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High omega-6 levels can protect against premature death

Finnish researchers have found that omega-6 fatty acids can provide protection against premature death and keep cardiovascular diseases at bay.

“Linoleic acid is the most common polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid,” explains Adjunct Professor Jyrki Virtanen from the University of Eastern Finland. “We discovered that the higher the blood linoleic acid level, the smaller the risk of premature death.” The main sources of linoleic acid are vegetable oils, plant-based spreads, nuts and seeds.

The researchers measured the blood fatty acid levels of 2,480 men aged between 42 and 60 at the onset of the study, in 1984–1989. During an average follow-up of 22 years, 1,143 men died of disease-related causes. Deaths due to an accident or other reasons were excluded from the study. The researchers then divided the participants into five different groups based on their blood linoleic acid levels.

Their findings showed that the risk of premature death was 43 per cent lower in the group with the highest blood level of linoleic acid compared to the group with the lowest level. A more detailed analysis of the causes of death showed that a similar association existed for death due to cardiovascular diseases, as well as for death due to some other reason than cardiovascular diseases or cancer. The findings were reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Vitamin D deficiency linked to heart disease

The stress of open-heart surgery significantly reduces patients’ vitamin D levels, US researchers have discovered.

Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City uncovered two key findings related to vitamin D levels and open-heart surgery. First, they found that open-heart surgery patients generally have low levels of vitamin D to begin with, and secondly, they discovered that stress associated with the surgery further reduced their vitamin D levels by the time they were discharged from hospital.

The researchers found that giving heart patients vitamin D3 supplements before and after surgery reduced those deficiencies. Patients who were given the supplement had normal levels of vitamin D shortly after the surgery. This connection is important since a vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

“We’re gathering more evidence that vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with heart disease and death,” said Dr Brent Muhlestein, lead author of the study. “We want to continue our research and see if supplementing vitamin D levels will help prevent heart problems in the future, given our understanding that low levels of vitamin D can cause an increased risk for heart problems.”

Supplementing vitamin B12 could postpone Parkinson’s progression

Newly diagnosed patients with Parkinson’s disease, who have low levels of vitamin B12, develop symptoms faster than those with higher levels, researchers have found.

The study, published in the journal Movement Disorders, demonstrates that low vitamin B12 levels are associated with greater walking and balance problems, possibly due to the known effect of a B12 deficiency on the central peripheral nervous systems.

Researchers divided patients, who were recently diagnosed but had not yet begun treatment, into three groups according to their levels of vitamin B12 and assessed them over a two-year period. Upon completion of preliminary evaluations, patients were given the opportunity to take a controlled daily vitamin supplement. Research results showed improved vitamin B12 levels in approximately 50 per cent of participants, indicating supplementation was taken.

Disease progression in patients with improved vitamin B12 levels was found to be much slower compared with those maintaining low levels of the vitamin.

Vitamin B12 is vital for cognitive health, but it is notoriously difficult to absorb through the gut, meaning that supplementing has become a necessity.

Supplementing via a daily oral spray means the vitamin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, avoiding the digestive system which can destroy essential nutrients with strong enzymes and acids. To find out more, visit www.betteryou.com

F Is for Fibre...

“Boosting your soluble fibre intake on a daily basis from sources such as brown basmati rice, quinoa, oats, milled flax and chia seeds, psyllium, beans, pulses, vegetables and whole fruit with the skin on has many health-boosting properties,” explains Mani Norland, principal of the School of Health (www.schoolofhealth.com).

“These include gently slowing the digestion so you can absorb the nutrients from your food and supporting blood sugar levels. It has also been shown to aid weight loss. Insoluble fibre is found in bran, nuts and seeds, wholemeal bread and potatoes with their skins on. It supports the movement through your digestive system, increasing the bulk of your stools – great if you are constipated. We need a mix of both for a healthy, happy gut!”

Cinnamon: the super spice?

In a controlled study by the University of Columbo, scientists evaluating the effects of Ceylon cinnamon on the body found 13 overwhelming health benefits which included lowering blood pressure as well as the lowering of cholesterol. The clinical trial took a group of healthy men and women giving them increasing doses of cinnamon in tablet form over the course of three months, resulting in a significant decrease in blood pressure and the lowering of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol with no significant side effects.

Researchers concluded that the health benefits of cinnamon can be obtained in the form of its pure bark, essential oils, in ground spice form or in extract form when its special phenolic compounds, flavonoids and antioxidants are isolated. It is these compounds that make cinnamon one of the most beneficial spices on earth, giving it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, immunity-boosting and potential cancer and heart disease-protecting abilities. The findings were published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Daily breakfast boosts physical activity among girls

As the adage goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and a new study by UK researchers seems to back that up.

Researchers from the University of Bedfordshire and Loughborough University carried out a study involving 27 adolescent girls who ate a standard breakfast on seven consecutive days. The same girls then ate breakfast on three days alternating with four days of eating no breakfast over another seven-day period. The results showed that the girls were more active in the morning and after school, and less sedentary after school, when breakfast was eaten daily than when it was eaten intermittently across the seven-day periods.

Dr Julia Zakrzewski-Fruer, Lecturer in Health, Nutrition & Exercise at Bedfordshire, said: “There is some evidence that higher overweight and obesity levels in adolescents who skip breakfast may be partly due to lower physical activity levels. It is an issue particularly pertinent in teenage girls as both the frequency of breakfast consumption and physical activity levels decline markedly in girls between childhood and adolescence. We need to carry out longer trials to examine the possible role of physical activity in contributing to lower body weight and fat levels in girls who eat breakfast frequently.” The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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