Natural Health News
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Lower Heart Failure Risk
A recent study suggests that maintaining a diet high in antioxidants may reduce the risk for heart failure
Antioxidants are molecules that work to prevent damage that occurs in cells and body tissues due to both normal bodily processes and exposure to some chemicals. The potential medical benefit of antioxidants may reside in their ability to prevent or slow the oxidation of molecules in the microscopic parts of the body, such as DNA or proteins.
Early research on antioxidants investigated their possible use in preventing edible fats from becoming rancid due to oxidation. Vitamins A, C and E were some of the first antioxidants identified by medical science as possibly beneficial to human health. In addition to being available in a variety of fruits and vegetables, antioxidants are available as supplements. They are one of the most popular categories of supplements available today. Antioxidants are proposed to play a role in preventing many common health disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and some types of cancers.
In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 33,713 women from the Swedish Mammography Corhort. Total antioxidant capacity estimates were collected through questionnaires. Heart failure data was then collected through 2009 from health registries.
Eight-hundred and ninety-four cases of heart failure were identified throughout the 11.3 year follow-up period. The researchers found that women who reported diets with the highest total antioxidant capacity had a 42 percent reduced risk of heart failure when compared to those with the lowest total antioxidant capacity.
The authors concluded that these findings support the view that maintaining a diet rich in antioxidants may lower the risk for heart failure. While promising, further research is warranted.
Antioxidants are found in varying amounts in foods such as vegetables, fruits, grain cereals, legumes and nuts. Some antioxidants such as lycopene and ascorbic acid can be destroyed by long-term storage or prolonged cooking. Other antioxidant compounds are more stable, such as the polyphenolic antioxidants in foods such as whole-wheat cereals and tea. In general, processed foods are thought to contain less antioxidants than fresh and uncooked foods since preparation processes may expose the food to oxygen.
- Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com
- Rautiainen S, Levitan EB, Mittleman MA, et al. Total Antioxidant Capacity of Diet and Risk of Heart Failure: A Population-based Prospective Cohort of Women. Am J Med. 2013 Apr 2. pii: S0002-9343(13)00035-1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.01.006. View Abstract
Drinking Black Tea May Lower Blood Pressure Variation
Drinking black tea may reduce blood pressure variation at night, according to a new study.
Black tea is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a shrub native to southeastern Asia. Green tea, black tea and oolong tea all come from the same plant. Black tea is a traditional beverage in Britain. The quality of tea depends on the age of the tea leaves.
Black tea is a source of caffeine, which stimulates the heart and central nervous system, relaxes smooth muscle in the lungs and promotes urination. One cup of tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the strength and size of the cup, while coffee contains 65-175 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Tea also contains vitamins, a compound called tannin, and antioxidants called polyphenols.
In a new study, researchers randomly assigned 11 individuals with systolic blood pressure of 115-150 millimeters of mercury to drink three cups daily of black tea or a caffeine-containing flavonoid-free control drink for six months to evaluate the potential effects of black tea on blood pressure variation. Blood pressure variation measurements were collected throughout the study.
The researchers found that individuals in the tea group had significantly lower blood pressure variation at night by about 10 percent, but not during the day, when compared to the control group. The authors noted that these effects were present on day one of the study and were maintained at each check point throughout the study.
The authors concluded that other components of black tea, not just caffeine, may beneficially lower blood pressure variability at night.
In addition to black tea, several studies suggest that green tea may have an effect on blood pressure. Furthermore, multiple human trials have reported small reductions in blood pressure with intake of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA may have greater benefits than EPA. However, high daily intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may be necessary to obtain clinically relevant effects, and at high dose levels, there is an increased risk of bleeding.
Therefore, a qualified healthcare provider should be consulted prior to starting treatment with supplements.
- Hodgson JM, Croft KD, Woodman RJ, et al. Black tea lowers the rate of blood pressure variation: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr 3. View Abstract
Mercury Exposure Linked to Diabetes Risk
A recent study suggests that mercury exposure in young adulthood may be linked to an increased risk for diabetes later in life.
Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system. Mercury exposure may lead to excessive mercury levels in the body that can permanently damage or fatally injure the brain and kidneys. Mercury can also be absorbed through the skin and cause allergic reactions. Health problems caused by mercury depend on how much has entered the body, how it entered the body, how long the individual has been exposed to it, and how the individual’s body responds to the mercury. People are at risk when they consume mercury-contaminated fish and when they are exposed to spilled mercury.
In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 3,875 non-diabetic individuals who were 20-32 years-old at the beginning of the study. Toenail mercury levels and data on glucose levels were collected throughout the study from 1987-2005
Throughout the 18 year follow up period, 288 cases of diabetes were identified. After adjusting the data for other potential factors, such as age, sex, alcohol consumption and family history, the researchers found that higher mercury exposure was linked to an increased risk for developing diabetes, noting that those with the most exposure had a 65 percent increased risk of diabetes when compared to those with the lowest.
According to the authors, these findings confirm previous laboratory research suggesting a potential association. However, further research is warranted.
Theoretical data suggests that some integrative therapies, such as algin, may reduce the absorption of toxins, including mercury. A preliminary study of apple pectin in children exposed to mercury showed that pectin may be effective in mercury intoxication treatment. Further research is required in this field.
- He K, Xun P, Liu K, et al. ury Exposure in Young Adulthood and Incidence of Diabetes Later in Life: The CARDIA trace element study. Diabetes Care. 2013 Feb 19. View Abstract
Understanding Antioxidants: Facts & Consumer Fiction
Antioxidants are rich and powerful nutrients that can greatly benefit you. Depending on how you consume them, they can also work against you.
What do you consider to be the elements of a healthy diet? Most answers will immediately be vitamins, protein, or fiber; but what about antioxidants? With just about every product from cereal to fruit juice bragging about how chock full of antioxidants they are, you are easily swayed to pick up anything expecting to eat your way to better health.
In the USA Market:
- Wyler’s wild blueberries reads “The #1 antioxidant fruit,” making it an eye catching must have!
- “Antioxidant Advantage,” promises a banner on Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice – immediately convincing you to add two to your cart while going through the grocery aisle!
- You’re constantly bombarded at all hours of the day by “The antioxidant power of 6 servings of fruits and vegetables,” promised by the food supplement Go Greens Super Fruits & Veggies drink mix.
All these advertisements pull us in to believe that they are overflowing with antioxidants and we fall for it without realizing that more isn’t necessarily better! We trust food companies to know exactly what they’re doing and to take care of us but it’s rarely that simple. Recently two lawsuits challenged claims about antioxidants featured on product labels, alleging they are misleading consumers. How are we expected to stay informed when our very sources are questionable? Here’s a quick look to help you distinguish the facts about antioxidants.
First and foremost – Do you know what Antioxidants are? Most would assume that they are vitamins when in reality out of the thousands of antioxidants very few of them exist as vitamins. They are also minerals, and others are enzymes – protein molecules that help cells to function properly by facilitating their necessary chemical reactions. Polyphenols (also called flavonoids), are the most plentiful and common form of antioxidants. They are found primarily in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, tea, chocolate, and red wine. The minerals Selenium and Zinc, Vitamins C and D, and pigments such as carotenoids are also well known for their antioxidant abilities.
Now you know what they are but what exactly is it that antioxidants do for us? They are our fighters! Defending against and neutralizing the threat known as “free radicals”. These unstable chemical fragments mercilessly attack healthy components of your body’s cells. Free radicals – a result of our metabolisms – are cell terrorists that create havoc and attack cell tissue. The damage caused by free radicals can cause these cells to grow and reproduce abnormally, providing the first step in a dangerous chain reaction that has been shown to lead to chronic conditions including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Your body stabilizes these terrors by the natural production of antioxidants, such as Glutathione, S.O.D., and Catalase. The free radicals are produced during exercise and when converting food into energy. The more exercise, the more energy resulting in many more free radicals. Even more are produced when you introduce toxic habits such as smoking or consuming alcohol into your lifestyle. Exposure to sunlight and environmental contaminants like pesticides are also known to trigger the production of free radicals. With so many sources of free radicals your body’s natural defenses are dangerously overwhelmed. To remedy this we use the antioxidants found in food in addition to what our body produces naturally to combat the negative effects as well as inflammation.
While it’s all the same to you, antioxidants have a programmed system when it comes to fighting for our health. Those labels will all assure you they work. They’ll heal you and supply you with all the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants the human body could possibly want. The hard truth is most will fail to meet your antioxidant needs. A majority of them won’t even be in the same ballpark. Different types of antioxidants go up against different types of free radicals, all lending a hand to form a complete line of defense. “There is an antioxidant defense network. It’s like an army; you have generals and colonels and lieutenants. Each one has a different job,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidant Research Lab at Tufts University.
You can see that not all antioxidants are created equally – but they work well together. Vitamin E battles against free radicals to neutralize them, yet in the aftermath it is rendered completely useless. Unable to help any further, you would have to consume endless amounts of Vitamin E to fight the continuous production of free radicals by itself. Vitamin C serves as the medic in this equation – healing and converting Vitamin E back to its antioxidant form so it may return to battle. If your Vitamin C intake is too low you won’t receive all the antioxidant’s benefit no matter how much Vitamin E you can force down. Remember those thousands of antioxidants? Using all of them at your disposal in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you can take advantage of their synergistic effect.
Observational studies show people who consume a large array of antioxidant rich food experience a lower risk of certain diseases. The American Journal of Medicine published a study in October of 2012 following more than 32,000 Swedish women for 10 years. Those whose diets contained more antioxidants had an edge over women who ate less – a 20 percent lower risk of heart attack!
If it’s not the food and advertising companies fooling us we certainly pull the wool over our own eyes. Humans always try to find shortcuts and express ways when it comes to our bodies and health. Food can’t be a miracle cure – only a tool in which you lay a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. For example, don’t waste time exclusively searching out and eating “super fruits.” For optimum benefits and function you absolutely cannot ignore any fruits in favor of others. Each fruit or vegetable has a unique combination of healthy compounds and by eating only those billed as “super” you shortchange your health! When you reach for that fruit that is actually only equipped with half the nutrients you believe it has, you completely pass up several healthy choices that could have benefitted you even more.
Now we’ll be asked, “What is it I’m supposed to be eating, then?” The simplest and most accurate answer is simple: A little of everything! Nature made fruits and vegetables so colorful and visually appealing for a reason. When you indulge in the reds, oranges, yellows, violets and greens of produce you are packing on the antioxidants and nutrients. If you let yourself enjoy the full spectrum of color you will reap a wide variety of benefits. Nature even has a solution when it comes to picky eaters. Similar nutrients are found in foods that have the same color. For example, if you can’t stomach broccoli you will find that kale is a good substitute. For this reason it’s important for you to find fruits and vegetables of every color that you enjoy and make sure your diet contains plenty of varieties of whole grains, and legumes as well.