Tag Archives: endothelial progenitor cells

Red Wine Improves Circulation

Red wine’s beneficial health effects may be related to improved circulation, according to a recent study by Israeli researchers.

Red wine is a time-honored component of the healthy Mediterranean diet.  Consumption is associated with longer lifespan and less cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks. 

Israeli investigators had 14 young healthy volunteers drink 250 cc of red wine daily for 21 days, while monitoring markers of circulatory function.  Endothelial progenitor cells may be particularly important in maintenance, repair, and formation of the arterial circulatory system.

Here’s their conclusion:

The results of the present study indicate that red wine exerts its effect through the up-regulation of CXCR4 expression and activation of the SDF1/CXCR4/Pi3K/Akt/eNOS signaling pathway, which results in increased [endothelial progenitor cell] migration and proliferation and decreased extent of apoptosis. Our findings suggest that these effects could be linked to the mechanism of cardiovascular protection that is associated with the regular consumption of red wine.

I’m not going to tell you I understand all that.  Don’t feel bad if you don’t, either.  My point is to illustrate one way that Science makes progress.  An observant person notices, “Hey, people who drink judicious amounts of red wine seem to live longer and have fewer heart attacks.  I wonder how that works.”  Perhaps a plausible mechanism is identified.  That might lead to isolation of a specific component in red wine that yields the benefit.  Then that component is produced and disseminated, leading to the health benefits, without the risks of alcohol consumption.

It’s an expensive, time-consuming enterprise with many blind alleys.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Hamed, Saher, et al.  Red wine consumption improves the in vitro migration of endothelial progenitor cells in young, healthy individuals.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 14, 2010.    doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28408

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Filed under Alcohol, coronary heart disease, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet

Saturated Fat is Bad – If You’re a Mouse!

I was excited to see an article, “A Look at the Low-Carbohydrate Diet,” in the December 3, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine.  I was quickly disappointed.

Expecting a scholarly review of low-carb eating in humans, I found an exposition of a diet study in mice.  And not just your garden-variety mice.  These were a lab strain deficient in apolipoprotein E, which makes them particularly susceptible to atherosclerosis when fed a “Western” high-fat, moderate-protein, moderate-carbohydrate diet instead of standard lab chow.

Click on the HeartWire reference below for a discussion of the original mouse research.  I wrote a short post about it in August, 2009.

The article author, Dr. Steven R. Smith, states the usual concern that high-fat (especially saturated fat), high-protein, low-carb diets may cause cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  He doesn’t mention the scientific evidence showing little or no role of total and saturated fat in cardiovascular disease.

I give credit to him for mentioning that high-fat low-carb diets area associated with improvement in several cardiovascular risk factors such as HDL cholesterol and blood pressure.  He thought they also improve ( lower) LDL cholesterol levels—not something I’ve been impressed with.  He didn’t mention the lowering of triglycerides so often seen. 

Dr. Smith explains that, compared with controls, mice eating the Western high-fat low-carb diet demonstrated progression of atherosclerosis, perhaps mediated by elevated nonesterified fatty acids and low numbers of endothelial progenitor cells.  These are not yet considered classic cardiovascular risk factors in humans.

To quote Dr. Smith, his main point is that . . .

The work of Foo et al suggests that the [high-fat low-carb] diet might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through mechanisms that have nothing to do with these “usual suspects” [e.g., LDL and HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, C-reactive protein] and so provides a note of caution against reliance on the traditional cardiovascular risk factors as a gauge of safety.

He rightfully calls for investigation of these issues in humans, but . . .

In the meantime, the ageless advice applies to the consumer of the [high-fat low-carb] diet and other fad diets: caveat emptor.

Take Home Points

I agree that human studies are needed.

As the evidence in favor of the safety and efficacy of high-fat low-carb diets increases, the reigning medical establishment is looking for new ways to discredit them.  This attempt is pathetic.

Unfortunately, the typical physician reading NEJM will skim this article and conclude, “Yeah, I was right—the Atkins diet causes heart disease.  Low-fat high-carb is still the best.” 

If you have beloved pet mice that are deficient in apolipoprotein E, don’t feed them a high-fat low-carb diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Smith, Steven R.  A Look at the Low-Carbohydrate Diet.  New England Journal of Medicine, 361 (2009): 2,286-2,288.  [This may cost you $10 USD.]

Foo, S.Y., et al.  Vascular effects of a low-carbohydrate high-protein dietProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106 (2009): 15418-15423.   doi: 10.1073/pnas.0970995106  [This may cost you $10 USD.]

Busko, Marlene.  Atherosclerosis heightened in mice fed low-carb, high-protein diet.  HeartWire, August 26, 2009.  [Free]


Filed under Carbohydrate, Fat in Diet