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Posts Tagged ‘cholesterol’

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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How to Lower Cholesterol: Step 3

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

In the last post I gave you the first step towards lowering cholesterol. Here is the third. 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 3: Lose weight and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Weight has a significant impact on your heart health and cholesterol levels. Weight loss alone may lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. Losing as little as 10% body weight could drop your cholesterol back to the heart healthy range.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD

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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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Lower Cholesterol – Include rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids in your diet everyday.

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

The list of benefits associated with omega 3 fatty acids continues to grow. By increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids you’ll decrease triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, increase HDL cholesterol, reduce arterial wall inflammation, and the list goes on.

Here are a few steps you can take to increase your omega 3 intake:

1. Eat fish at least twice a week.
2. Add ground flaxseed to foods.
3. Take a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement. (Discuss all supplements with your MD.)
4. Snack on nuts and seeds rich in omega 3’s, such as walnuts.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
eNutritionServices

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Weight Loss Resolution – Tips to Stay Motivated

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

New Year’s is just around the corner and you know what that means. . .New Year’s Resolution! Every year you set a goal to make a change for the better. This should be a time of great excitement; however, you may be approaching it with a sense of dread instead. Will you achieve your goal? Or will it end up being another resolution that falls to the wayside?

The statistics are not very encouraging. Most people give up on their New Year resolutions within three weeks. According to one discouraging study, only 8% of American’s actually achieve their New Year resolutions!

How will you keep yourself motivated and make this the year you achieve your goals?

Here are five key strategies to stay motivated:

1. Set realistic goals.

Set a goal you know you can achieve. If you are currently inactive, it’s unrealistic to set a goal to run 5 miles three times a week. Instead, set a goal you can achieve, such as “I will walk 30 minutes 3 days a week.” Realistic goals can be motivating because once you achieve your goal you can set a new one! This allows you to “see” the progress you’re making. Which brings us to the next important strategy. . .

2. Set measurable goals.

Measurable goals make it possible to track your progress. For example, instead of setting the goal “I will eat out less this year” change it to “I will eat out no more than once a week this year”. By setting measurable goals you can easily track if you are sticking with your goals.

3. Write your goals down.

Writing down your goals makes them “real” versus keeping a mental list. Post your resolution where you will see it everyday as a reminder and added motivation.

4. Tell a friend.

Share your goals with others. This provides a sense of accountability. It’s much easier to let yourself down, but when you’ve shared your plan with someone else, there’s often an increased desire to succeed.

5. Reward Yourself!

When you achieve a goal, reward yourself. It’s important to recognize your accomplishments and treat yourself. Just make sure your treat is in line with your goal. If you want to lose weight, this isn’t the time to treat yourself to an ice cream sundae. Consider other small rewards you’d enjoy, such as a good book, new music CD, or new pair of shoes.

You increase your chance of success if you take it one step at a time. I wish you all the best on your journey to heart health and weight loss!

Go to http://www.eNutritionServices.com to sign up for The Heart of Health ezine and receive regular tips from dietitian Lisa Nelson. You’ll also receive the free report “Stop Wasting Money – Take Control of Your Health” or the free e-course “8 Essential Steps to Lower Cholesterol Naturally”.

Posted in fitness, heart health, high blood pressure, lose weight, lower cholesterol, nutrition | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mediterranean Diet to Reduce Heart Disease

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on December 23, 2008

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mediterranean Diet and it’s link to heart health. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and monounsaturated fats (olive oil).

Those that follow a Mediterranean Diet have a reduced there risk of developing heart disease and dying from a heart attack. Even those that have survived a heart attack and lived to adopt the Mediterranean Diet significantly reduced their risk of a second heart attack and other complications.

In an interesting twist, the native Mediterranean population has gradually adopted a more Western diet leading to negative results. The Mediterranean area has seen an income rise that’s resulted in extra dollars being spent on meat and saturated fat food sources. Over the past 4 decades the average calorie intake in the Mediterranean countries has increased ~30%. So, the once healthy Mediterranean countries are now seeing the weight epidemics the US is familiar with – 75% of the population overweight or obese in Greece, with over half of the population in Italy, Spain, and Portugal following suit. These countries are now supporting the “Mediterranean Diet” as a part of their cultural heritage they can not let die.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the characteristics common to a Mediterranean Diet:

  • High intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Select whole grains
  • Consume healthy fats (canola and olive oil)
  • Eat nuts in moderation
  • Low red wine consumption
  • Limit eggs to less than 4 times per week
  • Consume little red meat
  • Eat fish regularly

All the best,

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
eNutritionServices

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Reduce Heart Disease with Glucomannan

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on December 16, 2008

Have you heard of glucomannan? Glucomannan is a type of soluble fiber. Research has shown that for every 1-2 grams of daily soluble fiber intake, LDL (bad) cholesterol is lowered 1%. Check out this post from Janie Ellington to learn more about glucomannan and how it reduces heart disease risk:


Benefits of Glucomannan Against Risk Factors for Heart Disease


All the best,

Lisa Nelson, RD
eNutritionServices

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