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The Skinny on Whole Grains

"Whole grains" may not be whole!

A meta-analysis of studies conducted between 1965 and 2010 in humans strongly suggests that the consumption of foods rich in cereal fiber or mixtures of whole grains reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, the term "whole grain" may refer to any mixture of bran, endosperm and germ one would expect in an intact grain. These grains are often processed (refined) before being incorporated into foods and have lower fiber and nutrient levels.

PositiveTip: When looking for healthy grain products, make sure they are high in fiber, or are made from intact grains.

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High Supplemental Calcium Dangerous?

Ca supplements increased risk of CVD in men.

Many older adults take calcium supplements to improve bone health. The AARP Diet and Health Study with 390,000 older adults assessed calcium supplements, calcium-containing antacids and multivitamins at baseline. About 50% of men and 70% of women supplemented calcium, and the average dietary intake of calcium for both was 700 mg. During 12 years of follow-up men who supplemented at least 1000 mg of calcium daily experienced 20% higher risk for cardiovascular disease than those who did not supplement. This increase was not found in women.

PositiveTip: Men and women should eat a healthful diet of calcium-containing vegetables, legumes and low-fat dairy products( if they choose) rather than supplements.

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Multivitamin Supplements No Benefit to CVD Risk

Myocardial infarction, stroke, and death not affected by multivitamin supplements.

A randomized controlled study involving almost 15,000 male physicians over a median period of 11 years found no difference between those taking commercial daily multivitamins and the placebo group.

PositiveTip: Choosing foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, is still the best way of meeting nutrient needs.

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Today's Healthy Habits Pay Off in the Future

Middle age healthy living reaps benefits in later years.

Making healthful choices in middle age may add almost 14 years of heart attack free living in old age, compared to those who have at least two major risk factors at age 45. Risk factors include sedentary living, diabetes, smoking, hypertension and high cholesterol and triglycerides--or a combination of these. Researchers noted that even those with optimal risk factors are not guaranteed a life free of CVD, but the probability is much greater.

PositiveTip: The healthful choices you make today may benefit you years in the future.

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Early Smoking Shortens Life

Cigarette smoking started in early life significantly increases mortality.

Even though the significant negative health effects of cigarette smoking are well known, smoking rates in young people continue to rise. Analysis of data from the Harvard University Alumni Study found that men who reported smoking at age 18 experienced a 30% increase in all-cause mortality (P<0.001). Deaths from smoking-related cancers increased by 91% in these same men (P<0.001). Quitting smoking lowered risks significantly over those who continued.

PositiveTip: Do all you can to encourage young people to never start smoking.

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Value of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Questioned

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation found of no benefit in diabetics.

Many people take omega-3 fatty acid supplements hoping to reduce their risk of adverse cardiovascular events. However, recent research suggests that these supplements may have little value. A group of 12,500 well-controlled diabetic patients who received 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid or a placebo demonstrated no differences after 6 years of follow-up. These findings are consistent with a meta-analysis of patients, with or without diabetes, showing no benefit to supplementation.

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Dark Chocolate and Heart Disease

Dark chocolate can help prevent cardiovascular disease! Really?

Did the recent news that dark chocolate might help prevent cardiovascular events have you running to the candy shop? This Austrailian study is a "best case scenario" based on statistical prediction modeling that assumed 100% compliance. While these sweet findings are very intriguing, they are limited by the assumption that the benefits of chocolate extend to 10 years, when these have only been observed in short-term trials.

PositiveTip: Before you indulge your dark chocolate sweet-tooth in seeking to prevent heart disease, think carefully.

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Overweight Fueling Teen Heart Disease Risk

Teens today at higher risk for heart disease.

Excess weight is fueling a doubling of the number of teens over the last decade considered prediabetic or diabetic. This is a jump from 9% in 1999 to 23% in 2008. Almost half of overweight teens and more than 60% of obese teens had one or more cardiovascular risk factors--high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), high blood pressure and diabetes.

PositiveTip: Parents, do all you can to support healthy eating patterns and an active lifestyle for your teens, and preteens.

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Air Pollution Risks

Long-term exposure to fine particle air pollution increases hospitalizations for the elderly.

Using satellite data and ground measurements, researchers in New England have shown that the elderly are at increased risk for hospitalization after long-term exposure to fine particle air pollution. For each 10 µg/m3 increase in long-term exposure to particulates measuring <2.5 microns, there was a 3.12% increase in cardiovascular disease, 3.49% increase in stroke, and 6.33% increase in diabetes. The authors noted potential mechanisms for these findings, but indicated that a lack of data on individual confounders was a limitation.

PositiveTip: When possible, avoid long-term exposure to air pollution, and consistently make healthy choices in other areas of life.

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Junk Foods or Pathogens?

Should foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat be called "pathogens"?

Canadian researchers have suggested high-calorie foods once considered "treats" be renamed "pathogens" because they are so readily available around the clock. Dietary patterns high in these sugary and salty foods are associated with hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These authors believe that "junk food" is too mild a term for these deadly delights, and take the government to task for inadequate regulation of these products.

PositiveTip: How many of these "pathogens" do you include in your diet? Think honestly!