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Covid-19 infections are linked to many long-term health problems, but now a surprising one - an increased risk for erectile dysfunction in sexually active men. University of Rome researchers found that the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) increased six-fold after a COVID-19 infection. They also found that a person who already has erectile dysfunction is at five times higher risk for a COVID-19 infection.

They thought that erectile dysfunction after COVID-19 could be either a short or long-term effect  - meaning it might or might not go away over time.

Why would a coronavirus infection lead to erectile dysfunction? Evidence is finding that even "silent" asymptomatic COVID-19 infections may have an effect on small blood vessels so that there is endothelial dysfunction, which is impaired functioning of the inner lining of blood vessels. This means that arteries and arterioles are unable to dilate fully, and so blood supply to the penis can be blocked or narrowed.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been often considered a sign (a hallmark) of endothelial dysfunction. Higher rates of erectile dysfunction occur among men suffering from hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The University of Rome researchers summed it up as get vaccinated or "Mask up to keep it up."

A related finding: Last year a study (conducted in China) that autopsied 12 persons who had died of COVID-19 found that they had damage in the testicles - with inflammation, fluid accumulation, and reduced numbers of Leydig cells (which normally produce testosterone).

Excerpts from Medscape: Risk for Erectile Dysfunction Sixfold Higher in Men With COVID-19

COVID-19 increases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) by nearly sixfold, according to data from the first study to investigate the association between ED and COVID-19 in young men in a real-life setting. ...continue reading "COVID-19 Infection Linked to Increased Risk of Erectile Dysfunction"

Another study has been published finding that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables (5 servings a day) is associated with a longer life.

Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at the data from several large studies. They found that about 5 servings per day of fruit and vegetables was associated with the lowest mortality (death from any cause), and from deaths that can be attributed to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Specifically 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits.

Eating fruits and vegetables above that level (5 servings per day) didn't seem to make a difference. Another finding: eating starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) and fruit juices were not associated with a lower risk of mortality.

However, keep in mind that the results were based on answers to Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ), where people answered questions about foods that they ate in the past year. Can you remember how frequently (daily, weekly, or monthly) you ate specific foods? Would you admit, in writing, that you eat lots of junk food or foods that you know are not so good for you?

As you can imagine, there is debate over how valid and reliable these questionnaires are. For example: Is It Time to Abandon the Food Frequency Questionnaire? in 2005, in 2015, and in 2018. FFQs are used because they are the cheapest option.

Some criticisms of FFQs: People don't accurately remember, and they may lie (they want to look better) by underreporting or overreporting foods. Also, the lists are premade - so if the foods you eat aren't on the lists, then it's not counted. Frequent omissions: onions, cucumbers, celery, quinoa, garlic, herbs.

Food dishes that contain many ingredients (such as many Asian dishes) can not be dealt with in FFQs that look at individual foods only. Canned foods are considered equivalent to fresh vegetables and fruits - yet they are not in many ways. No mention of organic vs non-organic foods (studies find nutritional differences, and a cancer link). Eh...

While filling out a sample online FFQ (from the National Cancer Institute) I realized that if I were part of a study - I would definitely answer so that my eating habits look better (!!), plus after answering for a while there was an urge to just get it over with (it took too long). Mutter to myself: "that sounds good, eh, who can remember..". Also, there was no way I would have admitted to any junk food binges.

From Science Daily:The right '5-a-day' mix is 2 fruit and 3 vegetable servings for longer life

Studies representing nearly 2 million adults worldwide show that eating about five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, in which 2 are fruits and 3 are vegetables, is likely the optimal amount for a longer life, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation.  ...continue reading "Eat At Least 5 Servings A Day of Fruits and Vegetables"

Good news for coffee lovers! Drinking 1 or more cups of coffee a day was associated with a reduced risk of heart failure in three large heart disease studies. However, drinking decaffeinated coffee was not.

Researchers analyzed results of the 3 studies, in which more than 21,000 adults were followed at least 10 years. The studies did not differentiate between type of coffee consumed and how it was prepared (drip, espresso, percolated, French press). The researchers point out that other studies have similar findings - that increased consumption of coffee is associated with decreased heart disease deaths or deaths from any cause.

Many studies also find other benefits from daily coffee consumption, such as lowered risk of diabetes, some cancers, and some neurological conditions. However, avoid caffeine when trying to conceive and during pregnancy - then it is associated with harm to the pregnancy and fetus (e.g. with miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and/or small for gestational age).

Excerpts from Science Daily: Coffee lovers, rejoice! Drinking more coffee associated with decreased heart failure risk

Dietary information from three large, well-known heart disease studies suggests drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee may reduce heart failure risk, according to research published today in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal.  ...continue reading "Drinking Coffee Associated With Lower Heart Failure Risk"

There is strong evidence for a link between the foods a person eats, the microbes that live in the person's gut (gut microbiome), and the person's health, according to a large international study. Yes, it's all related.

The researchers were able to find clear patterns of the types of foods eaten and the microbes in the gut. They found that the presence of 15 specific bacteria are consistently associated with good health ("good microbes") and some other bacteria ("bad microbes") are associated with poor metabolic health (including inflammation, blood sugar control).

Study researcher Tim Spector (of King's College London) said: "When you eat, you're not just nourishing your body, you're feeding the trillions of microbes that live inside your gut."

They found that a diverse diet rich in minimally processed plant-based foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, dietary fiber) and fish supports and feeds "good" gut microbes associated with health, with favorable blood sugar levels (glucose control), lower levels of inflammation, improved metabolism, and thus lower risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions (e.g. type 2 diabetes).

On the other hand, persons that ate more highly processed foods, added sugars (desserts!), low fiber foods, artificial sweeteners, foods with additives were more likely to have "bad" microbes linked to poor health, inflammation, unfavorable blood sugar levels, and obesity.

They were able to see that specific foods clearly had an effect on specific bacteria, for example eating tomatoes with an increase in beneficial species of Roseburia. Eating a variety of plant based foods was also associated with an increase in diversity of bacteria (this is considered good), and also with the presence of beneficial keystone bacteria such as  Faecalibacterium prausnitzii.

VERY IMPORTANT: The beneficial bacteria the researchers list are NOT in probiotic supplements. Instead, you must eat a variety of foods that feed beneficial bacteria (e.g. eating a Mediterranean style diet). In fact, some of the microbes the researchers found have not yet been named. Foods also contain bacteria, and these are ingested. For example, an apple contains about 100 million bacteria!

From Science Daily: Link between gut microbes, diet and illnesses revealed

Diets rich in healthy and plant-based foods encourages the presence of gut microbes that are linked to a lower risk of common illnesses including heart disease, research has found.  ...continue reading "Your Diet, Your Gut Microbes, And Your Health"

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Well... once again a study found that frequently eating fried food is not good for health - that it is linked to a higher risk of major heart disease and major cardiovascular events (e.g. heart attack, stroke).

Apparently there has been some debate over this issue, so researchers at  Shenzhen University in China reviewed 19 studies on fried food consumption. They found that there is a linear increase - the more fried food is eaten each week, the higher the risks of heart disease, major cardiovascular events, and heart failure.

The risk for a major cardiovascular event or heart disease increases by 2 to 3% with each additional serving (one serving = 114 g or 4 oz) of fried food per week. Which bring us to the bottom line: Eat fried food sparingly!

From Science Daily: Fried food intake linked to heightened serious heart disease and stroke risk

Fried-food intake is linked to a heightened risk of major heart disease and stroke, finds a pooled analysis of the available research data, published online in the journal Heart. And the risk rises with each additional 114 g (4 oz) weekly serving, the analysis indicates.  ...continue reading "Fried Foods and Risk of Heart Disease"

Doctors now have an easy test for determining your heart health, according to European researchers. Anyone can take the test - just need access to staircases and wear comfortable sneakers or shoes. The test: time it takes to climb 4 flights of stairs or 60 steps.

According to the researchers, the best is being able to climb the stairs at a fast pace, without stopping, in 45 seconds or less (heart health!). A sign of poorer ("suboptimal") heart health is taking 1 1/2 minutes or more to do it. The researchers go on to discuss how heart health is linked to risk of death over the next ten years.

From Science Daily: Test your heart health by climbing stairs

Climbing four flights of stairs in less than a minute indicates good heart health, according to research presented at EACVI -- Best of Imaging 2020, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).   ...continue reading "Climbing Stairs Is An Easy Test Of Heart Health"

What you eat is all important for health. A recent study found that eating higher amounts of protein, whether animal or plant protein,  were associated with lower rates of death (from any cause). Eating a diet high in plant protein appeared to be especially beneficial, and was associated with both a lower risk of death (all cause mortality) and deaths from cardiovascular disease. Higher protein intakes, whether animal, plant or combined, were not associated with rates of death from cancer.

The research, which was an analysis of 32 studies, found there was a dose-response association between intake of plant protein and risk of death (from any cause) - the more plant protein in the diet, the lower the risk of death.

What foods are high in plant protein? Legumes (beans,lentils, peas ), whole grains, and nuts. Bottom line: Eat more protein, especially plant protein, for your health. [And this means real foods, not supplements!]

From Science Daily: Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, linked to lower risk of death

Diets high in protein, particularly plant protein, are associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.  ...continue reading "Diets High In Protein Are Beneficial For Health"

It is great to find a good news study these days, and this one is especially good news for chocolate lovers. Researchers reviewed 6 large studies from the last few decades and found that chocolate consumption more than once a week is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Coronary artery disease is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and is caused by plaque buildup (cholesterol deposits) on the wall of the arteries.

The researchers think that chocolate could be "cardioprotective" (heart-protecting) because of the nutrients in chocolate, all of which have been found to have beneficial health effects in other studies. These are flavanols, polyphenols,  methylxanthines, and stearic acid. In this study they did not address the issue of types of chocolate (dark, milk) or whether eating chocolate more frequently (e.g. daily) is even better.

In recent years, other studies of chocoalte have found not only cardiovascular benefits, but that it also reduces inflammation, and that there are dose-dependent (the more chocolate, the better) improvements in cognition, attention, and memory.

From Science Daily: Chocolate is good for the heart

Eating chocolate at least once a week is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). ...continue reading "Chocolate Appears to Be Good For the Heart"

More evidence that there are health benefits from physical activity, even minimal amounts. Ohio State University researchers found that physical activity, even 10 minute at a time physical activity or exercise, adds up and is associated with lower amounts of cardiovascular (heart) disease in the next ten years - even for obese and overweight persons.

Being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. About 40% of Americans are obese and 32% are overweight, so having a way to simply and cheaply lower rates of cardiovascular disease is wonderful. Overweight is body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9, obesity is BMI 30 or higher, and normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.8 (see CDC guidelines)

The researchers found that physical activity is more important than weight of a person in determining the risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years. Unfortunately 43% of the overweight participants and 53% of the obese participants reported being sedentary (did not engage in at least 10 minutes of continuous physical activity each week) - and these groups had the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.

What counts as exercise or physical activity? Physical activity should be at least 10 continuous minutes or more, and ideally add up to 150 minutes or more each week. All moderate (e.g. brisk walking, light yard work, vacuuming, dancing) and vigorous (e.g. jogging, swimming laps, aerobics, heavy yard work) recreation activities count. The study found that engaging in less than 150 minutes a week also lowered the risk for cardiovascular disease, just not as much as for those with 150 minutes or more each week.

Government guidelines: The Physical Activity Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

Bottom line: Try to move, move, move as much as possible! Yes, a nice 20 minute (1 mile) walk counts!

From Medical Xpress: Not much exercise needed to lower heart disease risk for overweight people

A new study suggests, for obese or overweight adults, that any amount of exercise might lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.  ...continue reading "Any Amount of Physical Activity Is Good For Overweight Adults"

For several years I've noticed that in a number of studies there appear to be beneficial health effects from consumption of dairy products, especially whole milk or full-fat products, and also fermented dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese). A recent international study (21 countries on 5 continents) found similar results: higher intake of dairy foods, especially full-fat dairy, is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Risk factors include increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and elevated blood glucose.  Diet plays a role in whether one develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes. [Being overweight and being inactive are also important risk factors.]

What was the higher intake of dairy products that was associated with health benefits? At least 2 servings per day. The study did not look into what kind of dairy people drank and ate - whether cow, sheep, camel, or goat milk dairy. The assumption is: dairy is dairy!

While it was an observational study, it was significant, especially because the 131,481 participants (aged 35 to 70 years) were from world regions not typically studied in dairy consumption studies. They were tracked for about 9 years.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Dairy-rich diet linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure

Eating at least two daily servings of dairy is linked to lower risks of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as the cluster of factors that heighten cardiovascular disease risk (metabolic syndrome), finds a large international study published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.  ...continue reading "Dairy Products, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome"