HDL levels by 4% compared to the American diet (remember that we want HDL levels to go up).
     The high-MUFA diets also lowered overall heart disease risk more than the Step 2 diet. The Step 2 diet lowered heart disease risk 12%. The olive oil-heavy diet lowered it 25%, the peanut oil-heavy diet lowered it by 16% and the peanut/peanut butter diet lowered it by 21%. "A high-MUFA diet may be better than a low-fat diet because of more favorable effects on heart disease risk," says Dr. Kris-Etherton. Of course, everyone agrees that more studies are needed. <g>
Sources: Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:953-954,1009-1015
and Reuters Health

 Almonds Improve Cholesterol

June, 2003 - Getting more of your calories from almonds improves your cholesterol profiles, according to a randomized trial. Researcher Joan Sabate says studies show that the more nuts you eat, the less likely you are to get heart disease. "Almonds are unique in that they have significant amounts of protein and the highest concentration of alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) of all nuts."
     For 2 weeks, 25 adults (14 men and 11 women) ate a beginning diet containing 34% fat. Some of the people were healthy and some had mildly high cholesterol. Their average age was 41 years. In a crossover design, they then ate a different diet for 4 weeks per diet. These were:

  1. National Cholesterol Education Program Step One diet - almonds contributed 0% fat in diet
  2. low-almond diet - almonds contributed 10% fat in diet
  3. high-almond diet - almonds contributed 20% fat in diet

The more almonds in the diet, the lower the cholesterol in the people eating them. Compared with the Step One diet, the high-almond diet raised HDL 2%; it lowered total cholesterol 4%; it lowered LDL 7%; it lowered apolipoprotein B 7%; and improved the ratio of LDL to HDL 9%.
     Researchers say that adding 68 grams of almonds (20% of the diet's energy) into a 2000 calorie Step One diet improved blood cholesterol levels in everyone in the trial. "Total and LDL cholesterol levels went down with progressively higher intakes of almonds." The authors point out that a 7% decrease in LDL from the high-almond diet means an 11% decrease in risk of heart disease.
     This study supports new dietary guidelines saying that more total fat in the diet is a good thing. The fatty acid makeup of this high-almond diet matches the recommended Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet for saturated fats (less than 7% of total energy), polyunsaturated fats (less than 10%), and monounsaturated fats (up to 20%).
     The authors say, "Future diet strategies for lowering blood cholesterol should focus on consuming acceptable and tasty whole foods rather than on the restriction of fat."
Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:1379-1384 - The Almond Board of California supported this study through a research grant.

 Atkins Diet Benefits CAD Patients

November 17, 2003 - Twenty-three obese patients with CAD went on a high-fat, no-starch diet similar to the Atkins' diet for 6 weeks. All were taking statins, but no drug or dose changes were made during the study. During the trial, patients were told to eat half their calories as saturated fat. Other food sources were permitted with the exception of starches.
     Patients dropped 5.2% in both total body weight and in body fat percentage, said lead author Dr. James Hays. No changes in LDL or HDL cholesterol levels were seen. Patients' total triglyceride levels went down significantly.
     In studies involving patients with polycystic ovary syndrome or reactive hypoglycemia, one year followup showed significant weight loss with no adverse effects on cholesterol levels. "I recommend that we keep an open mind regarding the Atkins diet and continue to study its metabolic effects," Dr. Gerald Gau said in an editorial.
Source: Reuters Health
Source: Mayo Clin Proc 2003;78:1331-1336.

All information on this site is opinion only. All concepts, explanations, trials, and studies have been re-written in plain English and may contain errors. I am not a doctor. Use the reference information at the end of each article to search MedLine for more complete and accurate information. All original copyrights apply. No information on this page should be used by any person to affect their medical, legal, educational, social, or psychological treatment in any way. I am not a doctor. This web site and all its pages, graphics, and content copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Jon C.

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