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Be careful about Ginseng - It's more dangerous than you think

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:54

By Kirsten Schofield


Managing high cholesterol and related conditions

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:54

A PATIENT with high blood cholesterol is likely to develop other conditions that affect the heart and vascular system. For example, someone with high blood cholesterol is likely to develop high blood pressure as well. The likelihood of high cholesterol-related conditions can be reduced with proper treatment. In this article, learn more about how high cholesterol affects your body and what you can do to prevent future problems.

Cholesterol and the Body

The word “cholesterol” often gets a bum rap. Cholesterol earns the blame for a lot of physical ills, but it turns out that your body needs cholesterol. In fact, your body naturally produces cholesterol because it requires this waxy substance for many functions. However, as with so many things in life, too much cholesterol can be a bad thing.

Cholesterol comes in two types: “good” and “bad.” High-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, can reduce your risk of heart attacks, rid your body of bad cholesterol, and lower your stroke risk. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, high levels increase your risk for several conditions and diseases if it is not diagnosed, treated, and managed properly.

In an ideal world, the levels of HDL and LDL would be beneficial—HDL would help pick up remaining pieces of LDL and remove them without harm to the body. However, when the balance is off, HDL cannot keep up, and waxy plaque begins to build in the body’s arteries.

In America today, one in six adults have high cholesterol. Unfortunately, two out of every three adults with high cholesterol do not have the condition under control. Additionally, less than half of patients with diagnosed high cholesterol are not being treated for it.


These numbers have real-world consequences. When left untreated, high cholesterol can cause real damage to your body. Having high LDL levels puts you at a greater risk for developing certain conditions. In some cases, the factors that contribute to high cholesterol also contribute to other conditions. In other cases, high cholesterol itself is a risk factor for another condition.

Conditions Related to High Cholesterol

The following section lists out some related conditions people with high cholesterol may be more likely to develop.

Coronary Heart Disease

One of the biggest concerns for people with high cholesterol is coronary heart disease (CHD). This is because cholesterol greatly impacts your heart’s health. High blood LDL levels increase your risk of heart disease.

Plaque build-up hardens the arteries and eventually narrows the arteries. This reduces blood follow to and from the heart. If the narrowed arteries or vessels close completely or become blocked, you will suffer chest pain or possibly a heart attack. Too little HDL cholesterol can also increase your risk for CHD.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Around your heart, arteries that have plaque build-up can cut off blood supply to your heart. The heart is not the only part of the body that can be affected by plaque build-up, however.

When plaque build-up on artery walls occurs elsewhere in the body, it can lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is most common in the arteries that lead to the legs and feet. If left untreated, PAD can cause pain, numbness, and eventually tissue death.


A stroke occurs when cholesterol plaque narrows and eventually blocks the vessels and arteries in your brain. Blood vessels in the brain are responsible for bringing oxygen and nutrients to your brain. When flow is cut off, the brain does not receive enough oxygen and blood, causing brain cells to die.


High blood cholesterol levels are one of the leading causes of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Too much bad cholesterol floating in your blood can cause plaque build-ups in your arteries. As the blockages build, they restrict blood flow. In order to overcome this restricted blood flow, your heart has to work harder and must increase the pressure it uses to pump blood efficiently. As a result, your blood pressure can quickly become too high.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with diabetes must monitor their cholesterol levels carefully. This is because diabetes has the ability to lower levels of good cholesterol and increase levels of bad cholesterol. Subsequently, the higher levels of LDL increase your risk for other conditions, including stroke, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.

Source: healthline.com


High cholesterol treatments

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 08:55

UNLESS your cholesterol is dangerously high, lifestyle modifications — such as exercising regularly and eating a heart-healthy diet — are often recommended as the first line of treatment.

Healthy Diet

Dietary modifications combined with weight loss can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 20 to 30 percent. Heart-healthy diets promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and limit foods high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.

Vegetable shortening and any item made with hydrogenated oil contains trans fat and should be avoided. What sets heart-healthy diets apart from others is the emphasis on good fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, olive oil, avocados, and seeds.

When used in place of saturated and trans fats, these oils — known as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats—can help reduce cholesterol. Some research also indicates that avoiding refined carbs may boost “good” HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides. Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white bread, soft drinks, and baked goods.

Avoid or Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is good for your heart in more ways than one. Research shows that giving up cigarettes can increase a person’s “good” HDL by 4 mg/dL, on average. HDL helps clear the body of artery-clogging “bad” LDL cholesterol.



Research shows that being inactive elevates LDL. Exercise, on the other hand, can lower it. Moderate activity like brisk walking can also help lower triglycerides, while vigorous exercise like running can boost HDL. Cardiovascular exercise can also strengthen your heart and reduce blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke.



In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor may also recommend taking medication to manage your cholesterol. In general, drug therapy tends to affect cholesterol levels more quickly than your diet and exercise will.

So if your doctor feels it’s important to get your cholesterol down immediately, he or she will likely opt for medication. There are several different types of cholesterol-lowering medications. Your doctor can determine which one or ones are right for you.

Source: healthline.com

Sleep woes common among troubled young children - Study

Monday, 03 November 2014 09:20

SLEEP difficulties, particularly problems falling asleep, are common among toddlers and preschoolers with mental health issues, according to a new study.

"Sleep problems in young children frequently co-occur with other behavioral problems, with evidence that inadequate sleep is associated with daytime sleepiness, less optimal preschool adjustment, and problems of irritability, hyperactivity and attention," said the study's leader, John Boekamp, clinical director of the pediatric partial hospital program at Bradley Hospital in Providence, R.I.

However, he said, sleep disorders may be unrecognized and underdiagnosed in young children, particularly when behavioral or emotional problems are present.

The study, published online in Child Psychiatry & Human Development, involved 183 children aged 6 years or younger receiving outpatient treatment for psychiatric problems. The researchers examined the prevalence of sleep disorders among these children and the nature of the sleep problems.

"The most common sleep difficulties reported nationally for toddlers and preschoolers are problems of going to bed, falling asleep and frequent night awakenings. Collectively, these problems are referred to as behavioral insomnias of childhood," said Boekamp in a hospital news release.

Recognized sleep disorders, particularly sleep onset insomnia, were more common than expected, the researchers found. Overall, 41 percent of children in the study met the criteria to diagnose a sleep disorder.

Sleep problems were most common in kids with disruptive behavior, and attention, anxiety and mood problems, the researchers found.

Early sleep problems could not only be the result of behavioral and emotional problems, but could also contribute to them, the researchers noted.

"Essentially, these young children might be caught in a cycle, with sleep disruption affecting their psychiatric symptoms, and psychiatric symptoms affecting their sleep-wake organization," said Boekamp. "It is important for families to be aware of how important sleep is to the behavioral adjustment and well-being of young children."

Sleep problems can complicate treatment for challenging behaviors, such as aggression and attention and mood problems. Daytime sleepiness and fatigue can make these problems even worse, the study's authors noted.

"This study is a great reminder that it's critical for mental health providers working with young children and their families to ask about children's sleep," said Boekamp.

"Simple questions about children's sleep patterns, including how long it takes a child to fall asleep at night and how frequently a child awakens after falling asleep, may yield important information that is relevant to clinical care, even when sleep problems are not the primary focus of treatment," he explained.

Source: healthDay

6 Common depression traps to avoid

Monday, 03 November 2014 09:24

WHEN Orion Lyonesse is getting depressed, she turns into a hermit. She doesn't want to leave the house (not even to pick up the mail), and she cuts off contact with her friends and family.

"The more I'm alone, the deeper the depression gets," Lyonesse, an artist and writer in Lake Stevens, Wash., tells WebMD in an email. "I don't even want to cuddle my cats!"

Avoiding social contact is a common pattern you might notice when falling into depression. Some people skip activities they normally enjoy and isolate themselves from the world. Others turn to alcohol or junk food to mask their pain and unhappiness.

Depression traps vary from person to person, but what they have in common is that they can serve to worsen your mood, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Here are six behavioral pitfalls that often accompany depression -- and how you can steer clear of them as you and your doctor and therapist work on getting back on track.

Trap #1: Social Withdrawal

Social withdrawal is the most common telltale sign of depression.

"When we're clinically depressed, there's a very strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down," says Stephen Ilardi, PhD, author of books including The Depression Cure and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. "It turns out to be the exact opposite of what we need."

"In depression, social isolation typically serves to worsen the illness and how we feel," Ilardi says. "Social withdrawal amplifies the brain's stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it."

The Fix: Gradually counteract social withdrawal by reaching out to your friends and family. Make a list of the people in your life you want to reconnect with and start by scheduling an activity.

Trap #2: Rumination

A major component of depression is rumination, which involves dwelling and brooding about themes like loss and failure that cause you to feel worse about yourself.

Rumination is a toxic process that leads to negative self-talk such as, "It's my own fault. Who would ever want me a friend?"

"There's a saying, 'When you're in your own mind, you're in enemy territory,'" says Mark Goulston, MD, psychiatrist and author of Get Out of Your Own Way. "You leave yourself open to those thoughts and the danger is believing them."

Rumination can also cause you to interpret neutral events in a negative fashion. For example, when you're buying groceries, you may notice that the checkout person smiles at the person in front of you but doesn't smile at you, so you perceive it as a slight.

 "When people are clinically depressed, they will typically spend a lot of time and energy rehearsing negative thoughts, often for long stretches of time," Ilardi says.

The Fix: Redirect your attention to a more absorbing activity, like a social engagement or reading a book.

Trap #3: Self-Medicating With Alcohol

Turning to alcohol or drugs to escape your woes is a pattern that can accompany depression, and it usually causes your depression to get worse.

Alcohol can sometimes relieve a little anxiety, especially social anxiety, but it has a depressing effect on the central nervous system, Goulston says. Plus, it can screw up your sleep.

"It's like a lot of things that we do to cope with feeling bad," he says. "They often make us feel better momentary, but in the long run, they hurt us."

The Fix: Talk to your doctor or therapist if you notice that your drinking habits are making you feel worse. Alcohol can interfere with antidepressants and anxiety medications.

Trap #4: Skipping Exercise

If you're the type of person who likes to go the gym regularly, dropping a series of workouts could signal that something's amiss in your life. The same goes for passing on activities -- such as swimming, yoga, or ballroom dancing -- that you once enjoyed.

When you're depressed, it's unlikely that you'll keep up with a regular exercise program, even though that may be just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise can be enormously therapeutic and beneficial, Ilardi says. Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect because it boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that often ebb when you're depressed.

"It's a paradoxical situation," Ilardi says. "Your body is capable of physical activity. The problem is your brain is not capable of initiating and getting you to do it."

The Fix: Ilardi recommends finding someone you can trust to help you initiate exercise -- a personal trainer, coach, or even a loved one. "It has to be someone who gets it, who is not going to nag you, but actually give you that prompting and encouragement and accountability," Ilardi says.

Trap #5: Seeking Sugar Highs

When you're feeling down, you may find yourself craving sweets or junk food high in carbohydrates and sugar.

Sugar does have mild mood-elevating properties, says Ilardi, but it's only temporary. Within two hours, blood glucose levels crash, which has a mood-depressing effect.

The Fix: Avoid sugar highs and the inevitable post-sugar crash. It's always wise to eat healthfully, but now more than ever, your mood can't afford to take the hit.

Trap #6: Negative Thinking

When you're depressed, you're prone to negative thinking and talking yourself out of trying new things.

You might say to yourself, "Well, even if I did A, B, and C, it probably wouldn't make me feel any better and it would be a real hassle, so why bother trying at all?"

"That's a huge trap," says Goulston. "If you race ahead and anticipate a negative result, which then causes you to stop trying at all, that is something that will rapidly accelerate your depression and deepen it."

The Fix: Don't get too attached to grim expectations. "You have more control over doing and not doing, than you have over what the result of actions will be," Goulston says. "But there is a much greater chance that if you do, then those results will be positive."

Source: webmd.com


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Adult asthma linked to higher dementia risk

Wednesday, 05 November 2014 06:35

PEOPLE with asthma, particularly older ones, face a greater risk of getting dementia, a new study suggests.

More research is needed to confirm the findings, the researchers say.

The study, led by Yi-Hao Peng, Department of Respiratory Therapy, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan, was published online Sept. 30 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers identified almost 13,000people with asthma diagnosed between 2001 and 2003. For each person with asthma, they selected four other people with similar characteristics, such as age and gender, for a comparison group of 51,084.

People with asthma had higher odds of getting dementia, the study found. This result differs from that of a previous study in Sweden that didn't find asthma raises risk for Alzheimer's disease. This, said the researchers of the current study, may be because that earlier study was based on self-reports instead of doctor diagnoses, which makes it less reliable.

Overall, men had higher rates of dementia than women. The risk was lower for women even after the researchers took age into account, other conditions, annual outpatient doctor visits, and oral corticosteroid use.

The elderly had a significantly higher risk for dementia than younger people with asthma, a finding that fits with those of previous studies and confirms that age is one of the strongest risk factors for dementia.

People with a history of a stroke had the highest risk for dementia, followed by those with atrial fibrillation; more than 30 annual  doctors’ visits; head injury; diabetes; high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and blood fat levels. The study also indicated that the risk for dementia rises with the number of asthma-related emergency department visits and admissions to the hospital.

The authors outlined several possible things connecting asthma and dementia. One theory is that both conditions involve inflammation.

Another theory is that the lungs in people with asthma may lead to an ongoing lack of oxygen, and then to abnormal production of brain chemicals leading to dementia. They also speculate that steroid use in people with asthma may speed up brain shrinkage, raising dementia risk.

Interestingly, though, the study showed that people taking inhaled steroids to control their asthma had a significantly lower risk of dementia compared to those with asthma not taking these medications.

The study didn't look at lifestyle factors, such as education level, occupation, exercise, diet, and cigarette smoking, all of which are potential factors contributing to a higher risk of dementia.

This work was supported by the study projects in China Medical University; Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence; and health and welfare surcharge of tobacco products, China Medical University Hospital Cancer Research Center of Excellence (Taiwan).

Source: bbc

Scientists link 60 genes to autism risk

Wednesday, 05 November 2014 06:36

RESEARCHERS have found dozens of new genes that may play a role in causing autism, according to two studies published Wednesday in the medical journal Nature.

Scientists identified 60 genes with a greater than 90% chance of increasing a child's autism risk. Previous research has yielded only 11 genes that had been confirmed with this level of certainty.

Though other studies have shown the importance of genetics in the development of autism, experts say these new studies zero in on the exact nature of the genetic mutations that cause the disorder.

The researchers say these genes appear to be clustering around three sets of key biological functions.

The first set focuses on the development of synapses in the brain, which are responsible for all kinds of communication between nerves. The second set is responsible for the creation of genetic instructions, and the third is responsible for DNA packaging within cells.

Each of these functions could have an effect on the individual that would cause the traits commonly associated with autism, according to one of the studies.

Dr. Matthew State, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-author of both studies, believes that the most important thing to take away from the studies is a new knowledge base. Instead of focusing on environmental factors, he says, these studies are focusing on what happens inside of the brain.

This kind of genetic research has been used to treat all kinds of disorders and diseases, State says, but before now had not been applied to psychiatric disorders. Similar genetic studies for childhood leukemia took it from nearly always fatal to a treatable, often curable disease.

"It's the understanding of biology at that level that's helped treatments for cancer. It's something we've been missing in psychiatric disorders in general," State said. "They lay the groundwork for a transformed understanding of the disorder and hopefully a transformation in how we're able to diagnose and treat it."

Autism is a complex disorder, one that has been difficult to treat because it is so poorly understood. By tapping into the genetic foundation of the disorder, scientists theorize, it may be possible to provide more personalized treatment based on a person's own unique gene set.

"I think that if everybody were to be genotyped when they're diagnosed, the more this is studied, the more we'll be able to say what the biological causes are ... and we can target your symptoms with more personalized medicine," said Dan Smith, senior director of neuroscience at the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

In addition to developing treatments based on a better understanding of the disorder, the study provides hope for the prevention of autism as well. A portion of the genes studied were de novo genes: not passed down from either parent but developed in the egg or sperm shortly before conception. Further studies could determine what environmental factors cause those genes to mutate.

"This is going to begin to give us an opportunity to study the interactions between genes and environment," State said. "The rate of new mutation increases with age, specifically fathers, because a lot of these mutations are in sperm."

State is optimistic about the future and what these two studies will contribute.

"The big difference is that five years ago, we had no idea. When you have no idea, you have no opportunity to think in a systematic or rational way to develop treatment," he said. "We can finally say something really concretely about a large number of genes that contribute to risk."

Source: CNN

Diabetes and urinary tract infections

Wednesday, 05 November 2014 06:37

What everyone must know


THE urgent need to go to the lavatory: the burning pain when you do, the cloudy, foul-smelling urine. If you've experienced a urinary tract or bladder infection, you'd probably prefer to avoid another one.

Unfortunately, if you have diabetes, you are up to twice as likely as those without the disease to develop these often painful infections. They’re especially common among women. But there’s a lot you can do to avoid them and to ease your discomfort when they do strike.

Why Diabetes Poses a Risk

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, occur when bacteria or other bugs invade your body’s drainage system. Normally, your immune defenses banish these bugs before they can grow and multiply. But if you have diabetes, the following factors interfere:

Diabetes impairs some parts of your immune response. You have fewer white blood cells and T cells to fight off invading bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Nerve damage can keep your bladder from emptying, either by weakening muscles or scrambling the signals between your brain and urinary system. Urine that remains in your body too long poses a greater infection risk.

Sugar in your blood and urine can also contribute to a greater risk for UTI.

Besides pain and urgency related to urination, UTIs can cause back or side pain, pressure above your pubic bone or in your rectum, weakness, fatigue, nausea, and fever. These symptoms often mean the infection has spread to your kidneys.

Treatment Advances in Type 2 Diabetes

Here are some exciting advances in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Calm the Burn

See your health care provider if you develop the symptoms listed above or other urinary problems. Prompt treatment can both relieve your symptoms and help prevent your infection from spreading. In rare cases, untreated UTIs can cause serious problems, such as kidney damage or even kidney failure.

To diagnose a UTI, your health care provider will take a sample of your urine and test it for bacteria and pus. Typically, you’ll be treated with an antibiotic. Most people with UTIs feel better within a couple days after starting treatment. However, you’ll need to continue taking medicine until your health care provider tells you it’s OK to stop. If the infection has spread to your kidneys, treatment may take several weeks.

Ask your health care provider about options to ease your symptoms. You may be able to speed your recovery by:

·       Drinking lots of fluids

·       Placing a heating pad on your back or abdomen

·       Taking additional pain-relieving medications

·       Take Preventive Steps

Once you have your first UTI, diabetes increases your risk for additional infections. To ward off future cases, drink plenty of fluids and try to urinate immediately when you feel the need. Urinate after sexual intercourse to help flush out bacteria, and wipe front-to-back after urination or bowel movements.

If you have frequent UTIs, your health care provider may recommend additional measures, including:

·       Taking a low-dose antibiotic for six months or longer. Swallowing pills at bedtime seems to work best, because the medicine stays in the bladder longer.

·       Taking a single small dose of antibiotics after sex.

·       Keeping your blood glucose under control can also help you prevent UTIs—and help you recover more quickly if you do develop them. Work with your health care provider on a treatment plan that fits with your lifestyle and keeps your condition in check.

Key Takeaways

·       If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to contract a urinary tract infection (UTI). The condition is also more common in women than men.

·       UTIs can cause pain, weakness, fatigue, nausea, and fever. If left untreated, a UTI can damage your kidneys.

·       Your health care provider will test your urine for bacteria and pus. If you have a UTI, you will usually be treated with an antibiotic.

·       To prevent UTIs, drink lots of fluids, urinate when you feel the urge and after having sex, and wipe front-to-back after urination or bowel movements. If you have frequent UTIs, your health care provider might suggest other means for prevention.

Source: webmd.com


Breakthrough for Parkinson treatment

Monday, 10 November 2014 05:48

STEM cells can be used to heal the damage in the brain caused by Parkinson's disease, according to scientists in Sweden.

They said their study on rats heralded a "huge breakthrough" towards developing effective treatments.

There is no cure for the disease, but medication and brain stimulation can alleviate symptoms.

Parkinson's UK said there were many questions still to be answered before human trials could proceed.

The disease is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine which helps to control mood and movement.

To simulate Parkinson's, Lund University researchers killed dopamine-producing neurons on one side of the rats' brains.

They then converted human embryonic stem cells into neurons that produced dopamine.

Parkinson's Disease – Parkinson’s - is one of the commonest neurodegenerative diseases

These were injected into the rats' brains, and the researchers found evidence that the damage was reversed.

There have been no human clinical trials of stem-cell-derived neurons, but the researchers said they could be ready for testing by 2017.

Malin Parmar, associate professor of developmental and regenerative neurobiology, said: "It's a huge breakthrough in the field [and] a stepping stone towards clinical trials."

A similar method has been tried in a limited number of patients.

It involved taking brain tissue from multiple aborted foetuses to heal the brain.

Clinical trials were abandoned after mixed results, but about a third of the patients had foetal brain cells that functioned for 25 years.

Using embryonic stem cells may be preferable, as it is easier to get hold of the large numbers of cells needed for transplant by growing them in the laboratory.

It also opens up the possibility of using less ethically charged sources of stem cells, such as those made from adult tissue.

The charity Parkinson's UK said the research "could be a stride towards clinical trials in people with Parkinson's".

Its director of research and development, Arthur Roach, said: "This important research is a key step along the way in helping us to understand how stem cells might shape future Parkinson's treatments.

"There are important potential advantages of these cells over the foetal-derived cells used in past cell transplantation work.

"This study could be a stride towards clinical trials in people with Parkinson's but there are still many questions that need to be answered before this development can be tested in people with the condition."

Source: bbc


Red meat: Why less may help your heart

Monday, 10 November 2014 05:52

SATURATED fat in red meat has long been linked to heart disease. But new research suggests it might not be the only culprit.

Bacteria in the intestines convert carnitine, a protein building block that's especially plentiful in beef, lamb, and venison, into compounds that speed up hardening and thickening of artery walls, according to a new study.

Generally, the redder the meat, the more carnitine it has. Although pork is considered a red meat, it doesn't have as much carnitine as beef, lamb and venison, and chicken and fish have even less.

Scientists behind the study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, say their work suggests new targets for drugs to prevent and treat heart disease. And, they say, it raises concerns about the safety of dietary supplements that contain carnitine and a related compound.

The name “carnitine” comes from the Latin word for “meat” or “flesh.” It’s not considered an essential nutrient in food, because “we make all the carnitine we need on our own,” says study researcher Stanley Hazen, MD, PhD, of the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “Every cell in our body needs that carnitine,” which is essential for converting fats into energy, he says.

Studies have repeatedly shown a strong link between the amount of red meat people eat and their risk of dying of heart disease, Hazen says. But “the amount of cholesterol and fat in the red meat is not enough for the increased risk that’s observed,” he says. “There’s more to it than just the fat.”

The trillions of microorganisms -- mainly bacteria -- that live in the intestines help with nutrition and the immune system. They're as varied as the people they inhabit, due mainly to diet and genetics.

“When we feed ourselves, we’re feeding our microbes, too,” Hazen says. The more carnitine you eat, the more likely you'll have microbes in your gut that will convert it to the compounds that promote hardening and thickening of artery walls, he said.

“The bacteria in our gut serve as a giant bioreactor,” says Joshua Goldsmith, MD, PhD. He's a gastroenterology resident and post-doc fellow at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the new research. “They have an effect on us, and we have an effect on them.”

The new study, using mice, found that carnitine from the red meat is converted by gut microbes into a substance known as GBB. Then GBB is converted into compounds called trimethylamine (TMA) and TMAO, also by the gut microbes. All of that increases hardening of the arteries. 

But give the mice antibiotics to wipe out their gut bacteria, and the level of GBB in their blood drops to near zero, Hazen’s team found.

It’s not that the other stuff is not important,” says Andrew Mendelsohn, PhD, referring to other cardiovascular risk factors. “It’s just that this also is important.” Mendelsohn, who was not involved with Hazen’s study, is president and research director of the Regenerative Sciences Institute in Sunnyvale, CA.

Hazen says his new study isn’t about red meat, but about a compound that is more common in red meat than in chicken or fish. "A logical thing would be to cut back eating the nutrient,” he says of carnitine. Although, he says, "We haven’t directly tested yet whether lowering TMAO in humans will lower cardiac risk.”

He was direct about taking dietary supplements containing carnitine or GBB. “Our data should sound an alarm that we need to look at the safety of long-term supplement exposure,” Hazen says.

Hazen and his collaborators last year published the first paper to examine how gut bugs, together with eating red meat, might play a role in raising the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries.

In that study, his team found that supplementing the diet of mice with carnitine changed the types of bacteria in their gut, leading to increased production of trimethylamine, which then converted into TMAO.

The researchers also measured blood levels of carnitine and TMAO in about 2,600 people being checked for heart problems. They found that those numbers predicted heart disease risk better than cholesterol levels.

Source: webmd.com


Calcium pills pose heart risk

Monday, 10 November 2014 05:53

PEOPLE who take calcium supplements could be increasing their risk of having a heart attack, according to researchers in Germany.

Calcium is often taken by older people to strengthen bones and prevent fractures.

But the study, published in the journal Heart, said the supplements "should be taken with caution".

Experts say promoting a balanced diet including calcium would be a better strategy.

The researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre, in Heidelberg, followed 23,980 people for more than a decade.

They compared the number of heart attacks in people who were taking calcium supplements with those who did not.

There were 851 heart attacks among the 15,959 people who did not take any supplements at all. However, people taking calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have had a heart attack during the study.

The researchers said that heart attacks "might be substantially increased by taking calcium supplements" and that they "should be taken with caution".

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from The Health Supplements Information Service which is funded supplement manufacturers, said: "Osteoporosis is a real issue for women and it is irresponsible for scientists to advise that women cut out calcium supplements on the basis of one flawed survey, particularly when the link between calcium, vitamin D and bone health is endorsed by the European Food Safety Authority."

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said patients prescribed the supplements should keep taking their medication, but should also speak to their doctor if they were concerned.

Natasha Stewart, a senior cardiac nurse with the BHF, said: "This research indicates that there may be an increased risk of having a heart attack for people who take calcium supplements.

"However, this does not mean that these supplements cause heart attacks.

"Further research is needed to shed light on the relationship between calcium supplements and heart health. We need to determine whether the potential risks of the supplements outweigh the benefits calcium can give sufferers of conditions such as osteoporosis."

Ian Reid and Mark Bolland, researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said: "The evidence is also becoming steadily stronger that it is not safe, nor is it particularly effective.

"Therefore, the administration of this micro nutrient should not be encouraged; rather people should be advised to obtain their calcium intake from an appropriately balanced diet.

"We should return to seeing calcium as an important component of a balanced diet and not as a low cost panacea to the universal problem of postmenopausal bone loss."

A spokeswoman for the UK's Department of Health said it would consider the study carefully once the complete article had been published.

"The majority of people do not need to take a calcium supplement," she said.

"A healthy balanced diet will provide all the nutrients, including calcium, that they need. Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy foods, fortified dairy food alternatives, e.g. soya drink, and green leafy vegetables."

Source: bbc