Growth Hormone, Aging, and Disease

The following post will be fairly speculative, so view it as a researched opinion piece. This post may have its inaccuracies and will evolve as I continue to research this topic. Herein I will be proposing some of my views on growth hormone and its downstream protein IGF-1 with particular respect to its role in aging and longevity. Continue reading

Magnesium, Heart Attacks, and Electrolytes

Magnesium appears to be an incredibly popular nutrient amongst many in the nutrition community. It’s nearly unfettered acclaim is almost odd, given that for nearly every food or nutrient there seems to be some group, however small, that disputes what the majority believes its health effects to be. Surely magnesium produces profound improvements to insulin sensitivity and, to some degree, brings about other health benefits. Magnesium is even one of the few supplements I take from time to time. However, is magnesium’s good reputation truly without reproach?

Today let’s look at a study from 1993:

Galløe AM, Rasmussen HS, Jørgensen LN, Aurup P, Balsløv S, Cintin C, Graudal N, McNair P. Influence of oral magnesium supplementation on cardiac events among survivors of an acute myocardial infarction. BMJ. 1993 Sep 4;307(6904):585-7.

This is one of the few long term studies on oral magnesium. 468 heart attack survivors were given either 360 mg of magnesium or a placebo for one year. Did this mineral help prevent future heart problems?

No. In fact, although not statistically significant, those taking the magnesium supplement had roughly 30-40% more heart attacks and about 40-50% more “cardiac events”.

The question is, why? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I think an imbalance of electrolytes (magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium, etc.) can be problematic. I hope to explore this in the future.

Changing Up This Blog (Also Niacin, LDL, and Atherosclerosis)

This blog doesn’t get much activity these days, so I’ve decided to use it to post about studies I find interesting. These will be brief and not very in depth. First up, a clinical trial published in the NEJM in 2009:

Taylor AJ, Villines TC, Stanek EJ, Devine PJ, Griffen L, Miller M, Weissman NJ, Turco M. Extended-release niacin or ezetimibe and carotid intima-media thickness. N Engl J Med. 2009 Nov 26;361(22):2113-22.

This study looked at atherosclerosis progression in 200 people (mostly men) with low LDL (below 100; all were taking a statin) and low HDL (below 50-55). These subjects either had heart disease or were at a high risk of it. Subjects were given one of two drugs: niacin (technically vitamin B3 btw) or ezetimibe. The former is known to lower triglycerides, raise HDL, and slightly lower LDL while the latter is known only to lower LDL. Sure enough, this is pretty much what these compounds did:

Picture 8

So what was the effect on atherosclerosis?

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Ezetimibe produced no significant effect on artery thickness (which could be good—for all we know without this drug atherosclerosis would worsened rather than stayed constant). Meanwhile, the niacin user saw a net regression, meaning they saw an apparent reversal of atherosclerosis. Cool stuff. If this study is to be believed it provides evidence that lowering LDL isn’t all their is to reversing plaque build up int he arteries. Lower triglycerides and higher HDL may be important as well.

Why Whole Grains are Not a Healthier Alternative to Refined Grains

“Eat your damn whole grains!” If you’ve ever known a nutritionist, there’s a pretty good chance they might utter some variation of this advice. Whole grains, they say, are so much better than those nutrient depleted refined grains because the whole grain is full of vitamins and minerals which are removed during the refining process. Continue reading

Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids Still May Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Recently a meta analysis of omega-3 studies concluded “omega-3 PUFA supplementation was not associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, myocardial infarction, or stroke based on relative and absolute measures of association” (18). News outlets reported on this study and the public opinion of fish fat as a beneficial compound for preventing cardiovascular disease likely suffered. I won’t get into my problem with meta analysis studies like this (or this one in particular), but I will say I think there is convincing evidence that omega-3’s will reduce the risk of CVD. Continue reading

Why Consumption of Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fat Should Not Be Recommended as a Dietary Strategy to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Vegetable oils are often recommended as a heart healthy replacement for saturated fat in the diet. A 2011 a report by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion concluded: “The evidence shows that a decrease in (saturated fat) equivalent to 5 percent of calories, replaced by (polyunsaturated fat)…decreases risk of CVD”. This view, based on epidemiological evidence, is particularly perplexing given the existence of a superior form of evidence, randomized controlled trials, which have not only evaluated this very subject but also frequently contradicted the quote above. Continue reading

Monounsaturated Fat Versus Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fat: Nutrition Cage Match

To my knowledge there exist no controlled dietary trials lasting long enough for us to know how replacing monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, canola oil) with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (e.g. corn oil, sunflower oil) affects death from and incidence of various diseases. C’mon researchers, get on that!

In the meantime, if we want to try and figure out which types of fat is healthier, we need to look at controlled trials which measured various health markers suggestive of disease risk. I went on a mad search for controlled trials on humans comparing the effects of monounsaturated fat and omega-6 (or n6) polyunsaturated fat on such markers. Here’s what I found:

Continue reading

Saturated Fats and Omega-6 Rich Vegetable Oils on Risk of Death

I care about my health. And one important consideration when discussing health is death; dying really puts a damper on good health. So when I go to the grocery store and see a bottle of vegetable oil proudly stamped with a sticker about how healthy it is I wonder “Is that true?”. And when I read in a magazine about evil saturated fats I sometimes ask myself “Would replacing my butter and beef fat with corn and soybean oil reduce my chances of dying?”

Of course, extensive personal experience tells me that I would feel much crappier consuming the vegetable oils, but hey, maybe I would live longer?

I decided to examine long term controlled trials who’s only variable was pitting saturated fat against polyunsaturated fat (primarily the omega-6 variety found in vegetable oils). Let’s see what happened to mortality rates, shall we? Continue reading