Tag Archives: health


Original author: Don Rauf

Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

To ward off diabetes, people generally avoid all-you-can eat menus. Counting calories, however, may not be such a problem for those who follow a Mediterranean diet including olive oil and nuts.


Olive Oil Buffect


For years now, health advocacy groups such as the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association have been touting the health benefits of “The Mediterranean Diet,” which is rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and fish. While consuming too many calories typically leads to weight gain and increases diabetes risk, scientists have recently found that diabetes risk may be lowered for those who followed a Mediterranean diet without any calorie restrictions, but including extra-virgin olive oil and nuts.


Jordi Salas-Salvadó, MD, a professor of nutrition at Rovira i Virgili University and the head of the Department of Nutrition at the Hospital de Sant Joan de Reus in Spain, and his colleagues followed 3,541 men and women who were at a high risk of heart disease but had no diabetes at the beginning of the study. Ranging in age from 55 to 80, these subjects had at least three cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, being overweight and high cholesterol.


The scientists set out to find how olive oil and nuts, which are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, might affect the onset of diabetes, regardless of how many calories participants consumed. People with diabetes are at high risk of heart disease, so the American Diabetes Association recommends eating more healthy unsaturated fat and less saturated fat, which can be found in dairy products (such as butter and ice cream), red meats, lard and coconut oil.


Participants in this study were randomly assigned to follow one of three diets — 1,154 stuck to a Mediterranean diet including just over three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil daily; 1,147 followed a Mediterranean diet plus about two tablespoons of mixed nuts daily; and 1,240 were assigned to a control group.


The control group received recommendations to reduce intake of all types of fat (from both animal and vegetable sources), but they were not assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet. Those following a Mediterranean eating plan had dietary training sessions, seasonal shopping lists, meal plans and recipes.


Dietitians advised participants on use of extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and dressing; weekly nut consumption; increased intake of vegetables, fruits, beans and fish; recommended eating of white meat instead of red or processed meat; avoiding butter, fast food, sweets, pastries or sugar-sweetened beverages; and enhancing dishes with a “sofrito” sauce that uses tomato, garlic, onion and spices simmered in olive oil. All participants were encouraged to drink fewer alcoholic beverages other than wine. Questionnaires were used to gauge how well participants were adhering to their Mediterranean diets.


Although diet and exercise may possibly cut diabetes risk further, participants were not asked to decrease their calorie consumption or increase their exercise. After about four years, the researchers observed that 273 individuals had developed diabetes — 80 (6.9 percent) from the olive oil group, 92 (7.4 percent) from the nut group and 101 (8.8 percent) from the control group. Based on these results, the authors concluded, “A Mediterranean diet without calorie restrictions that is supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes.”


This study was published in the January 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.



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Coffee’s Mysterious Benefits Mount by Livescience

From lowered cancer risks to a sharper memory, more studies are showing that coffee is good for you – but why?

Regular coffee drinkers have a 39 percent decreased risk of head and neck cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Those who drank an estimated four or more cups a day had significantly fewer cancers of the mouth and throat than non coffee drinkers, the study found.

“Coffee contains more than a thousand chemicals, some of which have antioxidant and antimutagenic activities,” Mia Hashibe, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Utah and the study’s lead researcher, told Life’s Little Mysteries. “Further research is necessary to identify which ingredients in coffee are responsible for the results we observed in our study.”

Scientists are still trying to determine exactly what it is about coffee that gives it its disease-fighting properties, but recent research is getting closer to unlocking the mysterious power behind the energizing brew.

Your brain on coffee

Coffee may be good for the brain, too. A study earlier this year by neuroscientists at the University of Lisbon showed that drinking coffee can help to prevent the neural degeneration associated with brain disorders and aging. The scientists found that drinking up to four cups of coffee a day over a long period of time actually prevented the deterioration of memory.

Other research has shown that coffee is good for the cardiovascular system. Women who drank one to three cups of java a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24 percent, according to the Iowa Women’s Health Study that tracked 27,000 women for 15 years, although it was noted that this benefit diminished as the quantity of coffee rose above three cups.

And while coffee has been given a bad rap for supposedly upping the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, scientific studies have revealed the contrary. Drinking coffee lowers the risk of stroke by 19 percent among women, according to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study that tracked the coffee habits and stroke occurrences among 83,000 American women for nearly a quarter century.

The risk of some cancers may be cut by drinking coffee. Research presented at the 2009 American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference showed that coffee cut male coffee drinkers’ risk of aggressive prostate cancer by 60 percent, based on a 20-year study of 50,000 men.

And people who drink coffee reduce their risk of developing liver cancer by 41 percent, compared to people who never drink coffee, according to a study in the journal Hepatology. The researchers theorized that compounds found in coffee may block the action of enzymes involved in detoxifying carcinogenic compounds that may lead to liver cancer, the third largest cause of cancer deaths around the world, after lung and stomach cancer.

Other recent studies have shown that coffee is protective against certain brain tumors, endometrial cancer and advanced prostate cancer, Hashibe said.

While it is true that some of the chemicals present in a cup of joe may be gastrointestinal irritants, coffee is not as much of a cause of heartburn and acid reflux as previously believed. Scientists have actually identified a chemical in coffee, called N-methylpyridinium, which inhibits acid production. The compound is more common in dark roasts like espresso and French roast blends, according to the Research Platform of Molecular Food Science at the University of Vienna.

Chemical coffee concoction

But not all of the chemicals found in coffee are good for you. It’s been blasted for containing pesticides and dangerous chemicals.

A typical cup of coffee contains about 10 milligrams of known carcinogens, such as benzene and formaldehyde, according to McGill University chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz, writing in “The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life” (Ecw Press, 2004). However, other experts argue that these trace amounts are too small to pose a serious cancer risk, and point to studies showing that coffee reduces the risk of several cancers.

In fact, for most adults, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants, or chemicals that prevent cellular damage, according to a study funded by the American Cocoa Research Institute.

“Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source,” said Joe Vinson, lead author of a study on antioxidants conducted by the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania. “Nothing else comes close.”

While antioxidants help to reduce cell damage and aging, scientists have yet to determine if they are the compounds responsible for coffee’s weird -but wonderful- health benefits.

There are many organic and inorganic compounds in a regular cup of coffee, including chemicals called phenolic compounds, melanoidins, and diterpenes. Some of these chemicals are believed to be beneficial, such as chlorogenic acid, which is a natural compound found in coffee beans and other plants that is an antioxidant and believed to aid in digestion, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Coffee is a very complex mixture of various chemicals,” Hashibe said. Researchers are still trying to track down exactly what it is that makes coffee so mysteriously beneficial, but it’s antioxidant components may be part of its protective effects against cancer.

Potential downside

But because coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant, drinking too much of it could lead to headaches, jitters and a racing heartbeat. Even decaffeinated coffee contains at least trace amounts of the drug, as the decaffeinating process cannot remove caffeine completely.

The safe daily dosage of caffeine is 300 milligrams for adults and 35 to 40 milligrams a day for children, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). While caffeine was once considered unsafe for women to consume while pregnant, the HHS has determined that mothers-to-be who drink less than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day do not put their child in any risk.

However, the HHS warns that women who drink or eat more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day may have a harder time getting pregnant, and a study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research found that high doses of daily caffeine – two or more cups of regular coffee or five 12-ounce cans of caffeinated soda – during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage.

“Each individual metabolizes caffeine and the other components of coffee differently,” Hashibe said, so broad recommendations for everyone aren’t possible. Coffee can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and affect sleep, but do each of these things differently in different people.


Coffee, chocolate linked to improved liver health in HIV/HCV patients

Carrieri MP. J Hepatol. 2014;60:46-53.

Patients coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C may experience a reduction in abnormal liver enzymes and an overall improvement in liver function with increased consumption of coffee and chocolate, a study determined.

“Our results provide the first evidence that daily chocolate intake and, more generally, polyphenol rich food intake, may contribute to decreased AST [aspartate aminotransferase] and ALT [alanine aminotransferase] levels and potentially improve liver function in HIV-HCV coinfected patients,” the researchers wrote. “They also suggest that polyphenols contained in coffee, but also in cocoa, can be involved in the causal process, which leads to reduced inflammation.”

The study examined longitudinal data including self-administered questionnaires and medical data from 990 patients included in a cohort study on HIV-HCV coinfected patients at 17 clinics in France. The researchers analyzed the association between consumption of at least 3 cups of coffee daily and abnormal AST and ALT values defined as 2.5 times above the upper normal limit. They also assessed the association between daily chocolate consumption and abnormal AST and ALT values.

Using multivariate analysis with adjusted odds ratio estimates based on logistic regression analyses, the researchers found patients reporting elevated coffee consumption were less likely to present with abnormal ALT (adjusted OR=0.65; 95% CI, 0.43-0.97) or abnormal AST (aOR=0.63; 95% CI, 0.4-0.99). Patients reporting daily chocolate intake also were less likely to present with abnormal ALT (aOR=0.57; 95% CI, 0.33-0.98), but the reduced likelihood of presenting with abnormal levels of AST did not rise to statistical significance.

Patients who reported elevated coffee consumption and daily chocolate consumption, however, demonstrated reduced incidence of elevated AST (aOR=0.54; 95% CI, 0.36-0.82) and ALT (aOR=0.57; 95% CI, 0.4-0.82).

The researchers called for further studies to better determine the role of consumption and whether supplementation might have an impact on liver disease and injury.