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Apple Cider Vinegar: More Than A Diet Trick?

While heart disease can be triggered by a poor diet, experts say apple cider vinegar may have positive benefits for certain cardiovascular risk factors, in addition to helping with weight loss.

Researchers believe that apple cider vinegar could have a protective effect on your heart. Consuming a few teaspoons before breakfast has become a health trend, due to claims that it aids weight loss, yet apple cider vinegar may also help boost heart health.

Research has suggested that it assists with lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which have been linked to increased risk of heart attacks.

What’s more, studies found it protects against LDL cholesterol oxidation – which could lead to heart disease – and can reduce blood pressure. “Several ‘risk factors’ for heart disease and strokes have been shown to be improved by apple cider vinegar consumption,” said Fleur Brown, a nutritionist and author of Beat Chronic Disease – The Nutrition Solution. “It contains the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to protect LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidised, a crucial step in the prevention of heart disease process.

Additionally, there are also some studies showing that the vinegar can help reduce blood pressure. It appears to have the ability break down fat deposits in the body, improve circulation and thus lower pressure in the arteries. High insulin and blood glucose levels are also thought to contribute to heart disease, and apple cider vinegar can reduce both.

This is particularly important since diabetics are at an increased risk of heart disease as they have raised insulin and blood glucose levels., Additionally the knock-on effect of lowered levels of insulin is weight loss: being overweight can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, therefore losing weight with the aid of apple cider vinegar can lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.”

Nevertheless, research done so far to support apple cider vinegar’s direct positive effects on the heart, such as a 2015 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, have been conducted on animals. As yet, there have been no human studies, meaning we cannot know for certain that it would yield the same results.

“There is a limited amount of research to show that apple cider vinegar may help to lower blood cholesterol levels and so be good for the heart but most of this research comes from studies in rats, so we need to be careful about extrapolating to humans,” explained Dr Sarah Schenker, a registered dietician and nutritionist. What has been shown in humans is that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss – which can also help heart health. “Several human studies suggest that apple cider vinegar can increase satiety, making you feel fuller more quickly,” said Brown.

Human studies have demonstrated that drinking apple cider vinegar along with high-carb meals can increase feelings of fullness and make people eat 200 to 275 fewer calories for the rest of the day. Reducing calories on a daily basis can result in reduced weight over time, and reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

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Pick Up the Pace!

According to a new study, healthy adults who are slow walkers are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those of us who walk at a more brisk pace. “This suggests that habitual walking pace is an independent predictor of heart-related death,” lead author Professor Tom Yates said.

Researchers from the University of Leicester followed 420,727 people over a period of six years to assess death rates.  Those who were slow walkers were found to be between 1.8 and 2.4 times more likely to die of heart disease – which is the world’s biggest killer – during the timeframe.

The researchers took into account risk factors including smoking, BMI and diet, but found that the conclusion still applied to both men and women. However, it was actually adults with the lowest BMIs who were found to have the highest risk from walking slowly.

The study’s authors believe that walking pace is an indicator of overall health and fitness as it’s strongly linked to exercise tolerance.

“Self-reported walking pace could be used to identify individuals who have low physical fitness and high mortality risk,” said Professor Yates. The researchers also looked into whether walking pace could be linked to cancer, but no connection was found.

This is not the first study to link heart disease and walking pace though – research from 2009 concluded that walking slowly is “strongly associated” with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease is often a result of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol, and is the leading cause of death in the US, second only to dementia in the UK.

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Salt Consumption: Enough to Damage Heart?

The amount of salt a typical American adult consumes each day may be enough to damage the heart muscle and make it harder to pump blood, a U.S. study suggests.

A high-salt diet has long been linked to higher odds of developing high blood pressure and heart disease as well as an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. But determining the ideal amount of dietary salt is controversial because some research has also found an elevated risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and heart attacks in otherwise healthy people who consume too little salt.

In the current study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, half of the people consumed at least 3.73 grams a day of sodium, the equivalent of about two teaspoons of table salt.

Compared with adults who ate less sodium, people who consumed more than 3.7 grams of sodium a day were more likely to have enlargement in the left chambers of the heart that are responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood into the body. They were also more likely to have signs of muscle strain in the heart that can precede structural damage.

“This study enhances our understanding of the adverse effects of salt intake on heart function,” said lead study author Dr. Senthil Selvaraj, a researcher at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

While the results don’t settle the debate over the optimal amount of salt, the findings should still encourage people who eat a lot of salt to cut back, Selvaraj said by email. That’s because reducing sodium intake can help reverse high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart failure, stroke and heart attacks.

“There is still a healthy debate ongoing,” Selvaraj added. “It is still worth the effort to reduce your sodium intake.”

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, killing almost one in every three people. Sodium is found not only in table salt, but also in a variety of foods such as bread, milk, eggs, meat, and shellfish as well as processed items like soup, pretzels, popcorn, soy sauce and bouillon or stock cubes.

To lower the risk of heart disease, adults should reduce sodium intake to less than 2 grams a day, or the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

For the current study, researchers examined data from lab tests of sodium intake, heart structure and heart function for almost 3,000 adults. Participants were 49 years old on average, 54 percent had high blood pressure and half were African-American. They were typically overweight or obese. To assess how sodium intake influenced the heart, researchers accounted for age, sex, smoking status, alcohol use, activity levels, and certain medications.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove how or if salt damages the heart or impairs heart function.
One limitation of the study is that researchers tested sodium intake using overnight urine samples, which may not be as accurate as the gold standard, 24-hour urine collection, the authors note.

Researchers also didn’t have enough data on people who consumed very little sodium to assess how low salt intake influences the heart. “We know less than we should about salt,” said Thomas Marwick, author of an accompanying editorial and director of the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

“In general, most of the population take far more salt than is good for them and this is a reminder to reduce intake,” Marwick said by email. “It’s ubiquitous and hard to reduce to very low levels,” Marwick added. “While some zealots want to reduce intake to zero, I’m not sure that drastic reduction is necessarily beneficial.”

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Link Between Childhood Cardiovascular Risk Factors & Future Lower Cognition

A recent study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology includes data that indicates an association between the presence of cardiovascular risk factors in adolescence, and a lower cognition later in life–“regardless of the exposure experienced during adulthood.”


The data investigated a sample of 3,596 individuals from childhood to adulthood, including follow-up cognitive testing, in addition to measurements of cardiovascular risk factors like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body mass index, exposure to smoking, etc.

The study was able to specifically pinpoint the worsening of midlife cognitive performance among those individuals with high blood pressure and cholesterol in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. The data further demonstrated that smoking in adolescence and young adulthood is linked to a decrease in cognition: specifically, memory and learning.

Study participants between the ages of 6 and 24 who had all risk factors within the recommended levels performed better on cognitive testing than their counterparts who exceeded all risk factors guidelines at least twice; the difference corresponded to the effect of 6 years of aging. Researchers further found that those participants with the highest blood pressure had a difference in cognitive age of 8.4 years, compared to those with the lowest blood pressure.

Suvi Rovio, PhD, lead author of the study and a senior scientist at the Research Centre of Applied and Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku in Finland, stated: “These findings support the need for active monitoring and treatment strategies against cardiovascular risk factors from childhood…this shouldn’t just be a matter of cognitive deficits prevention, but one of primordial prevention.”

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A “Vaccine” for Cholesterol Clearance?

AT04A, a peptide-based formulation that induces an immune response against a protein that interferes with cholesterol clearance, has been effective in lowering cholesterol in studies with mice. AT04A qualifies as an immunotherapy, as it targets one of the body’s own proteins–not a protein associated with a pathogen.

The study is the first to demonstrate that the AT04A vaccine induced high and persistent’ antibody levels against PCSK9 (an enzyme that prevents the clearance of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol–‘bad’ cholesterol–from the blood).

When the AT04A formulation was injected under the skin of mice that had been fed diets of fatty food, it reduced the total amount of cholesterol by 53%, shrank atherosclerotic damage to blood vessels by 64%, and reduced biological markers of blood vessel inflammation by 21% to 28%, in comparison to the unvaccinated mice. Moreover, the induced antibodies remained functional over the entire study period, and concentrations were still high at the study’s conclusion.

“The way that AT04A is administered is comparable to a vaccine,” explained Gunther Staffler, PhD, the chief technology officer at the company that initially developed AT04A. “However, the difference between a conventional vaccine and our approach is that a vaccine induces antibodies that are specific to bacterial or viral proteins that are foreign to the body—pathogens—whereas AT04A induces antibodies against a target protein that is produced by the body—endogenous proteins. This it is really an immunotherapeutic approach rather than a vaccine approach.”

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Heart Disease: #1 Killer Worldwide

New research published in the May 17 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicates that roughly a third of all global deaths are the result of heart disease and stroke: cardiovascular disease is currently the number one killer around the world.

Gregory Roth, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, notes that the statistics present “an alarming threat to global health…trends in cardiovascular disease mortality are no longer declining for high-income regions, and low- and middle-income countries are also seeing more cardiovascular disease related deaths.”

The accumulation of research assessed current international rates of a variety of types of heart disease, including stroke, coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, and peripheral arterial disease. The highest rates of disease were in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Centrla Asia, and eastern and central Europe. The lowest incidence of heart disease was found in wealthy Asian nations, including Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

Nevertheless, approximately 18 million people across the globe died from heart disease in 2015; researchers stated that over 400 million men and women have a kind of cardiovascular illness. High levels of cardiovascular disease are seen both in high-income countries, and in regions with more limited access to effective, inexpensive treatments.

Dr. Roth notes that the risk factors for heart disease—high blood pressure, poor diet and high cholesterol, excessive smoking and drinking, and obesity—are common throughout the world. “Now we need to find innovative ways to deliver our low-cost, effective treatments to the hundreds of millions of people who can’t access them.”

These findings should present opportunities for public health officials across local, national, and international levels to collaborate and share strategies on how to address the aforementioned risk factors.

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Faculty Spotlight: Alan R. Saltiel, PhD

With nineteen issued patents, 290 published original papers, and thousands of citations in biochemistry literature, Alan R. Saltiel ranks among the most influential scientists in biology and biochemistry. After receiving a degree in Zoology from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of North Carolina, Saltiel conducted research surrounding thyroid-stimulating hormones, and the relationship to thyroid cancer. As a post-doctoral fellow, Saltiel began investigating insulin, and signaling pathways in insulin action. Saltiel’s research targeted drug discovery activities in diabetes, obesity, and cancer; he was responsible for pre-clinical studies on troglitazone: the first thiazolidinedione approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Saltiel has served as Director of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute since 2001, in addition to John Jacob Abel Professor of Life Sciences. In 2015, Saltiel created the Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health at the University of California, San Diego, while serving as a Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology.

Saltiel has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Rosalyn Yalow Research and Development Award from the American Diabetes Association, Hirschl Award, and the John Jacob Abel Award from ASPET. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Saltiel will be the featured keynote speaker at CMHC’S Regional Conference Series in San Diego, delivering an address titled “Deep Dive Into Metabolic Health: Obesity, Inflammation, and Type 2 Diabetes.”

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Happy Hour: Good for the Heart?

A recent large-scale study indicates that alcohol, in moderation, is healthy for the heart. New research published in the British Medical Journal adds further evidence linking alcohol consumption with lower risks of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. While the new study is consistent with earlier results that have shown potential heart health benefits from occasional drinking, it amplifies the message due to its large sample population.

Drinking about a glass of wine for women per day, and two glasses of wine for men, showed benefits for heart health in a large group of U.K. adults; of the near 2 million subjects, none had cardiovascular disease when the study began. People who did not drink showed increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12% to 56%, compared to those who drank in moderation; the eight conditions included the most common heart events—such as heart attack and stroke. Non-drinkers had a 33% higher risk of unstable angina, a condition in which the heart does not receive sufficient blood flow, and a 56% higher risk of dying unexpectedly from cardiovascular disease—compared to those people who drank a glass or two of alcohol each day.

There are several potential ways that casual drinking might benefit heart health, although none have been directly proven. Alcohol consumption has been linked to increases in ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, and properties in the blood that reduce clotting. It is also possible that moderate drinking helps reduce stress levels.

Yet alcohol does not provide protection against four less common heart problems, including certain types of mild strokes. It is not clear from the current study why alcohol lowers the risk of some heart conditions and not others, but the results should reassure people who drink a few glasses of alcohol each week. Moreover, while casual drinking shows potential benefit, drinking to excess can increase risks for a variety of heart problems.

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“An Apple A Day…”

A multitude of research indicates that consuming at least ten portions of fruits and vegetables per day significantly lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease. While the “five-a-day-rule” yields significant benefits, an extra five portions even further reduces the chance of disease development.

A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology predicts that if everyone ate ten portions of fruits and vegetables per day, approximately 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented—including a dramatic decrease in stroke, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease. While the current UK guidelines are to eat at least five portions, or 400 grams, per day, fewer than one in three adults are thought to meet this target.

Yet researchers found that even smaller intakes had benefits: a daily intake of two-and-a-half portions was associated with a 16% reduction in heart disease, a 4% decrease in cancer, and a 15% lessening in the risk of premature death. The consumption of ten portions per day was associated with more dramatic decreases—the maximum protection against disease and premature deaths.

The scientific studies reveal that fruit and vegetables reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and boost the health of blood vessels and the overall immune system. Compounds called glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables—such as broccoli—activate enzymes that may also help prevent cancer. Fruits and vegetables may also have a beneficial effect on the naturally occurring gut bacteria, and contain many antioxidants that may reduce DNA damage.

It is critical to eat whole plants in order to receive the aforementioned benefits, as the beneficial compounds cannot be easily replicated in a supplementary pill. As a high intake of fruit and vegetables holds tremendous health benefits, we should all attempt to increase their intake in our diets.

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Unhealthy “Health Fads”

A new paper recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology outlines several trendy ‘health fads’ that—in reality—are actually detrimental to a solidly nutritious diet.

While juicing has long been touted as a popular method to detoxify the body and lose weight, studies now demonstrate that while juicing may improve absorption of some plant nutrients, it leaves out a considerable amount of the fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables. Moreover, people who drink large quantities of juice tend to drink more concentrated calories, without feeling full and satiated afterwards. Research indicates that drinking calories is not as fulfilling as chewing them.

Another trend that has emerged as a global ‘dietary craze’ is coconut oil—yet it is naturally loaded with unhealthy, saturated fats. Additionally, the widespread gluten-free diet ultimately yields little positive health benefit for people not afflicted with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Using olive and vegetable oils in cooking is both more prudent and nutritious, as they contain healthy unsaturated fats.

The aforementioned conclusions are part of a newly released review of the latest scientific evidence concerning food and nutrition, initially conducted to shed light on the latest diet fads. The review’s lead author Dr. Andrew Freeman, co-chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Lifestyle and Nutrition Work Group, has articulated that there is a widespread confusion in terms of nutrition. The review of medical evidence related to overall healthy eating patterns and specific popular dietary fads in the country further reveals that high-dose antioxidant dietary supplements do not produce any more benefits than simply eating foods rich in antioxidants.

Eating a well-balanced diet generally does not require additional vitamin supplementation, and whole grains are ultimately healthier for people than gluten-free alternatives, which are often higher in processed carbohydrates. Researchers conclude that the best route to health is a predominantly plant-based diet that concentrates on whole unprocessed foods, with fruits and vegetables that are “antioxidant-rich nutrient powerhouses.”

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