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Once again research finds health benefits from consumption of olive oil. A recent large study found that consuming more than 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil per day lowered the risk of death from heart disease, cancer, neurogenerative disease, and respiratory disease.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers also found that increasing intake of olive oil in the diet (replacing margarine, butter, mayonnaise, and dairy fat with 2 1/4 teaspoons or 3/4 tablespoons olive oil) lowers risk of early death in general. The study participants were followed for 28 years, and diet was assessed every 4 years.

Earlier studies found that the best kind of olive oil to consume is extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Extra virgin olive oil is considered anti-inflammatory, and contains oleocanthal, which has anticancer effects. Health benefits are both if eaten as is (e.g., dunk bread, in salad dressings) or cooked (e.g. roast vegetables, in sauces, cooking foods) - and this result was also found in this recent study.

From Science Daily: Higher olive oil intake associated with lower risk of CVD mortality

Consuming more than 7 grams (>1/2 tablespoon) of olive oil per day is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer mortality, neurodegenerative disease mortality and respiratory disease mortality, according to a study publishing today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study found that replacing about 10 grams/day of margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with the equivalent amount of olive oil is associated with lower risk of mortality as well.  ...continue reading "Olive Oil Lowers the Risk of Death From Several Diseases"

Atrial fibrillation (a quivering or irregular heartbeat) can be very frightening for the person experiencing it. This heart arrhythmia disorder can be treated with medicines or surgical ablation, but new research suggests that it also can be improved after 6 months of exercise - about 3.5 hours per week.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide randomly assigned 120 patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) to either receive an exercise regimen for 6 months or no exercise regimen. All persons received "usual medical care". [Note: it is not clear what usual medical care involved.] After 6 months and at 12 months, the exercise group had a lower incidence of recurrent AF  and less severe AF symptoms. The exercise helped maintain normal heart rhythm.

The exercise group had supervised exercise once per week for 3 weeks, and then every other week for 3 months, as well as an exercise plan to follow at home. The goal was to increase aerobic exercise up to 3.5 hours per week. Supervised exercise session were higher intensity to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, and home based  exercise was of moderate intensity (e.g. walking, indoor cycling, swimming).

Bottom line: Exercising up to 3.5 hours per week might improve and control AF so that medications or surgery are not necessary.

From ScienceDaily: Exercise maintains normal heart rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation

A six-month exercise programme helps maintain normal heart rhythm and reduces the severity of symptoms in patients with atrial fibrillation, according to late breaking research presented at ESC Congress 2021. ...continue reading "Atrial Fibrillation Can Be Improved With Exercise"

Over the years many studies have found that eating nuts is good for health and good for the gut microbiome. Now, a study that looked at the effect of adding pecans to the daily diet can be added to the list.

The Univ. of Georgia researchers found that adding about 1/4 cup (68 grams) pecans to the daily diet for 8 weeks improved cholesterol levels. A conclusion is that pecans can be viewed as good for the heart or "cardioprotective".

In the study they randomly assigned 52 adults who were at risk for heart disease (they were overweight or had hypercholesterolemia) to 1 of 3 groups, including a control group with no pecan intake. As one of the researchers (Dr. Cooper) said: "We had some people who actually went from having high cholesterol at the start of the study to no longer being in that category after the intervention.

After 8 weeks of eating 1/4 cup pecans daily, there were lower levels of fasting total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, TC/HDL cholesterol ratio, non-HDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B in the blood There were no changes in the control (no pecan) group.

By the way, do you remember years ago when doctors cautioned people about eating nuts?  That they were very high calorie and should be avoided? Hah! ... The view nowadays: Pecans are high in healthy fatty acids and fiber, both of which are linked to lower cholesterol. Eating nuts frequently also reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and are beneficial for cognitive health.

From Science Daily: Pecan-enriched diet shown to reduce cholesterol

While the proper pronunciation of pecan remains a subject of debate, University of Georgia researchers have shown the tree nut can dramatically improve a person's cholesterol levels.  ...continue reading "Pecans Are A Healthy Addition to the Diet"

Recently there have been studies with conflicting results about the health benefits or harms from coffee consumption. Overall, it seems like moderate intake is OK and beneficial for adults, but too much may cause harm. And avoid caffeinated coffee if pregnant. Yesterday I posted about several recent studies finding health benefits from daily coffee consumption.

Coffee has anti-inflammatory effects, and contains more than a thousand chemical compounds. Over the years many studies found health benefits with regular and decaffeinated coffee, especially when a filter is used in the brewing process (e.g. drip coffee). But when the coffee is made by methods that don't filter the coffee (e.g. French press) the results may show harm, especially if large quantities are consumed daily.

The following are two recent studies finding that coffee consumption is associated with health benefits, and two studies finding potential harm from coffee consumption of over 6 cups a day. Note that whether the coffee is filtered or not may make a difference in results (the last 2 studies).

From (Jan. 11, 2021) Science Daily: Higher coffee intake may be linked to lower prostate cancer risk ...continue reading "Coffee Can Have Health Benefits, But Perhaps Harmful In Large Amounts"

The results of a large study adds more evidence to what we have long suspected: eating a Southern-style diet (fried foods and sugary drinks!) increases the risk for sudden cardiac death (up to 46% higher risk), while eating a plant-based or Mediterranean style diet appears to lower that risk.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, and death occurs within one hour from the onset of symptoms. Heart disease (coronary artery disease) is the most common underlying cause of SCD (75 to 80% of cases), but it can also have other causes (e.g. heart failure, valve disease). Sudden cardiac death is quite common in the US - about 1 in every 7.5 deaths (or nearly 367,000 deaths in 2016).

Univ. of Alabama researchers looked at 5 dietary patterns that people ate over a 10 year period:  plant-based (Mediterranean), Southern, convenience food, alcohol & salad, and sweets. People generally eat foods from all 5 groups, but what is significant is the primary pattern - what the person mostly eats. The Southern diet is most prevalent in the southeastern US, which is also known as the "Stroke Belt", due to the higher stroke death rate there.

A Southern-style dietary pattern is characterized by fried foods, added fats,  eggs, organ meats (such as liver or giblets), processed meats (e.g. bacon, hotdogs, cold cuts), and sugar-sweetened beverages. A plant-based or Mediterranean dietary pattern is rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes (beans), and fish, and low in processed meats, added fats, and fried foods.

The bottom line here is that what you eat has an effect on your health, including heart health. Best is a diet rich in plant-based foods - which also happens to be fiber rich and best for feeding beneficial microbes in the gut. Try to eat at least a minimum of 5 to 6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but more (up to 8 or 9 servings) might be even better.

From Science Daily: The Southern diet - fried foods and sugary drinks - may raise risk of sudden cardiac death

Regularly eating a Southern-style diet may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, while routinely consuming a Mediterranean diet may reduce that risk, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access journal of the American Heart Association.  ...continue reading "A Southern Style Diet Linked to Increased Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death"

It has long been known that eating oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines) has health benefits for the heart. But it also looks like regularly eating sardines may be a good way to lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, as well as improving heart health.

In a study (conducted in Spain) 152 persons at risk for developing type 2 diabetes ("pre-diabetes") were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups for 1 year: Group 1 regularly ate sardines +  followed a diabetes preventive diet, or Group 2 ate the same diabetes preventive diet, but without sardines. All participants were 65 years or older.

They found that after 1 year, the sardine group had greater health improvements than the non-sardine group. Fewer in the sardine group were still in the prediabetes group, and fewer had developed type 2 diabetes. The sardine group also had decreased triglycerides (good), greater increases in healthy HDL cholesterol, reduced insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure, as compared to the non-sardine group.

The sardine group also had higher taurine levels in the blood, as well as increases in nutrients linked to health benefits, including omega-3 EPA and DHA, vitamin D, and fluorine. Taurine has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

What was their weekly consumption of sardines? They consumed 200 g of canned sardines in olive oil per week - eaten as 100 g servings twice per week. Which is a little less than eating two of the little 125 g cans of sardines in olive oil available at the grocery store. It was recommended that they eat the entire sardine, including bones, due to their rich content of calcium and vitamin D. [By the way, while the researchers don't discuss this - increased extra virgin olive oil consumption also has health benefits.]

Medscape article: Sardines Linked to Reduced Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Eating sardines regularly helps prevent type 2 diabetes

The health benefits of sardines and oily fish are widely known: their high levels of unsaturated fats help to regulate cholesterol levels and prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases. However, the benefits don't end there.  ...continue reading "Eating Sardines Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk"

Once again a study finds that taking supplements can be problematic. This time it's fish oil supplements for heart health. Researchers found that taking routine daily fish oil supplements was linked to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. Atrial fibrillation is linked to higher risk of stroke and death.

The international research team analyzed five studies in which people with high blood lipids (elevated plasma triglycerides) took fish oil supplements hoping that it would improve their heart health. The studies were well done, with people randomly assigned to different groups But the results turned out that instead of helping, fish oil supplements appeared to cause a problem - increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

What to do for heart health? Focus on eating a healthy diet with lots of "real" foods, similar to a Mediterranean diet. That is, a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), seeds, nuts, and fish. Avoid fast foods and highly processed foods. Get exercise (at least 2 1/2 hours per week - brisk walks count), and try to lose weight if overweight.

From Science Daily: Fish oil supplements and heart rhythm disorder: New analysis

Omega-3 supplements are associated with an increased likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation in people with high blood lipids. That's the finding of a study published today in European Heart Journal -- Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).  ...continue reading "Fish oil Supplements and Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation"

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"