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Heart Disease – Does green tea lower heart disease risk?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on June 8, 2009

All right, this green tea article has been hanging over my head for at least a month now. I just couldn’t get motivated to wade through all the research to determine if yes, this is an effective way to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, or no, it’s just a lot of hype.

Well, I sat down and sorted it all out today and here’s what I found.

Health Claim

The proposed health claim for green tea is that drinking at least 5 fluid ounces as a source of catechins may reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

What are catchins?

Green tea contains catechins, which are a type of flavenoid with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants slow the oxidation process. The oxidation of LDL molecules is what results in plaque formation. Therefore, increasing antioxidant intake should slow oxidation of LDL, resulting in less arterial plaque formation.

Also, when molecules are oxidized, free radicals are released that damage cells. These free radicals can increase inflammatory issues associated with cardiovascular disease.

How flavenoids work

The body recognizes flavenoids as foreign particles and works to eliminate them from the body. Flavenoids themselves do not act as an antioxidant and they are poorly absorbed by the body. However, the proposed benefit of extra flavenoids is that as the body eliminates the unwanted flavenoids, damaging free radicals are also eliminated.

Tea production

The various types of tea are produced differently. The leaves of oolong tea and black tea are allowed to oxidize (enzymes in the tea change catechins to larger molecules). Green tea is not oxidized, but produced by steaming fresh-cut leaves whereby enzymes are inactivated and little oxidation occurs. The least processed tea is white tea, which contains the highest levels of catechins. Green tea contains the second highest catechin level, approximately 125 mg catechins per serving (or ~25% dry weight of fresh tea leaves).

Here’s a little breakdown on tea oxidation:
Black tea – Highest oxidation; also, highest caffeine content and strongest flavor; 90% of all tea served in the West is black tea
Oolong tea – 10-70% oxidized
Green tea – Low oxidation
White tea – Minimal oxidation; Uncured, unfermented; Lower caffeine content that other teas

FDA Review

In 2005, the FDA did not approve the health claim for green tea, because the link between green tea and reduced cardiovascular disease risk was too weak and more conclusive evidence was needed.

Recent Research

This past June, 2008, a study was published that links green tea to reduced flow-mediated dilation of brachial arteries (major blood vessels in the upper arms). Flow-mediated dilation is related to coronary endothelial function and is an indicator for cardiovascular disease risk. Increased dilation is good. It means the heart has to do less work to move blood throughout circulation. (The endothelium is the inner layer of an artery, which blood flows against.)

This was a study of 14 healthy individuals that consumed 6 grams of green tea, followed by a measure of flow-mediated dilation. The results showed an increased flow-mediated dilation with tea (peak at 30 minutes post consumption). There was no change to antioxidant status after consumption. It’s proposed that the improved flow-mediated dilation is how green tea reduces cardiovascular disease risk.

The Hype

I came across multiple articles with headlines screaming “Green Tea Protects Against Heart Disease” since this study was published in June. I think there is significant research that still needs to be completed before it can be determined for sure how tea works to prevent heart disease. A study of 14 individuals is a small study.

Drinking 6 grams of green tea, would equal about three – 6 ounce cups of green tea each day. (Based on making 1 six ounce cup of tea with 1 teaspoon or 2.25 grams of green tea.) However, the study results are based on consuming 6 grams of tea in one setting followed by improved flow-mediated dilation at peak levels 30 minutes after consumption. How likely is it for you to drink three cups of tea quickly, back-to-back to reproduce the short-term benefit shown in this study?

To me, that is not a very effective way to reduce heart disease risk. But, I will say that if you like green tea – drink it. Many studies are showing that green tea is beneficial to heart disease. The what, how, and how much is yet to be determined. Who knows what future studies will find?!

To receive regular heart health and weight loss tips for dietitian Lisa Nelson, sign up for The Heart of Health and grab your copy of the special report “Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health” today!

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Triglycerides – How to Lower Triglycerides

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 27, 2009

I’ve recently answered several questions related to triglycerides. These questions range from “What are triglycerides?” to “My triglycerides are 400, do I need to worry?” on to “Help, my triglycerides are 1200, how do I fix this?”

So, I’m going to answer all these questions here for those of you who are wondering, but haven’t asked.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat. Actually, they’re the most common type of fat in foods and in your body. When you eat foods containing fat and oil, such as butter, French fries, and chocolate chip cookies, the body takes the fat and stores it in your body as triglycerides. So, all those “fat cells” in your body are made up of triglycerides.

What do triglycerides have to do with cholesterol?

When you see your MD, he or she may order a “lipid panel” (lipid is a fancy term for fat). From the lipid panel you will learn your total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Total cholesterol = HDL + LDL + VLDL

Well, what in the world is VLDL? Not something you’ve probably seen or heard of before. VLDL is an acronym for Very Low Density Lipoproteins, another “bad” type of cholesterol. Triglycerides are used to calculate VLDL levels in your blood.

Triglycerides x 20% = VLDL (bad) cholesterol

Also, the liver uses triglycerides as fuel for cholesterol production. So, if you eat a high fat (triglyceride) diet, the liver will increase its’ production of cholesterol and put more cholesterol out into your blood.

What is a normal triglyceride level?

You want your triglycerides to be below 200 mg/dL. Borderline high triglycerides are from 200-500 mg/dL. Triglycerides are high risk above 500 mg/dL.

Some experts argue that 200 mg/dL is too high and that a normal level should be less than 150 mg/dL. The numbers I’ve listed above are the current guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert’s Panel.

If your triglycerides are high your heart disease risk increases.

What you can do to lower triglycerides?

1. Limit simple sugars.

Unlike other types of cholesterol, triglycerides are affected by sugars you eat. You need to limit foods such as soft drinks, candy, baked goods, syrup, table sugar, jelly, and honey. A high intake of fruit juice can also raise triglyceride levels since juice contains a high content of natural sugars.

2. Limit alcohol.

If your triglycerides are borderline high or high risk, discuss your alcohol intake with your MD. My recommendation for borderline high (200-500 mg/dL) is to limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women, 2 drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces beer, 4 oz wine, or 1 ½ ounces liquor. If your triglyceride level is high risk (great than 500 mg/dL) I recommend NO alcohol. Again, discuss your situation with your MD.

3. Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Many times weight loss alone will lower your triglycerides. Losing as little as 10% body weight could drop your triglycerides back to the normal range.

4. Choose a low-fat diet.

To achieve lower triglyceride levels, maintain a dietary intake of 30% or less of total calories coming from fat. A healthy diet for normal triglyceride levels should consist of whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean meat.

5. Increase your physical activity.

Boosting your activity can lower your triglycerides up to 40%. If you’re not currently active, talk to your MD before starting an activity program. To reduce triglycerides, be physically active at least 30 minutes on 3 or more days each week. The more activity the better.

Triglycerides aren’t all bad. They provide efficient energy storage, cushion your organs, transport certain vitamins, and keep you warm by providing insulation. What’s important is to keep them under control!

Now, if you like this information and want to receive regular heart health and weight loss tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson, subscribe to The Heart of Health today!

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Reduce Heart Disease – What are the benefits of supplementing CoQ10?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 3, 2009

The benefits of CoQ10 are numerous:

  • Prevent heart disease
  • Slows the aging process
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts energy
  • Increases strength
  • Builds up the immune system
  • Improves the nervous system
  • Protects against gum disease
  • Counteracts negative side effects of some cholesterol medications

Consult your MD to determine if supplementing CoQ10 is the right treatment option for your situation.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Reduce Heart Disease – Do you know the signs of a CoQ10 deficiency?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 2, 2009

Symptoms associated with a CoQ10 deficiency develop gradually over time, so it’s very easy to miss the signs.

Symptoms include: aches and pains, fatigue, sore muscles, weakness, malaise, and shortness of breath

Our bodies are designed for CoQ10 to be formed from a variety of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. If your intake of vitamin C, B-12, B-6, pantothenic acid, and various other minerals and nutrients is deficient, the production of CoQ10 is compromised. Conditions and medications, such as hyperthyroidism, antidepressants, gum disease, and advanced age will also cause lower than adequate levels of CoQ10.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Reduce Heart Disease – How does CoQ10 work?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on April 1, 2009

The powerhouse of your cells is the mitochondria. The mitochondria convert the foods you eat into energy your body can use. The form of energy the body uses is called ATP. ATP is produced within the mitochondria by taking needed electrons from foods. CoQ10 is responsible for carrying the electrons back and forth between enzymes in the production of ATP.

If that was a little too much science for you, let me make it much simpler.

Without CoQ10 your cells can not produce energy for your body to function, including the heart muscle. The heart uses an enormous amount of energy to function and maintain blood circulation 24/7.

Numerous studies have shown patients with heart disease to have a CoQ10 deficiency. Individuals suffering from cardiomyopathy or heart failure appear to have the greatest deficiencies. Improvements have been seen when individuals suffering from cardiomyopathy or heart failure receive supplemental CoQ10. Benefits of supplementing CoQ10 are seen in individuals experiencing angina, coronary artery disease, post-operative heart surgery, and heart attack recovery.

CoQ10 is especially beneficial if you have narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart. CoQ10 uses what little oxygen and nutrients the heart receives to increase production of ATP and boost the hearts energy levels.

The physician’s routinely using CoQ10 as part of their treatment plan for heart patients often refer to CoQ10 as “the miracle supplement” due to the drastic improvements to patient heart function.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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Reduce Heart Disease – Have you heard of CoQ10?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 31, 2009

The benefits of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) have been known since the 1970’s. Unfortunately, many doctors do not routinely recommend CoQ10 to their heart patients. Are you using this supplement?

CoQ10 is a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant. CoQ10 not only fuels energy production, but it removes many free radicals from circulation. Free radicals lead to the oxidation of LDL and the subsequent chain of events that result in arterial plaque formation and narrowed arteries.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
http://www.lisanelsonrd.com

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Lower Cholesterol – Understand Fatty Acids

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 30, 2009

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard the term fatty acids.  But, do you understand what they are and how the right ratio will improve your heart health?  I intend to clear up the confusion.
 
Types of Fatty Acids
 
There are numerous types of fatty acids.  I am focusing on omega 3 and omega 6.
 
Unsaturated Fats
 
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are both unsaturated fats.  To improve cholesterol levels, you want to replace the saturated fats (i.e. lard, shortening, ice cream, cheese) in your diet with unsaturated fats. 
 
What does "omega" mean? 
Most of you are familiar with the saying "alpha to omega", in other words, beginning to end.  The "omega" indicates which carbon has the first double bond on the carbon chain when you start counting from the omega end.  For omega 3, the first double bond is on the third carbon from the omega end of the carbon chain.  I know you were wanting to review a little biochemistry today! 
 
Essential Fatty Acids
 
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are also essential fatty acids. 
 
Essential fatty acids are necessary for cardiovascular health, but our body cannot synthesize them.  You can only obtain essential fatty acids through the foods you eat. 
 
Omega 3 (Linolenic Acid)


To keep things simple, I am going to use the acronyms ALA, EPA, and DHA.  These are all types of omega 3 fatty acids.  If we consume a food containing the omega 3 fatty acid ALA, our body will convert it to EPA and DHA.  Studies have shown a link between EPA, DHA, and heart disease.  More studies are needed to understand ALA’s relationship.
 
Sources:

Oils – Canola oil, Soybean oil, Flaxseed oil (good source of ALA)
 
Seeds and nuts – flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds
 
Vegetables – avocados, some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, mustard greens, collards)
 
Fish (good source of EPA and DHA) – salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna, lake trout, herring
 
Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid)

I am going to throw in more acronym’s – GLA and AA – omega 6 fatty acids.  Linoleic acid is converted to GLA and on into AA by the body.  Researchers are finding indications of a link between GLA and EPA, in relation to heart health and reduced blood pressure.  High intake of sugars, alcohol, trans fats, and various other factors can inhibit the conversion from linoleic acid to GLA. 
 
Sources:
 
Oils – Sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, flaxseed oil
 
Seeds and nuts – flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts
 
Meat – chicken, beef
 
For optimum heart health, the ratio between omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 should be between 1:1 and 4:1.  A practical example of what a 1:1 ratio means, for every 3 ounces of beef you eat, you would need to eat 3 ounces of tuna (I do not mean in the same meal!).  The ratio for the typical American diet is 11:1 to 30:1.  This poor ratio is linked with heart disease, among several other health issues. 
 
Bottom Line:
 
For heart health, increase your intake of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, while cutting back on omega-6 fatty acid sources.  For example, switch from corn oil to canola oil, increase the number of meals you eat that contain fish each week, and grab walnuts instead of pistachios.
 
Now, if you are interested in being guided step-by-step as you gain control of your heart health and cholesterol levels, check out the available programs at Lisa Nelson RD – Lower Cholesterol Programs
.

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How to Lower Cholesterol: Step 2

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 28, 2009

In the last post I gave you the first step towards lowering cholesterol. Here is the second. Remember, by implementing these basic steps, you’re establishing a solid foundation that will support heart health and increase the effectiveness of medications and supplements.

Step 2: Adopt a heart healthy lifestyle.

This means eating a diet that support heart health and including physical activity as part of your daily routine.

Here are some basic guidelines for a heart healthy diet to lower cholesterol:

  • Saturated fat intake should be limited to less than 7% of your total daily calories.
  • Daily trans fat intake should be less than 1% of your total calorie intake.
  • Cholesterol should be limited to less than 300 mg/day.
  • Eat 25-35 grams of dietary fiber. The needs to include an adequate intake of soluble fiber, which will promote lower LDL levels.
  • Include sources rich in omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. Some benefits of omega 3 fatty acids include lower triglycerides, increased HDL cholesterol, and slower build-up of arterial plaque.

Here are basic guidelines for physical activity to lower cholesterol.

  • Include at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

This is the latest recommendation of The Health and Human Services Department. In order to see substantial health benefits, include at least 150 minutes, 2 ½ hours, of moderate-intensity activity each week. If times a factor, you can see the same benefits by bumping up the intensity and being vigorously active 75 minutes (1 hr. 15 min.) each week.

By include regular physical activity you will raise HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides.

Stay tuned for step 3.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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How to Lower Cholesterol: Step 1

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 26, 2009

It’s often easier to turn to supplements or medications to lower cholesterol. However, the effectiveness of these treatments will not be as great if you do not have a solid foundation in place that supports heart health. Over the next few posts I’ll give you three basic steps you can implement now to promote lower cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease.

Step 1: Know and understand your cholesterol lab results.

A simple blood test will check your cholesterol levels. This test is also known as a lipid profile. You will learn your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. By knowing the “breakdown” of your lipid panel you (or your MD/dietitian) will be able to determine the best steps to take for results.

The American Heart Association Recommends that everyone over the age of 20 know their cholesterol levels.

Stay tuned for step 2.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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5 Heart Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet Today

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 17, 2009

Here are five foods to include in your diet to promote heart health.

1. Banana – Good source of potassium to promote a lower blood pressure.
2. Fish – Contains omega 3’s to prevent arterial plaque rupture.
3. Olive oil – Contains heart healthy monounsaturated fat to reduce the risk or coronary heart disease.
4. Garlic – Contains allicin to raise HDL, lower LDL, lower homocysteine, and lower blood pressure.
5. Walnuts – Rich is essential fatty acids, healthy protein, fiber, and phytosterols (compounds to decrease absorption of dietary cholesterol).

All the best,

Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

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