December 19, 2011

145 Chocolate & Heart Disease [19 December 2011]

For the last column of 2011 I want to share some good news – chocolate is good for your heart! Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, contains flavanol, an antioxidant flavonoid which, among other benefits, protects the heart from free radical damage. Epidemiological studies have suggested that chocolate may be beneficial for the heart and a 2010 study supports this hypothesis.

The study looked at nearly 5,000 Americans ages 25 to 93 who were participating in a Family Heart Study. Use of chocolate was assessed through a questionnaire. After adjusting for known risk factors, those who had chocolate 4 or more times a week had only 43% as many incidents (57% lower) of coronory heart disease (CHD) as those who reported eating none. It definitely wasn’t the sugar though – participants who had non-chocolate candy had a 49% higher incidence of CHD.

Other benefits of dark chocolate:
• lowers blood pressure
• lowers cholesterol
• may prevent cancer (research is looking at pentameric procyanidin, a compound found in chocolate which stops cell reproduction in tumors)
• thins the blood and prevents the formation of blood clots
• releases endorphins in the brain and elevates your mood.

A few words of caution: the calories in the added sugar and fat can be significant. The caffeine and theobromine may be addictive (is that a bad thing?). Chocolate is known to be a migraine trigger. And chocolate contains arginine which should be avoided when fighting or preventing virus infections like herpes.

For some reason I have a sudden craving for almond bark! I think I’ll pop across the hall and buy a bag. The hard part is to make it last all week instead of eating it all at once. Enjoy the holidays! Back in two weeks.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 12, 2011

144 Obesity & Heart Disease [12 December 2011]

Being overweight is a strong risk factor for heart disease (and many other health conditions). A recent study in Greece suggests that it is not the extra fat we carry but the metabolic syndrome which frequently accompanies obesity that should be our biggest concern. Metabolic syndrome, which I have written about previously, is a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in September 2011, followed 550 people in their 50s and 60s for six years. It showed for the first time that otherwise healthy obese people have a lower risk of heart disease than normal weight people with metabolic syndrome. This held true after adjusting for known risk factors including age, sex, cigarette smoking, glucose tolerance, dyslipidemia, blood pressure and waist circumference.

Those with metabolic syndrome, regardless of weight, had 2.13 to 2.66 times the risk of a normal weight person without the syndrome (the highest risk was for the obese with the syndrome). Those without the syndrome had between 0.41 and 1.12 times the risk (the healthy obese people actually had the lowest risk). The study did NOT suggest that being obese is healthier (besides it is associated with other problems like cancer and arthritis which were not included in this study). It clearly does however support my belief that metabolic syndrome is a very significant health risk, whether you are overweight or normal. The study also warns that this pattern may change in older populations (healthy overweight seniors are rare).

As I have explained before, insulin resistance (IR) is the key to metabolic syndrome. When IR is controlled, blood pressure and cholesterol are normalized and inflammation is reduced (all without the need for drugs I might add). The best way I know to control insulin resistance, even if you only need to lose 10 or 20 lbs, is with the Ideal Protein diet. And if you are overweight but still healthy, now is the best time to deal with it before these other health problems arise.

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 5, 2011

143 The Vitamin E Families [5 December 2011]

Did you see the recent news story that 400 IU of Vitamin E raises prostate cancer risk 17%? It’s typical of a number of recent news items in the popular media written by journalists who don’t dig deep enough to learn the whole truth. What the vitamin E stories didn’t say is that the supplement used was synthetic alpha tocopherol which has known toxic effects. Synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha tocopherol or all-rac-alpha-tocopherol acetate) is best avoided – use only the biological form d-alpha tocopherol.

There are two families of vitamin E, each with four “siblings” – the better known tocopherols and their cousins the tocotrienols, each with alpha, beta, gamma and delta forms. Alpha tocopherol is the most biologically active form and is often the only E in cheaper supplements. The problem with taking only alpha tocopherol is that it displaces gamma tocopherol which is known to prevent cancer (a large study from Johns Hopkins showed a 5 fold reduction in prostate cancer risk in men who had the highest gamma tocopherol levels). A mixed E with all four forms of tocopherols is better, and those including the tocotrienol family are best.

Tocopherols are best known for their antioxidant properties – protecting our cells from damage by free radicals and other carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals). Tocopherols also promote heart and circulation health, enhance the immune system, protect the brain, help with PMS and menopausal symptoms, improve fertility, prevent cataracts, and slow the aging process.

Recent studies of tocotrienols are very promising, especially in cancer prevention. Studies are showing that delta tocotrienol induces aptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. Tocotrienols may also slow angiogenesis – the development of new blood vessels to feed growing tumours. Tocotrienols are also many times more efficient at finding and neutralizing free radicals than the tocopherols.

I would like to see the study referred to in my introduction repeated using a natural complete vitamin E. The results would likely be quite different.

Main sources: and Cancer Defeated Newsletter #138, November 27, 2011

This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.