July 2007


Obese are more prone to asthma than those of normal weight.

Findings by the scientists at King’s College London who suggested that a protein contributes to inflammation of the lungs as well as increasing hunger:-

  • Th2 cells – specialised cells belonging to the immune system can inflame the lungs and contribute to the development of asthma.
  • Th2 cells also produce a protein known as PMCH which is known to increase appetite.

In one of the several European and American studies which was published earlier this year, out of 330,000 patients, for every normal weight person with asthma, 1.5 who were overweight or obese.

Although researchers wrote that “These findings may provide a mechanistic link between allergic inflammation, asthma and obesity,” as people with asthma are not always obese, further investigation was needed into possible genetic variations of PMCH.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6900605.stm

Delicious sources of antioxidants for healthy summer eating

Forget the hype about single antioxidants, like vitamin E or beta carotene. They’ve never lived up to the promise that they can halt heart disease, cure cancer, eradicate eye disease, or prevent Alzheimer’s.

But that doesn’t mean antioxidants aren’t important to your health. The notion that antioxidants are good for you comes from studies showing that people who eat foods rich in a variety of antioxidants have better long-term health. Trials of single supplements, usually taken in pill form, have yielded disappointing results.

Antioxidants stabilize harmful by-products of the body’s energy-making machinery. These by-products, known as free radicals, can damage DNA, make LDL (“bad”) cholesterol even worse, and wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

It’s possible that single antioxidants haven’t panned out because it takes a network of antioxidants — like those that exist in foods — to neutralize free radicals. If that’s the case, then it would be helpful to know the antioxidant content of various foods.

An international team of researchers did just that for more than a thousand foods that Americans commonly eat. Topping the list for antioxidant content were blackberries, walnuts, strawberries, artichokes, cranberries, coffee, raspberries, pecans, blueberries, and ground cloves (see “Antioxidant-rich foods”).

Antioxidant-rich foods

Here are the three dozen foods with the highest per-serving content of antioxidants.

Product

Antioxidants (mmol/serving)

Blackberries

5.746

Walnuts

3.721

Strawberries

3.584

Artichokes, prepared

3.559

Cranberries

3.125

Coffee

2.959

Raspberries

2.870

Pecans

2.741

Blueberries

2.680

Cloves, ground

2.637

Grape juice

2.557

Chocolate, baking, unsweetened

2.516

Cranberry juice

2.474

Cherries, sour

2.205

Wine, red

2.199

Power Bar, chocolate flavor

1.875

Pineapple juice

1.859

Guava nectar

1.858

Juice drinks, 10% juice, blueberry or strawberry flavor, vitamin C enriched

1.821

Cranapple juice

1.790

Prunes

1.715

Chocolate, dark, sugar-free

1.675

Cabbage, red, cooked

1.614

Orange juice

1.510

Apple juice, with added vitamin C

1.462

Mango nectar

1.281

Pineapples

1.276

Oranges

1.261

Bran Flakes breakfast cereal

1.244

Plums, black

1.205

Pinto beans, dried

1.137

Canned chili with meat and beans

1.049

Canned chili with meat, no beans

1.045

Spinach, frozen

1.040

Whole Grain Total breakfast cereal

1.024

Chocolate, sugar-free

1.001

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2006

Cooking appears to increase the antioxidant potential of most foods, with the exception of grains such as rice, pasta, and corn grits, which show lower levels after cooking.

The researchers were careful not to claim that eating foods at the top of the list will keep you healthy. Instead, they believe that rating the antioxidant potential of different foods could help test whether antioxidants really do prevent disease. In the meantime, the list toppers are healthy foods, so don’t hesitate to dig in.

For more information on antioxidant-rich foods, order our Special Health Report, The Benefits and Risks of Vitamins and Minerals, at www.health.harvard.edu/VM.

9 ways to protect your heart from diabetes

Diabetes and heart disease often go hand in hand. Here’s how you can uncouple them.

Diabetes and heart disease were once thought to be entirely unrelated disorders. New thinking suggests that they may actually spring from the same underlying cause — chronic, systemwide inflammation — or at least be influenced by it. This intertwining is a bad thing, since developing diabetes usually means developing heart disease as well. It also has a silver lining: Protecting yourself against one of these chronic conditions works against the other, too.

More than one million Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year. Traditionally, up to 80% of people with diabetes develop some form of cardiovascular disease, from heart attack and stroke to peripheral artery disease and heart failure.

The connection between the two diseases isn’t ironclad. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have joined forces to fight both heart disease and diabetes. Their latest effort focuses on helping people with diabetes whose hearts seem healthy keep them that way.

As you scan the tips below, remember that almost every recommendation is good for diabetes as well as heart disease.

1. Know your risk

Goal: Knowledge is power. Calculate your risk of heart disease, or ask your doctor to do it.
Getting there: The Framingham calculator is a general heart disease–risk estimator. Specific ones for people with diabetes have been developed by two diabetes groups.

2. Exercise

Goal: Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (like walking) or 90 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Getting there: If you do just one thing on this list, choose exercise. It is a key to controlling blood sugar, strengthens the heart and lungs, improves blood pressure, corrects out-of-whack cholesterol, and has other beneficial effects.

3. Control your weight

Goal: If your weight is in the healthy range, work to keep it there. If you are overweight, try to lose 5% to 7% of your weight over the next 12 months. (That’s about a pound a month for someone weighing 200 pounds.)
Getting there: Cutting out just one 12-ounce can of sugared soda a day (150 calories) is enough to help you lose a pound a month. You can easily double that by burning more calories with exercise.

4. Improve your diet

Goals:

  • Cut back on unhealthy fats: Lower saturated fat to under 7% of calories (about 17 grams), and keep trans fat intake as close to zero as possible.
  • Add more unsaturated fats from fish, grains, and vegetable oils.
  • Include at least 30 grams of fiber a day.
  • Watch the salt — reduce your intake to under 2,500 milligrams a day.
  • Choose whole grains and other slowly digested carbohydrates.

Getting there: The foods you eat can help you control blood sugar and protect your arteries. The main strategy is to get more fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and vegetable oils (especially olive oil), and less fast food, salty or fried food, and rapidly digested carbohydrates. There is no one-size-fits-all “diabetes diet.” The American Diabetes Association released a comprehensive set of nutrition recommendations in January 2007. But rather than trying to wade through these, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist.

5. Lower your blood pressure

Goal: A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or below. If you have high blood pressure, aim for a systolic pressure of 130 or lower and a diastolic pressure of 80 or lower.
Getting there: Measure your blood pressure often; home monitors are a good investment. If it is above the goal, try exercise, the DASH diet, and, if needed, weight loss, smoking cessation, or medications.

6. Control your cholesterol

Goal: Aim for and LDL under 100 mg/dL, an HDL above 40 mg/dL, and triglycerides under 150 mg/dL.
Getting there: A healthful diet and exercise can do a lot to reverse risky lipid levels. A cholesterol-lowering statin can help protect against heart attack and stroke even when LDL levels are near the recommended goal. Niacin or a fibrate can improve HDL and triglyceride levels.

7. Quit smoking

Goal: If you smoke, try to stop. Avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.
Getting there: The most effective quitting strategy includes talk therapy plus nicotine replacement therapy along with drugs such as bupropion (generic, Wellbutrin, Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix).

8. Control your blood sugar

Goal: Aim for hemoglobin A1c to be at least under 7% and, ideally, as close to 6% as possible without causing bouts of low blood sugar.
Getting there: Managing carbohydrate intake and switching to whole grains can help ease the blood sugar roller coaster. Exercise is vitally important. Use medications such as metformin, thiazolidinediones, and insulin as needed.

9. Prevent clots

Goal: Take a low-dose aspirin (75–162 milligrams) every day unless your doctor tells you not to.
Getting there: Aspirin prevents platelets from latching onto each other, an early step in clot formation. Preventing clots helps prevent heart attack and stroke.

For more information on controlling diabetes, order the Special Health Report, Healthy Eating for Type 2 Diabetes, at www.health.harvard.edu/HED.