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What Hair Reveals About the Heart
April 2011

Your Locks can Say a Lothair

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario are the first to use a biological marker in human hair to provide direct evidence that chronic stress plays an important role in causing heart attacks. In the past, chronic stressors such as job, marital and financial problems, have all been linked to an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and heart attack, but until now there hasn’t been a biological marker to measure the major risk factors.

“Intuitively, we know stress is not good for you, but it’s not easy to measure,” explains Dr. Gideon Koren, who holds the Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. “We know that on average, hair grows one centimeter a month, so if we take a hair sample six centimeters long, we can determine stress levels for six months by measuring the cortisol level in the hair.”

Cortisol is widely considered to be the main stress hormone, because stress activates its secretion. Traditionally, it’s been measured in blood serum, urine and saliva, but that only monitors stress at the time of measurement, not over longer periods of time.

In the study, hair samples three centimeters long, corresponding to about three months of hair growth, were collected from hospitalized patients who had suffered a heart attack, and then compared with hair samples from other patients. The heart attack patients were found to have significantly higher levels of cortisol in their hair, compared to the control group. This finding provides a new, non-invasive way of testing a patient’s risk.

 
Sweet Medicine
March 2011

The Pure Benefits of Real Maple Syrup

MapleSyrupBefore digging into that next stack of French toast or waffles, pour on some real, pure maple syrup. New research attests to its surprising medicinal value.

Scientists at The University of Rhode Island have identified more than 20 compounds in Canadian maple syrup that can be linked to human health—eight of which have been found in the maple family for the first time. It turns out that the syrup contains not only many naturally occurring vitamins and minerals such as zinc, thiamine and calcium, but also substances reported to have anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties.

Maple syrup is made from the sap located just inside the bark of the sugar maple tree, which is constantly exposed to the sun. Scientists speculate that when the sugar maple is tapped to extract the sap, it secretes phenolics—a beneficial class of antioxidants also found in berries—as a defense mechanism; these wind up in the sap and ultimately concentrate in the syrup, giving this sugary treat its stamp of health.

 
The Sticky Side of Non-Stick Cookware
March 2011

Get Unstuck to Reduce Your Cholesterol

NonStickPanCompounds in non-stick cookware may be associated with elevated levels of cholesterol in children and teens, according to West Virginia University School of Medicine research published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

An earlier national survey had found a near universal presence of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFOA) in Americans’ blood serum; these chemicals are used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which facilitate non-stick heat resistance for cookware and breathable, waterproof properties for clothing fabrics, carpet and upholstery.

In the university study, which examined 12,476 Ohio River Valley youth exposed to PFOA-contaminated drinking water, one in five not only had significantly higher PFOA levels than the national average, but relatively higher total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad” cholesterol, as well. More research is needed.


Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

 
Why Sugar Isn’t So Sweet
March 2011

Sour News for Your Heart

SugarWe can likely cut the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by cutting down on the added sugars used in many processed and prepared meals, suggests a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data. The food industry often defines such added sugars as sweeteners—foods that provide energy, but have few micronutrients or phytochemicals—which is why aware consumers read labels.

In recent decades, total sugar consumption in the United States has increased substantially, resulting in higher risk for cardiovascular disease due to associated lower levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, and higher levels of triglycerides. Today, the average U.S. daily consumption of added sugars averages 3.2 ounces, or about 18 teaspoons, which represents 15.8 percent of total adult caloric intake. This is a substantial increase from the late 1970s, when added sugars contributed only 10.6 percent of the calories consumed by adults. This study is the first to examine the direct link between sugar consumption and its impact on cholesterol and heart disease.

 
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