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What To Include In Your Diet To Lower Harmful LDL Cholesterol

Low-fat diets, move over. When it comes to lowering cholesterol, a “portfolio” diet that includes cholesterol-lowering foods such as oatmeal, nuts, and soy products is better.

Several years ago, researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto created what they called a “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods.” It went after cholesterol by adding to a heart-healthy diet specific foods known to lower cholesterol: margarine enriched with plant sterols; oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber; soy protein; and whole almonds.

In a head-to-head test against the low-fat diet traditionally recommended by the American Heart Association, the portfolio approach was the clear winner. (You can see the makeup of the test diet here.) After 24 weeks, it lowered harmful LDL cholesterol by 13%, while the low-fat diet lowered LDL by only 3%. As an added benefit, the portfolio approach also lowered triglycerides and blood pressure, and did not depress the level of beneficial HDL cholesterol. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What I appreciate about this study is that it Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Antioxidant Potential: Spices Shown To Reduce Triglycerides

Spice_Bazaar by jefield via Flickr and a Creative Commons licenseThe Mediterranean diet has a new competitor, the spicy diet. Antioxidant spices may reduce the triglyceride response of a high-fat meal by 30% compared to the same meal without them, concluded a study.

The antioxidant potential of spices stems from their phenolic compounds, the authors wrote. Also, some spices increase the blood plasma concentrations of others, and spices are typically eaten as blends, making them good targets to study. Turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika were on the short list that researchers examined.

The study compared results in Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Science Behind Their Potential Heart Health Benefits

The Biology of Omega-3 fatty acids: (Just a little science:)

When fish, flax-seeds or Brussels sprouts pass through the intestine, pancreatic enzymes transform the fat to free fatty acids. These acids are quickly taken up by the cells. Once in the cell, these fatty acids enter the mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum and cytosol–places that you might recall because your mom helped you make a Cell sponge cake in 7th grade Biology.

In the cells, the Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, DHA and EPA) exert their healthy influence in three major ways:

  • in the control of chemical messengers;
  • in the flux of ions—cell electricity;
  • in the smoothness and health of the cell membrane.

That’s enough about cells.

How do these (good) fats help our bodies?

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce Inflammation:

–Omega-3s get in the cellular (not phone) mix and end up competing with chemicals that cause inflammation—medical people say they antagonize bioactive mediators of inflammation.

–Newly-discovered by-products of Omega-3s are important in the resolution phase of inflammation. Biochem people call these chemicals, resolvins. All you have to remember here is this: to resolve (inflammation) is heart-healthy.

–When omega-3s are incorporated into the membranes of cells they do a lot of good: things like making the membrane more fluid and less sticky. For some reason, they even block genes that induce hardening of the arteries. (Genomic effects.)

Omega-3s benefit the heart: They… Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

A Chia Pet For Diabetes?

Like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano in the spring, Chia Pets begin appearing every December on late-night television and in the gift aisles of many stores. (Full disclaimer: I bought one for the Yankee Swap at Harvard Health Publication’s annual Christmas party.) Water these ceramic figures and they sprout a green “fur” from seeds embedded on the surface. Silly? Sure, that’s why they are such a hit. What you might not know is that the seeds may someday be a real gift for people with diabetes.

Chia seeds come from a plant formally known as Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family. It gets its common name from the Aztec word “chian,” meaning oily, because the herb’s small, black seeds are rich in oils. It was a staple food for the Aztecs, and legend has it that their runners relied on chia seeds for fuel as they carried messages one hundred or more miles in a day. Chia seeds contain more healthy omega-3 fats and fiber than flax or other grain seeds. They are also a good source of protein and antioxidants. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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