Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Soft Drink Consumption Increases Risk of Stroke and Vascular Disease

Americans drink more than 216 liters of carbonated soft drinks each year, a number that continues to increase at an alarming rate. Many people use low-calorie diet soda in a futile effort to lose weight, yet find that these drinks have the opposite effect leading to overweight or obesity. The high acid content in most carbonated beverages leaches calcium and other critical nutrients from the bone and tissues, significantly increasing disease risk over years of consumption.

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute and Harvard University have reported the result of a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the first to examine soda's affect on stroke risk and vascular diseases. Past studies have linked sugar-sweetened beverage consumption with weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout and coronary artery disease, but current research has implicated diet soft drink consumption with increased disease risk and weight gain due to depletion of essential minerals.

Carbonated beverage consumption associated with a 43% increased risk of heart attack
Lead study author Dr. Adam Bernstein noted “Soda remains the largest source of added sugar in the diet… what we're beginning to understand is that regular intake of these beverages sets off a chain reaction in the body that can potentially lead to many diseases, including stroke.” Researchers analyzed soda consumption among 43,371 men and 84,085 women over a time span of nearly thirty years. During that time, 2,938 strokes were documented in women while 1,416 strokes were documented in men.

This study emphasizes the inherent risks involved with consumption of sugar-sweetened or no-calorie soft drinks. Sweetened drinks contain high levels of glucose that lead to a rapid increase in blood glucose and insulin. Over time, this results in glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation. Low and no calorie carbonated beverages contain artificial sweeteners including aspartame, known to over stimulate and excite brain neurons resulting in cellular death.

Eliminate Soda and Substitute with Fresh Filtered Water or Brewed Green or White Tea
Further, artificial sweeteners of all types trick our digestive chemistry and hormone balance, leading to weight gain and metabolic instability. Diet soft drinks have also been shown to leach calcium from bones, as our body attempts to compensate for the high acidic load delivered from the phosphoric acid content in the drink. The end result is higher risk of osteoporosis, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Despite the millions of dollars spent by soda marketers to instill the virtues of drinking soda, there is nothing healthy about consuming any type of carbonated beverage. Regarding low calorie drinks, researchers concluded “older adults who drank diet soda daily had a 43% increased risk of heart attack or stroke compared to those that never drank diet soda.” The study did note that drinking coffee was associated with a ten percent lower risk of stroke, compared to those drinking sweetened beverages. Substitute carbonated beverage consumption with an antioxidant packed cup of green tea or coffee to significantly reduce stroke and vascular disease risks.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vitamin C Reduces Blood Pressure and Improves Vascular Function to Lower Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

Increased blood pressure, even before clinically diagnosed as hypertension, is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Elevations of just 3 to 5 millimeters of mercury can dramatically raise the risk of a fatal heart attack or cerebrovascular event. Nearly thirty percent of US adults have high blood pressure or hypertension that places them at much higher risk for disease progression.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have published the result of a study showing the importance of supplemental vitamin C to lower blood pressure in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Lead study author, Dr. Peter R. Miller commented “Our research suggests a modest blood pressure lowering effect with vitamin C supplementation”, noting that vitamin C taken at higher doses than suggested by the recommended daily requirement, effectively lower blood pressure enough to lower risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Vitamin C Supplementation Effectively Lowers Blood Pressure to Prevent Stroke and Heart Disease
The study involved a meta-analysis of 29 randomized, controlled and previously published clinical trials that reported systolic or diastolic blood pressure values and also compared vitamin C intake to a placebo. Many nutrition experts believe that large amounts of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient found primarily in fruits and vegetables, could lower blood pressure, but a formal study to test this hypothesis has been lacking.

The researchers found that taking an average of 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, about five times the recommended daily requirement, reduced blood pressure by 3.84 millimeters of mercury in the short term. Among those diagnosed with hypertension, the drop was nearly 5 millimeters of mercury. While these results may not sound dramatic, they can be sufficient to dramatically lower cardiovascular and stroke risk for the millions of adults diagnosed with mild hypertension.

Eat Citrus Fruits Regularly or Supplement with Vitamin C to Lower Vascular Disease Risk
Dr. Miller concluded “Although our review found only a moderate impact on blood pressure, if the entire U.S. population lowered blood pressure by 3 milliliters of mercury, there would be a lot fewer strokes.” The team noted that the blood pressure lowering effect of vitamin C supplementation was likely due to the nutrient's biological and physiological effects. Vitamin C acts as a diuretic, causing the kidneys to remove more sodium and water from the body, which helps to relax the blood vessel walls, thereby lowering blood pressure.

Vitamin C is also known to improve essential endothelial function of delicate artery walls, effectively restoring elasticity and resolving micro-cracks in the vessels that lead to arterial plaque formation. Most nutrition experts recommend up to three grams of vitamin C supplementation per day for optimal protection from hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Regular Exercise and Active Lifestyle Lower Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientific studies have previously demonstrated that many lifestyle factors as well as diet can have a major impact on genetic expression that either promotes of inhibits the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. Recent studies have demonstrated that insulin signaling and resistance in the brain result in the formation of amyloid protein tangles that are a hallmark of disease progression.

A new study by neurological researchers from Rush University Medical Center that will be published in the online journal of Neurology demonstrates that daily physical activity may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline, even in people over the age of 80. Integrating a healthy diet including foods known to suppress sharp insulin and glucose spikes along with sensible supplementation (curcumin, resveratrol, grape seed extract and omega-3 fatty acids) and regular physical activity may be sufficient to halt Alzheimer’s progression as we age.

All Types of Physical Activity Found to Dramatically Lower Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
Lead author of the study, Dr. Aron S. Buchman noted “The results of our study indicate that all physical activities including exercise as well as other activities such as cooking, washing the dishes, and cleaning are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.” The study reinforced the concept of remaining physically active each day to ward off this devastating form of dementia.

Strenuous exercise is not essential and may hold potential health risks for the aging population. The key is to avoid becoming confined to a chair: keeping the muscles and brain active can dramatically alter brain chemistry and metabolism to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Lack of Physical Activity Nearly Triples the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
To determine daily physical activity levels, researchers asked 716 older individuals without dementia and an average age of 82 to wear a device called an actigraph, a device attached to the wrist that monitors activity levels, for a period of ten days. Additionally, participants were given annual cognitive tests during this ongoing study to measure memory and thinking abilities. All types of physical activity from structured exercise sessions to common everyday tasks were recorded for analysis.

Over a three and a half year follow up period, 71 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers determined that those individuals in the bottom ten percent of daily physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to those in the top ten percent. Further, the scientists found that those in the top ten percent as rated by physical intensity were nearly three times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia, as compared to the lowest intensity group.

Dr. Buchman concluded “Our study shows that physical activity, which is an easily modifiable risk factor, is associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.” This study adds to the mounting evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented by adopting a lifestyle of healthy eating, stress-reduction, minimized exposure to pesticides and toxins and engaging in daily physical activity.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Green Tea Extract and Quercetin Boosts Cancer Fighting Capabilities

Green tea catechins such as EGCG have effectively been shown to increase metabolism as an aid to weight loss and have demonstrated a long history as a potent tool to fight many different types of cancer. Compounds in green tea act as powerful antioxidants that can promote apoptosis or programmed cell death, a mechanism missing in cancer cells that permits uncontrolled cell growth.

Researchers from Rutgers University have published the result of a study in the journal Food and Function that explains a synergistic health-promoting relationship when green tea polyphenols and the flavonoid quercetin are provided through diet or supplementation. Quercetin helps boost the levels of green tea polyphenols in cancer cells to decrease methylation of their anti-cancer compounds, effectively increasing the green teas potency as a cancer fighting agent.

Quercetin Boosts Green Tea Antioxidant Capacity Two to Fourfold to Fight Cancer
In past studies, scientists have demonstrated that green tea catechins undergo extensive methylation after ingestion, lowering the effectiveness of the health-promoting compounds to shield against cancer proliferation. Quercetin is a known inhibitor of methylation in normal metabolism, and a study was conducting using mice to determine if the naturally occurring flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables could increase the potency of green tea catechins (specifically epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG).

Mice with severe combined immunodeficiency were given brewed green tea and a diet supplemented with 0.4 percent quercetin alone or in combination for a period of two weeks. Researchers determined that the supplemented group experienced a two to three times increase of total and non-methylated EGCG in the lung and kidney along with an increasing trend in the liver.

Drink Three to Five Cups of Fresh Brewed Tea Daily Along with Fruits and Vegetables to Ward off Cancer
The study found that combining quercetin with fresh brewed catechins from green tea increased the cellular adsorption of EGCG four times in lung cancer cells and two times in kidney cancer cells, dramatically increasing the effectiveness of this natural cancer fighting compound in vivo. Additionally, quercetin decreased methylation of green tea polyphenols, which would otherwise limit their chemopreventive potential.

The research team concluded that “in order to have a maximum anticancer effect, green tea or green tea extract should be used together with quercetin.” They noted that green tea catechins exhibit higher antioxidant potential than either vitamin C or E, and indicated that consuming the beverage was associated with reduced risk for a number of forms of malignancy including skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer and bladder cancer. Three to five cups of fresh-brewed green tea daily combined with quercetin from fruits and vegetables or supplementation are recommended to synergistically boost the cancer fighting abilities of EGCG catechins.