Tag Archives: cardiovascular health

Fried food can promote poor cardiovascular health, heart disease, stroke

Fried food tastes good, but it’s not very healthy for you. A new metastudy reports that consumption of such food is linked to an increased risk of major heart disease and stroke.

Most of us today make an effort to not eat only fast food and take-out, which is admirable, but that doesn’t make our diets ‘healthy’ per se. Western dietary habits are known to promote poor cardiovascular health, the authors note, but it was still unknown how much fried food specifically contributed to this. In order to get a better idea of the effect such food has on our cardiovascular health, a team of Chinese researchers has reviewed past research on this subject.

Don’t fry

The team reviewed 17 studies involving 62,445 participants and 36,727 major cardiovascular events (such as a heart attack or stroke). They also pooled in data from a further 6 which tracked their patients over a long timeframe (9.5 years on average), involving 54,873 participants and 85,906 deaths. Put together, the data was meant to help us gauge how damaging fried food is to our cardiovascular health, and how much they increase our risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The results show that participants in the group who consumed the most fried food had a 28% higher chance of experiencing a cardiovascular (CVS) event than those who consumed the least. They also had a 22% higher risk of coronary heart disease and a 37% higher risk of heart failure.

Even when the team controlled for various factors and participant characteristics, the link between the consumption of fried food and major cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease, and heart failure remained. The risk increased with each additional 114 g weekly serving by 3%, 2%, and 12%, respectively, the authors report.

Still, the findings aren’t necessarily conclusive. Some of the studies only tracked one type of fried food, for example fried fish or potatoes, not participants’ total intake. Furthermore, every study was designed differently and all relied on information the participants were asked to remember (which is unreliable). The team explains that all these elements could mean the studies “underestimated” the association between these and cardiovascular health. They also note that such factors need to be taken into account when interpreting the results.

Exactly how fried foods can influence the development of cardiovascular disease is still unclear, but the team has some possible explanations. First off, fatty foods are very energy-dense but the vegetable oil they contain gets broken down into trans fatty acids inside our bodies, which is harmful. Frying also generates a host of byproducts involved in inflammatory processes, and fried food is often very salty (an excess of salt is also bad for you).

The paper “Fried-food consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of observational studies” has been published in the journal BMJ.

Brush your teeth if you want to protect your heart, new study recommends

More and more research is showing that good oral hygiene is important in more ways than one — it’s good not just for your mouth and teeth, but for your overall health as well. Earlier this year, researchers confirmed that brushing your teeth can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as several other diseases. Now, a new study has uncovered another health benefit to brushing: good oral hygiene is also good for your heart.

A poor oral hygiene can have cascading effects. Not cleaning your mouth means that extra bacteria reach your gut and blood, causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation can cause several problems, including atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and heart failure (the heart’s ability to pump blood or relax and fill with blood is impaired). This study examined how strong this connection is, and how oral hygiene impacts these two conditions.

Researchers studied 161,286 participants of the Korean National Health Insurance System aged 40 to 79 with no history of atrial fibrillation or heart failure. Participants underwent a routine medical examination between 2003 and 2004, and information was collected on their physical parameters as well as oral health and oral hygiene routine. Then, they were tracked over a period of 10 years.

Tooth brushing three or more times a day was associated with a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation and a 12% lower risk of heart failure during 10.5-year follow up — even when corrected for age, sex, socioeconomic status, regular exercise, alcohol consumption, body mass index, and comorbidities such as hypertension.

It should be said that this is only a single study and it did not examine any mechanisms — in other words, it only examined correlation and not causation. Nevertheless, the large timescale and sample size lend it quite a bit of confidence, authors say.

“We studied a large group over a long period, which adds strength to our findings,” says senior author Dr. Tae-Jin Song of Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea.

However, the team does concede that they only analyzed participants from one country, which may skew the results.

“The strengths of this study presented by Chang et al.21 are the large sample size, with over 160,000 individuals included in the study, the large number of outcome events, and the long follow-up duration,” notes an accompanying editorial. “Nonetheless, this study has some limitations that need to be acknowledged.”

It is possible that the results could be accounted for by other variables (such as marital status, which has been shown to influence cardiovascular health). A bit more research is required to fully understand the causes and implications of the study.

But while it may be too early to recommend tooth brushing to improve your heart’s health, it’s yet another reason to keep healthy oral hygiene.

Journal Reference: Chang Y, Woo HG, Park J, et al. Improved oral hygiene care is associated with decreased risk of occurrence for atrial fibrillation and heart failure: A nationwide population-based cohort study. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2019. doi:10.1177/2047487319886018.

Omega-3 supplements don’t really do anything for your heart, new study concludes

Contrary to popular belief, taking omega-3 fish oil supplements does little if anything to protect your heart. Omega-3 fats can still be a part of a healthy diet, but according to a new study, there just isn’t evidence that it provides any cardiovascular benefits.

“This is the most extensive systematic assessment of effects of omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health to date,” the study reads. Cochrane, an independent network of researchers, analyzed 79 trial studies involving over 112,000 people, looking at the impact of omega-3 supplements — not omega-3 taken directly from fish.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essentially polyunsaturated fatty acids. There are three types of omega−3 fatty acids involved in human physiology:

  • α-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant oils like margarine or seeds and nuts like walnuts or chia;
  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which the body can produce from ALA but can also be taken directly from oily fish and fish oils;
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both commonly found in marine oils, produced by phytoplankton.

In most trials, people in the supplement group were asked to take omega-3 fat supplements in the form of a capsule; only a few looked directly at fish or at other plant-derived omega fats such as margarine or walnuts.

Fish oil supplements made no real difference to the overall risk of death or heart attacks or strokes, the Cochrane researchers found. The plant-based omega fats did yield a small benefit, but the difference was barely noticeable.

“We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega-3 supplements protect the heart,” said Cochrane lead author, Dr Lee Hooper from the University of East Anglia. “This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.”

Essentially, Hooper and colleagues note that moderate and high-quality evidence suggests that increasing EPA and DHA has “little or no effect on mortality or cardiovascular health (evidence mainly from supplement trials)”. There are some trials which found that ALA may slightly reduce cardiovascular risks, mortality, and arrhythmia, but the Cochrane researchers considered those to be low-quality. The study conclusions read:

“There is evidence that taking omega-3 capsules does not reduce heart disease, stroke or death. There is little evidence of effects of eating fish. Although EPA and DHA reduce triglycerides, supplementary omega-3 fats are probably not useful for preventing or treating heart and circulatory diseases. However, increasing plant-based ALA may be slightly protective for some heart and circulatory diseases.”

However, this doesn’t mean that you should eliminate fish from your diet — there is still plenty of evidence suggesting that fish can be an integral part of a healthy diet, particularly oily fish, such as salmon, fresh tuna, or mackerel, which have “good” fats. However, the main takeaway from this study is that when it comes to protecting your heart, you shouldn’t put that much hope into omega-3 supplements.

The study was published in Cochrane Library.

Most Americans aren’t really healthy, study finds

A study which analyzed data from 1988 to 2014 found that most Americans have suboptimal health.

Unfortunately, there’s not much reason for optimism from this study.

Researchers from the UCLA and the University of Washington scrutinized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess the cardiovascular health of Americans, as well as disparities by race, ethnicity, and nativity (foreign-born vs U.S.-born). The NHANES interview includes demographic, socioeconomic, dietary, and health-related questions. In this study, researchers assessed the participants’ overall cardiovascular health from seven parameters: blood pressure, cholesterol, hemoglobin A1c, body mass index, physical activity, diet, and smoking.

They found that overall, less than half of Americans over 25 can boast optimal health: 40 percent for whites, 25 percent for Mexican Americans, and 15 percent for African Americans. Interestingly, although there is still a large disparity between whites and non-whites, the disparity has decreased in time, largely because whites have become less healthy — not because other ethnicities have become healthier.

So, as George A. Mensah, MD, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), points out in an accompanying editorial, the narrowing of disparities is no cause for celebration. Mensah suggests that the cardiovascular health and prevention and control of related risk factors should be a key focus for the NIH.

According to the CDC, every year, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack — and 610,000 people die of heart diseases. Heart diseases are the leading cause of death for most people in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites — only for American Indians or Alaska Natives and Asians or Pacific Islanders, heart disease is second to cancer.

The best way to improve overall health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Studies have shown that as little as 15 minutes of exercise per day can do wonders for your body, though logging a bit more is better.

In terms of nutrition, it’s not about following a strict diet — just reducing the level of baked foods (especially chips, biscuits, and cakes), processed foods, and red meat (pork, beef, and lamb), and replacing them with healthy fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can do wonders for your heart, as well as your waistline.