Regularly consuming omega-3, from both animal and vegetable origins, strengthens the heart’s membranes thereby helping to reduce the risk of hospital readmission and mortality after a heart attack
Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (Spain), October 27 ,2020
A team of researchers from the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital and Research Institute (IGTP) and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) has shown that regularly consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, from both animal and vegetable origins, strengthens the heart’s membranes and helps improve the prognosis in the event of a myocardial infarction.
To arrive at these conclusions, they used data from 950 patients. The omega-3 levels in the blood of these individuals were determined when they were admitted to hospital to be treated for the heart attack. This measurement indicates, very accurately, how much of these fats the patients had eaten in the weeks prior to the sampling, in other words, before the heart attack. The patients were monitored for three years after being discharged, and the researchers observed that having high levels of omega-3 in the blood at the time of the infarction, which had been consumed in the weeks leading up to the heart attack, was associated with a lower risk of complications. The results of the study have just been published in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish. When we eat oily fish on a regular basis, EPA is incorporated into the phospholipids in the membranes of the cardiomyocytes, protecting them from a wide variety of heart stressors. This enrichment of the myocardial membranes limits the damage caused in the event of a heart attack.
The major novelty of this study is that it also focused on another omega-3 fatty acid, of vegetable origin, known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This fat, which is found in walnuts as well as soybeans and their derivatives, is far less well studied than marine omega-3s. The researchers observed that EPA and ALA do not compete, but are complementary to one another. While high levels of EPA are associated with a lower risk of hospital readmission from cardiovascular causes, higher levels of ALA are associated with a reduced risk of death.
Antoni Bayés, clinical director of Cardiology at Germans Trias, concludes: “Incorporating marine and vegetable omega-3s into the diet of patients at risk of cardiovascular disease is an integrative strategy for improving both their quality of life and prognosis if they suffer a heart attack.”
Aleix Sala, a researcher at IMIM-Hospital del Mar and responsible for the blood testing, states: “The article is important because it highlights the complementary (and non-competitive) effects of the two types of omega-3.”
Study finds grape seed extract supplementation along with a restricted calorie diet improves cardiovascular risk factors in obese or overweight adults
Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences (Iran). October 23, 2020
According to news reporting from Tehran, Iran, research stated, “Grape seed extract (GSE) is a flavonoid-rich supplement, recently discussed as a potential moderator of inflammation and obesity. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of GSE supplementation along with a restricted-calorie diet (RCD), on changes in blood lipid profile, visceral adiposity index (VAI), and atherogenic index of plasma (AIP).”
The news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, “We designed a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Forty obese or overweight individuals (25 body mass index <40 kg/m ) were randomly assigned to receive GSE (300 mg/day) or placebo, plus RCD, for 12 weeks. We studied the anthropometric measures, biochemical biomarkers and dietary intake within the study timelines. Levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and HDL-C/low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) significantly increased in the GSE group as compared with the placebo group at week 12 (p=.03 and .008, respectively, adjusted for age, sex, energy and saturated fatty acid intake). We also observed a significant reduction in LDL-C following GSE supplementation in comparison to placebo (adjusted for age, sex and energy intake, p=.04). VAI, AIP, total cholesterol and triglyceride significantly decreased in the GSE group compared with the baseline (p=.04, .02, .01, and .02, respectively).”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “GSE supplementation may have a modulatory role in improving blood lipid profile in obese or overweight individuals, when accompanied by RCD.”
This research has been peer-reviewed.
Extra virgin olive oil contains more polyphenols than other varieties
Published in Tulsa World, October 27, 2020
Let’s look at how the various types of olive oil are alike. Calorie content is similar in all olive oils. The composition of an olive’s fatty acids is approximately 77% monounsaturated, 9% polyunsaturated and 14% saturated. Extra-virgin olive oil will contain a higher concentration of phytochemicals than oils described as “light.”
Oils tend to be present as triglycerides: three fatty acids bound to glycerol. Fatty acids can begin to split off as olives age; measurements of their free-acidity are used as a gauge of olive quality. Premium olive oils often declare a maximum level of free-acidity on their labels.
The various grades of olive oil are distinguished by the order in which they emerge from specialized presses. The first pressing of the fruit provides the extra-virgin olive oil: the darkest, most flavorful and highest in quality. It also has the lowest free-acid level.
Next out is the virgin olive oil. It has less color but still contains some of the olive’s fruitiness. The remaining oil is the standard, or “pure” olive oil, which has even less olive flavor. Some companies make a “light” (or “lite”) olive oil, which has little, if any, olive flavor but is still quite functional. Many companies blend their oils to achieve a more standardized flavor. In Europe, you can even find pomace oil: a solvent extraction of the olive mash leftovers.
Understanding the idea of health benefits between the extra-virgin and the lighter types becomes apparent when you consider that the olive is the olive tree’s fruit. The oil is there to nurture the developing seed until it can begin to grow on its own. Rancid oil is less able to help the seed grow, and the olive has evolved to produce protective components. In the olive, we find some vitamin E and other antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. These compounds help maintain the olive’s vitality while providing the distinct flavor characteristics detectable in premium oils.
Oil producers from around the Mediterranean, in addition to those in California, speak with understandable pride about the healthful attributes of their olive oil. They often tout that only the extra-virgin olive oil has the right stuff. Once you understand that it is the extra-virgin oil that contains the bulk of the beneficial phytochemicals, you can better appreciate the logic of their message.
Expect differences between, and within, brands of oils. Quality varies with the olive variety, the age of the tree, the geographical area, the method of cultivation, the weather and the length of the growing season. Some producers date the vintage of their oils, while others blend to achieve a consistent taste for their brand.
We find the same types of differences with fruits and vegetables, as well as with products such as wine.
While tasting olive oils around the world, I noticed differences in pungency, buttery mouthfeel and peppery aftertaste – each, no doubt, due to specific chemical compounds. Olives picked earlier in the harvest might have higher levels of certain constituents than those left until the end of the season.
Suffice it to say that sticking with extra-virgin will ensure that you are getting the best that an olive variety has to offer. When possible, taste several to find the type that meets your particular needs. For more, see b.link/bw-olive.
Strawberry nutrient helps protect elderly from neurodegenerative disease
Salk Institute, October 17, 2020
An increasing amount of evidence is showing that a natural plant compound from strawberries can boost brain health while reducing the risks of neurodegenerative disease associated with aging. Salk Institute scientists have studied the strawberry antioxidant fisetin and found it to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in aging mice.
The results of the Salk Institute scientists’ research is published in the Journals of Gerontology. The work was funded by the Burns Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health.
Strawberry compound effective against both genetic and age-related Alzheimer’s disease
The recent study builds on the Salk group’s recent work researching the antioxidant fisetin and confirms the strawberry compound fisetin can assist with preventing age-related mental decline, stroke and (specifically) Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The strawberry compound seems to reduce the inflammation associated with cognitive defects, boost brain health and reduce incidents of neurodegenerative disease.
David Schubert, head of the Salk Institute Cellular Neurobiology Lab, has been studying fisetin for well over 10 years.
Previous research conducted by the lab found the strawberry compound fisetin was highly effective in reducing memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s in mice that had been modified genetically to have the neurodegenerative disease. However, this preliminary research was focused on the genetic form of Alzheimer’s, which only accounts for a tiny percentage of all cases.
Fisetin in strawberries reduces the markers for inflammation and stress associated with neurodegenerative disease
Some of the mice studied were fed a fisetin dose (daily) along with their normal food portion for seven months. The others served as a control group and were not given fisetin. Throughout the seven months, the mice were given various memory/activity tests and specific proteins related to brain functioning, inflammation and stress responses.
After the study period, the differences between these two groups of mice were striking. The mice that did not receive the strawberry compound struggled on all of the cognitive tests. They also showed elevated amounts of inflammation and the markers for stress.
By contrast, the mice treated with fisetin did not show age-related signs of cognitive decline. None of the markers for stress and inflammation were markedly different from when the study began. In addition, the group treated with fisetin showed no signs of toxicity or side effects from the compound – even when it was administered at high doses.
As if we needed another “excuse” to eat more strawberries!
While the researchers concede that mice are not people, there are enough genetic similarities to cause great excitement about the potential of this strawberry compound. A natural means of boosting brain health and reducing the risk of age related neurodegenerative disease is something that most everyone would be interested in.
The Salk group now hopes to partner with another research organization interested in conducting human trials on fisetin. Until then? Eat more strawberries!
Researchers find strong evidence linking artificial sweeteners to asthma
University of Massachusetts, October 25, 2020
Even moderate consumption of fructose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from soda, fruit drinks and apple juice corresponds to a higher risk of asthma in adults.
This is the finding of a recent study by independent researcher Luanne DeChristopher and Katherine Tucker from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell), published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Their study found that those who consumed even moderate amounts of HFCS–
Higher intake of HFCS linked to higher asthma risk
For their study, the duo analyzed longitudinal data from the Offspring Cohort of the Framingham Heart Study. In all, their study included some 2,600 adult participants with a mean age of 47.9 years.
They also used food frequency questionnaires to measure the participants’ intake of non-diet soda, fruit drinks, apple juice and any combination of these beverages that contained HFCS. In addition, they analyzed asthma incidence based on the participants’ self-reports as recorded in the Offspring Cohort.
Their analysis revealed that an increased intake of any combination of HFCS-sweetened drinks was associated with higher asthma risk. They speculated that the association between the two variables could be because of the high fructose to glucose ratios of the drinks, as well as fructose malabsorption in the participants.
In light of these findings, reducing the intake of HFCS-sweetened drinks appears to be an important first step to minimizing asthma risk.
However, the researchers noted that just reducing the consumption of these drinks might be inadequate since even those who consumed only moderate amounts of the HFCS-sweetened drinks also had a higher risk of asthma.
Study suggests that deficiency of vitamin D or selenium may decrease immune defenses against respiratory viral illness
Seoul Clinical Laboratories (South Korea), October 26, 2020
According to news reporting from Yongin, South Korea, research stated, “The relationship between immunity and nutrition is well known and its role in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is also being paid great attention. However, the nutritional status of COVID-19 patients is unknown.”
The news correspondents obtained a quote from the research from Seoul Clinical Laboratories, “Vitamin B1, B6, B12, vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D), folate, selenium, and zinc levels were measured in 50 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Overall, 76% of the patients were vitamin D deficient and 42% were selenium deficient. No significant increase in the incidence of deficiency was found for vitamins B1, B6, and B12, folate, and zinc in patients with COVID-19. The COVID-19 group showed significantly lower vitamin D values than the healthy control group (150 people, matched by age/sex). Severe vitamin D deficiency (based on a cut-off of 10 ng/dl) was found in 24.0% of the patients in the COVID-19 group and 7.3% in the control group. Among 12 patients with respiratory distress, 11 (91.7%) were deficient in at least one nutrient. However, patients without respiratory distress showed a deficiency in 30/38 cases (78.9%; p=0.425). These results suggest that a deficiency of vitamin D or selenium may decrease the immune defenses against COVID-19 and cause progression to severe disease.”
According to the news reporters, the research concluded: “However, more precise and large-scale studies are needed.”
Wrinkled ‘Super Pea’ Could Be Added To Foods To Reduce Diabetes Risk
Imperial College London, October 26, 2020
A type of wrinkled ‘super pea’ may help control blood sugar levels and could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, suggests a new study.
The research, from scientists at Imperial College London, the John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute Bioscience and University of Glasgow, suggests incorporating the peas into foods, in the form of whole pea seeds or flour, may help tackle the global type 2 diabetes epidemic.
The work, published in the journal Nature Food and funded by the BBSRC, focused on a naturally occurring type of pea. Unlike regular (smooth) peas, they contain higher amounts of ‘resistant starch’, which takes longer for the body to break down.
The study reveals that compared to eating smooth peas, wrinkled peas prevented ‘sugar spikes’ – where blood sugar levels rise sharply after a meal. The same effect was seen when consuming flour made from wrinkled peas incorporated in a mixed meal.
According to the researchers, this could be important as frequent, large sugar spikes are thought to increase the risk of diabetes. They add that flour from their ‘super peas’ could potentially be used in commonly consumed processed foods which, if eaten over the long term, could prevent these sugar spikes.
Dr Katerina Petropoulou, first author of the research from the Centre for Translational and Nutrition Food Research at Imperial College London, said: “Despite national campaigns to promote healthy eating, type 2 diabetes diagnosis rates continue to rise. An alternative dietary strategy to maintain normal blood glucose rates among the population is to improve the composition of commonly consumed foods. There is much evidence that diets rich in a type of carbohydrate called resistant starch have a positive impact on controlling blood glucose levels, and hence reduce susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.”
The peas used in the research are similar to the frozen peas you can buy in the supermarket. They are also the same as those used by the famous scientist Gregor Mendel in the 1800s, to show how dominant and recessive genetic traits can be passed on through selective breeding.
However, in these latest experiments, researchers used larger, mature versions of those typically found in the freezer aisle. This is because larger, mature peas contain more so-called ‘resistant starch’. The high amount of resistant starch is due to the way the starch is made in the cell, and the fact that the cells themselves are more resistant to digestion.
Starch is a compound that the body breaks down to release sugar, but resistant starch is broken down more slowly, so that sugar is released more slowly into the blood stream, resulting in a more stable increase rather than in a spike.
In the latest study, the researchers used a type of ‘super pea’ – wrinkled peas with a naturally occurring genetic mutation, or variant, that produces a greater amount of resistant starch, but a lower overall carbohydrate content.
Over a series of experiments, the team gave healthy volunteers a mixed meal including 50 grams of wrinkled peas, and in a series of control experiments gave them regular ‘smooth’ peas. Working with the University of Glasgow, researchers also added a tracer molecule to the peas, so that they could trace how they were absorbed and digested by the human gastrointestinal tract.
They repeated the experiments using flour made from wrinkled peas or control peas. To further investigate the impact of long-term consumption they recruited 25 volunteers and asked them to consume pea hummus and mushy peas (made from wrinkled or control peas) for a period of 4 weeks.
Professor Gary Frost, lead author of the study and head of Imperial’s Centre for Translational and Nutrition Food Research, said: “The ‘super pea’ contains a naturally-occurring variant gene that means they are high in resistant starches. These starches are not completely digested in the upper parts of the digestive tract and are available for fermentation by bacteria in the colon.”
Previous research from the same group has suggested that, as these bacteria ferment the starch, they produce compounds called short chain fatty acids. These compounds in turn help boost the function of cells that produce insulin, which helps control blood sugar.
Professor Pete Wilde of the Quadram Institute said: “This study has shown us that by preparing these peas in certain ways we can further reduce blood sugar spikes, opening up new possibilities for making healthier foods using controlled food processing techniques.”
The researchers are now planning further trials involving volunteers with early stage type 2 diabetes. This will also involve a major pea breeding programme with help from industry partners to develop more ‘super peas’ with the resistant starch. They will also explore the genetic background of commonly consumed pulses (beans) to see if similar genetic variation in other crops shows the same positive effects on health.
Professor Claire Domoney of the John Innes Centre in Norfolk said: “This research has emphasized the value of developing the pea lines used in this study, which could be compared meaningfully and involved many years of breeding. It also demonstrates how plant genetics can be used effectively across many disciplines to study the impact of food on human health.”
The study authors point out that it is not only peas which have the resistant starch mutation. Other research is focusing on breeding the mutation into staple crops, such as rice and wheat. With modern genomic tools there is the potential for discovery or generation of the mutation across a range of seed and grain crops – which make up many of the carbohydrate-rich foods we consume.
Professor Domoney added: “Longer term it could become policy to include resistant starch in food. We have precedents for this kind of intervention, such as iron being added to bread to tackle anemia. It could potentially be policy that food should contain a certain amount of resistant starch to tackle type 2 diabetes and other metabolic illnesses.”
Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC’s Executive Chair, said “By investing in plant research, such as this collaboration between Imperial College, the Quadram Institute and the John Innes Centre, new solutions that help address the health problems affecting many people across the country are being developed. Long term benefits come from long term investments that equip our research base to tackle new and emerging challenges.”