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The Power Of A Good Diet In Texas

Aug 17, 2007
A series of recent studies seems to confirm that the foods individuals in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere in Texas put in their mouths has a substantial impact on their health.

Oatmeal is Heart Smart.
It's not the first time oats have been touted as heart healthy, but a new review of recent studies on oats and heart disease risk now back up some of those claims.

The studies stopped short of showing a direct effect of eating oatmeal on reducing heart disease risk or heart-related death, but researchers say they found oatmeal-based foods did produce an overall cholesterol-lowering effect.

People who ate a diet rich in oatmeal and wholegrain oat products experienced a decrease in both total cholesterol and unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Elevated overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels are major risk factors for heart disease.

In the 2007 study, published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, researchers reviewed ten studies on the effects of giving whole-grain foods to adults. Eight of the studies involved whole-grain oats and included a total of 914 adults at risk for heart disease.

When researchers pooled the results of the studies, they found people who ate whole-grain oatmeal had lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared with those who ate refined grain foods. The average reduction in total cholesterol levels was 7.7 mg./dL and the average reduction in LDL cholesterol levels was 7 mg./dL.

Based on these results, researchers say there is evidence on wholegrain oats to suggest that health care professionals could recommend oats as part of a cholesterol-reduction program. But they say more study is needed.

The American Heart Association already recommends whole-grain foods for a heart-healthy diet. According to the association, "The fiber found in unrefined whole-grain foods can help lower your blood cholesterol, which is important in preventing heart disease and stroke."

Mediterranean-Style Diet May Help Individuals Breath Easy
Researchers recently reported that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables and olive oil could help reduce childhood respiratory allergies and asthma. The study of children living on the Greek island of Crete showed that diet may explain why skin allergies are as common as anywhere else, but wheezing and sneezing are rarer.

Britain's Royal Brompton Hospital and National Heart and Lung Institute, as well as researchers in Greece and Spain, studied 690 children aged 7 to 18. Children who ate the most fresh fruits and nuts were the least likely to suffer from breathing allergies, and those who ate the most margarine were the most likely to. Researchers noted that 80 percent of children ate fresh fruit (and 68 percent vegetables) at least twice a day.

Grapes, oranges, apples and fresh tomatoes, the main local products in Crete, had no effect on skin allergies but children who ate more of them were less likely to have wheezing or runny noses, the researchers found. A high consumption of nuts was found to be inversely associated with wheezing, whereas margarine increased the risk of both wheeze and allergic rhinitis (sneezing and runny nose) researchers wrote.

This particular diet may explain the relative lack of allergic symptoms in this population. Researchers noted that grapes had never before been shown to protect against allergies. Compounds found in grape skins, especially antioxidant substances, may be responsible.

Dark Chocolate May Pump Up Your Arteries.
It's dark, indulgent and most individuals in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere in Texas have an insatiable craving for it. But, unfortunately, we all were told that chocolate was bad for us. Well, the tables are turning on chocolate, specifically dark chocolate. A new U.S. study suggests that delicious nibbles of dark chocolate may also boost the function of vital endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels.

Cocoa is rich in flavonoids, a group of antioxidant compounds, which are also found in fruits and vegetables, wine and green tea. Research suggests that consumption of foods rich in flavonoids may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The 2007 study, conducted by researchers at the Yale Prevention Research Center in Connecticut, included 45 healthy people with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 35 kg/m2. The participants were divided into three groups that ate either eight ounces of cocoa without sugar; cocoa with sugar; or a placebo.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI reading of 25-29.9 is an indicator of being overweight, while a reading of 30 or more indicates obesity.

For six weeks, the participants underwent endothelial function testing. This type of testing, called flow mediated dilation (FMD), is done by using high-frequency ultrasound to measure the ability of the brachial artery (which runs from the shoulder to the elbow) to relax and expand in order to accommodate increased blood flow.

The study found that FMD improved significantly, up to 2.4 percent, in the group that consumed cocoa with no sugar, compared with 1.5 percent in the group that ate cocoa with sugar. There was a 0.8 percent decrease in FMD in the group that ate the placebo.

In the group of healthy adults with BMI between 25 and 35 kg/m2, the ingestion of dark chocolate over a short period of time was shown to significantly improve endothelial function. This led the research team to believe that greater benefits may be seen through a long-term, randomized clinical trial.

The researchers also noted that, while the findings from this study do not suggest that people should start eating more chocolate as part of their daily routine, it does suggest that there should be more attention paid to how dark chocolate and other flavonoid-rich foods might offer cardiovascular benefits.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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