Tag Archives: atherosclerosis

Modern Heart Disease Found in Ancient Egyptian Mummies

HeartWire on November 23, 2009, reported the discovery of atherosclerosis (hardening-of-the-arteries) in Egyptian mummies 3000 years old. 

So it appears that atherosclerosis in not just a disease of modern civilization, as suggested by some.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Do Grape Products Other Than Wine Affect Heart Disease Risk?

"Grapes may be just as healthful as wine"

"Grapes may be just as healthful as wine"

Grape products favorably affect four risk factors for heart disease, according to a scientific review published last year.

The “French Paradox” refers to the fact that certain regions of France have low levels of heart disease despite high consumption of saturated fats that supposedly cause heart disease.  Some have explained away the paradox by noting high consumption of red wine in those areas, which could counteract the adverse effects of saturated fats.  Others have used the paradox to indict the Diet-Heart Hypothesis itself

Wine, especially red wine, is an integral part of the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.  However, many people just don’t like wine, and others shouldn’t be drinking it.  So, I’ve been wondering if grape products other than wine might have the healthy effects of wine.

The reference article below reviewed grape product trials published over the previous 13 years: 34 studies in animals, 41 in humans.  In addition to wine, grape products included grape juice, grape seed, grape skin, grape pomace, and polyphenol-rich extracts.  The authors conclude that grape products have the following beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk factors:

  • lower blood pressure, mainly due to release of nitric oxide from cells lining the arteries
  • reduced levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), and trigylcerides, especially if these values are high at baseline
  • reduced development of early-stage atherosclerosis (less LDL oxidation and plaque formation)
  • improved antioxidant status

Here are some grape product “fun facts” from the article:

  • healthy effects are primarily attributed to polyphenols, which are strong antioxidants that disable free radicals and chelate metals
  • major grape polyphenols are anthocyanins in red grapes, flavon-3-ols in white grapes
  • red grapes have more total polyphenols than white grapes
  • the main polyphenols in wine are resveratrol, tannins, flavan-3-ols, flavan-3,4-diols, anthocyanins, flavonols, flavones, anthocyanins, and anthocyanidins
  • red wine has a much higher phenolic content than white wine

Unfortunately, the authors never make any specific recommendations for people wanting to substitute alcohol-free grape products for wine.  

But I bet if you went down to your local vitamin or health food store, you could find some grape extracts or other grape products to try.  Anyone on a very low-carb diet would want to be sure the grape product wouldn’t supply more than 3-4 grams of digestible carbohydrate per day.  For those not on such a diet, purple grape juice like Welch’s—4 to 8 fl oz a day—is a good alternative to wine.  Welch’s has 42 g of carbohydrate per 8 fl oz. 

Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclaimer:  All matters regarding your health require supervision by a personal physician or other appropriate health professional familiar with your current health status.  Always consult your personal physician before making any dietary or exercise changes.

Reference:  Perez-Jimenez, Jara and Saura-Calixto, Fulgencio.  Grape products and cardiovascular disease risk factors.  Nutrition Research Reviews, 21 (2008): 158-173.

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Filed under Alcohol, coronary heart disease, ketogenic diet

Fiber and Systemic Inflammation

mpj0433185000011High dietary fiber intake helps prevent constipation, diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, and perhaps colon polyps.

Soluble fiber helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and it reduces LDL cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risks of coronary heart disease.

An article in the journal Nutrition suggests how fiber may have beneficial effects in atherosclerosis (the cause of heart attacks and strokes), type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.  These conditions are felt to be related to underlying systemic inflammation.

Systemic inflammation can be judged by blood levels of inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha-receptor-2, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Researchers looked at 1,958 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, comparing inflammatory marker levels with dietary fiber intake.  They found that high fiber intake was associated with significantly lower levels of inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha-receptor-2.  This association was true individually for total fiber, insoluble fiber, and soluble fiber.  The researchers found no association with C reactive protein.

Bottom line?

High intake of dietary fiber seems to reduce chronic inflammation, which may, in part, explain the observed clinical benefits of fiber.

Average adult fiber intake in the U.S. is 12 to 15 grams daily.  Expert nutrition panels and the American Heart Association recommend 25 to 30 grams daily from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Nutritionist Monica Reinagel at NutritionData.com has reviewed soluble vs insoluble fiber and good sources of soluble fiber:  oranges, apples, carrots, oats and oat bran, psyllium husk, nuts, legumes, and flaxseed.  Click the link for good sources of insoluble fiber.

Rest assured that the Mediterranean diet is naturally high in fiber.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Ma, Yensheng, et al.  Association between dietary fiber and markers of systemic inflammation in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational StudyNutrition, 24 (2008): 941-949.


Filed under Fiber

Atherosclerosis: Development and Natural History

People with diabetes are prone to develop atherosclerosis, which is often called “hardening of the arteries.”  The hardening isn’t so bad; the problem is that the arteries develop obstructive plaques that impair the flow of life-sustaining blood to living tissues.

Actually, almost everybody will develop atherosclerosis eventually.  But it’s better to get it when you’re 120 instead of 50 years old.  Atherosclerosis causes most heart attacks, half of all strokes, and poor blood flow to the legs.

Diabetes accelerates the process of atherosclerosis, especially if the diabetes is poorly controlled.

The American Journal of Medicine in January this year published a supplement (volume122, number 1A) entitled “Management of Atherosclerosis: A Practical Guide in 2008.”  William Insull, Jr., M.D., wrote a chapter on development and natural history of atherosclerosis.  I summarized it at the Heart Health Blog at NutritionData.com today.

Did you know that atherosclerosis starts in childhood?  Find the details at NutritionData.

The good news is that we can modify risk factors for atherosclerosis, such as diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet, thereby preventing the heart attack or stroke in a 57-year-old.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Filed under Diabetes Complications