Extra, Extra: Nutrition News That You Can Use (Part 1)

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As summer begins to wind down, I thought you might be interested in catching up on various nutrition studies that have been released over the past few months. Some of the research findings are perhaps not all that earth-shattering, but they serve to remind us of how a few lifestyle changes can really make a difference in terms of health. Other of the findings provide some hope, particularly in the areas of heart disease, weight management, and diabetes. At any rate, read this for what it’s worth!

Heart Health

  • A high-salt diet lowers the effectiveness of blood pressure medicines.

    It’s not news that eating a high-sodium diet can increase the chances of developing high blood pressure. But researchers found that people taking an average of three blood pressure medicines per day who were on a high-salt diet had a higher average systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading, measured when the heart is contracting) than people taking an average of three blood pressure medicines who were on a low-salt diet. The conclusion? Both diet and medicine play a role in managing high blood pressure, and taking medicine doesn’t replace the benefits of a lower-sodium diet.

  • Are dose recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids on the horizon?

    You might be taking a fish oil supplement to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. But do you really know how much you’re supposed to take? Various health organizations and health-care professionals have made recommendations, but there really isn’t a standard, daily amount that’s universally accepted at this point. But that may soon change: A study conducted by Dr. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist from the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, and his colleagues has suggested that healthy people should consume at least 500 milligrams per day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two omega-3 fatty acids, in order to meet their daily needs for these nutrients. Those with heart disease are advised to consume 800–1,000 milligrams per day. (However, it’s always wise to check with your health-care provider before taking any kind of supplement.)

  • A healthy lifestyle helps prevent heart disease.

    OK, so you probably already knew that. But in the research world, studies are often repeated to verify results, and two large studies have helped to confirm this idea. In the first study, researchers found that adhering to any one of “six modifiable healthy lifestyle factors” was linked to a lower lifetime risk of heart failure compared to not adhering to any of the factors. The six lifestyle factors were maintaining a normal body weight, never smoking, getting regular exercise, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, eating plenty of grains, and eating fruits and vegetables. The second study looked at data from the Nurses’ Health Study and found that women who followed any one of six lifestyle factors lowered their blood pressure. The lifestyle factors in this study included keeping body mass index under 25, exercising every day, following a heart-healthy diet, consuming a modest amount of alcohol, using nonnarcotic pain relievers less than once a week, and taking a folic acid supplement. So, yes, a healthful eating plan and regular physical activity, among other things, really do work!

  • Mediterranean diet’s benefit is due to largely to alcohol.

    The Mediterranean diet, which focuses on consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and a longer life. Researchers decided to look at the individual components of the diet to decipher what makes this way of eating so healthful. They looked at data from over 23,000 Greek men and women who were free from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Their findings? Moderate alcohol intake was the single largest contributor to their longevity, followed, in order, by a low intake of meat and a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and legumes. Grains and seafood didn’t appear to make a significant impact. While this isn’t a recommendation to start drinking alcohol, it does serve to highlight the benefits of modest alcohol intake (up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women) in generally healthy people.

More nutrition news next week!

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