Whole diet approach to lower cardiovascular risk has more evidence than low-fat diets

A study published in The American Journal of Medicine reveals that a whole diet approach, which focuses on increased intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish, has more evidence for reducing cardiovascular risk than strategies that focus exclusively on reduced dietary fat.This new study explains that while strictly low-fat diets have the ability to lower cholesterol, they are not as conclusive in reducing cardiac deaths. By analyzing major diet and heart disease studies conducted over the last several decades, investigators found that participants directed to adopt a whole diet approach instead of limiting fat intake had a greater reduction in cardiovascular death and non-fatal myocardial infarction.Early investigations of the relationship between food and heart disease linked high levels of serum cholesterol to increased intake of saturated fat, and subsequently, an increased rate of coronary heart disease. This led to the American Heart Association’s recommendation to limit fat intake to less than 30% of daily calories, saturated fat to 10%, and cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day.”Nearly all clinical trials in the 1960s, 70s and 80s compared usual diets to those characterized by low total fat, low saturated fat, low dietary cholesterol, and increased polyunsaturated fats,” says study co-author James E. Dalen, MD, MPH, Weil Foundation, and University of Arizona College of Medicine. “These diets did reduce cholesterol levels. However they did not reduce the incidence of myocardial infarction or coronary heart disease deaths.”Carefully analyzing studies and trials from 1957 to the present, investigators found that the whole diet approach, and specifically Mediterranean-style diets, are effective in preventing heart disease, even though they may not lower total serum or LDL cholesterol. The Mediterranean-style diet is low in animal products and saturated fat, and encourages intake of monounsaturated fats found in nuts and olive oil. In particular, the diet emphasizes consumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and fish.”The potency of combining individual cardioprotective foods is substantial — and perhaps even stronger than many of the medications and procedures that have been the focus of modern cardiology,” explains co-author Stephen Devries, MD, FACC, Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology (Deerfield, IL) and Division of Cardiology, Northwestern University (Chicago, IL). “Results from trials emphasizing dietary fat reduction were a disappointment, prompting subsequent studies incorporating a whole diet approach with a more nuanced recommendation for fat intake.”Based on the data from several influential studies, which are reviewed in the article, Dalen and Devries concluded that emphasizing certain food groups, while encouraging people to decrease others, is more cardioprotective and overall better at preventing heart disease than a blanket low-fat diet. Encouraging the consumption of olive oil over butter and cream, while increasing the amount of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and fish promises to be more effective.”The last fifty years of epidemiology and clinical trials have established a clear link between diet, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular events,” concludes Dr. …

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Exercising one day a week may be enough for older women

Aug. 30, 2013 — A study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) reveals that women over age 60 may need to exercise only one day a week to significantly improve strength and endurance.The study, appearing in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, monitored 63 women performing combined aerobic exercise training (AET) and resistance exercise training (RET) for 16 weeks. One group performed AET and RET one time per week, a second group two times per week and a third group three times per week. The study found significant increases in muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and functional tasks in each group, but there were no significant differences in outcomes among groups.”One of the biggest barriers to exercise training for the older female population is adherence, and one of the key findings in this study is that doing a little bit of exercise can go a long way,” said Gordon Fisher, Ph.D., primary investigator of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Human Studies in the School of Education, with a secondary appointment in Nutrition Sciences in the School of Health Professions.”Telling people that they need to do at least three to five days of exercise to improve their overall health can be a major obstacle,” Fisher said. “Lack of time is the most often-cited barrier to exercise adherence. This study demonstrates that doing as little as one AET and one RET workout each week can provide a lot of benefit for older women’s overall quality of life and health.”Fisher said the paper, “Frequency of Combined Resistance and Aerobic Training in Older Women,” goes against what most people believe about exercise — that more is better. Greater frequency, intensity and duration of exercise training have been shown to be beneficial in younger adults. However, there have not been many studies looking at older women and exercise. This study suggests that the progressive overload that benefits a younger demographic may not necessarily apply to all aspects of health and fitness in women over the age of 60.”Before I saw the data, if anyone told me that the group that only exercised once a week would improve their leg press more than 45 pounds during a 16-week period, I would have been quite surprised,” said Fisher. “We were also surprised that all three groups increased their lean muscle mass but did not have any significant decreases in body weight.”This is an important consideration, as it is well known that there is a progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass throughout the aging process; thus preservation of lean muscle is extremely important in aging adults. …

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Link shown between Crohn’s disease and virus

June 27, 2013 — A new study reveals that all children with Crohn’s disease that were examined had a commonly occurring virus — an enterovirus — in their intestines. This link has previously not been shown for this chronic inflammatory intestinal disorder.The findings are being published in the latest issue of the international journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology.These findings need to be confirmed in larger studies, but they are important, as this connection has never been pointed out before. This paves the way for a better understanding of what might be involved in causing the disease, says Alkwin Wanders, one of the scientists behind the study at Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital.In Sweden several thousand adults live with Crohn’s disease, and each year about 100 children and adolescents develop the disorder. The disease affects various parts of the gastrointestinal system and causes symptoms such as stomach aches, diarrhea, and weight loss — in severe cases fistulas, or strictures in the intestines.The cause of Crohn’s disease is not known. Mutations in more than 140 genes have been shown to be associated with the disorder, but this genetic connection is not a sufficient explanation. Many of these genes play key roles in the immune defence, which has prompted theories that the disease might be caused by impaired immune defence against various microorganisms. In that case, the disease would be a consequence of interplay between heredity and environment.Recent research has shown that some of the genes that are strongly linked to the disorder are important for the immune defence against a certain type of viruses that have their genetic material in the form of RNA, so-called RNA viruses. Using this as a point of departure, an interdisciplinary research team was established in Sweden to investigate what role this type of virus plays in the disease.The research team includes the paediatrician Niklas Nyström, the pathologist Alkwin Wanders, virus researchers Gun Frisk and Oskar Skog, the molecular biologist Mats Nilsson, and the geneticist Ulf Gyllensten at Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital, along with cell biologists Jonas Fuxe and Tove Berg the paediatrician Yigael Finkel at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.This unique composition, with complementary clinical and scientific expertise, has been extremely fruitful for our studies, says Alkwin Wanders.In the present study the researchers investigated whether the RNA virus were present in children with Crohn´s disease. They focused in particular on the prevalence of enteroviruses, a group of RNA viruses that are known to infect the intestinal mucous lining.The results showed significant amounts of enteroviruses in the intestines of all of the children with Crohn´s disease, whereas the control group had no or only minimal amounts of enteroviruses in their intestines. Similar results were obtained using two different methods. …

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