Plaque Rupturing Cholesterol

Last October, Dr. Jung San Huang of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine determined that cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis; i.e. artery plaque. Reuters was on it:
Cholesterol is known to promote plaque build-up in blood vessels, which raises the risk of heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems. Now, new research suggests that cholesterol does this by reducing the activity of a chemical called transforming growth factor (TGF-beta).


"The finding that cholesterol causes atherosclerosis (plaques) by attenuating TGF-beta responsiveness in...cells could lead to the development of novel and effective therapies for atherosclerosis," senior investigator Dr. Jung San Huang told Reuters Health.
I know, not exactly new news, but important nonetheless. Now, get this. New research claims that total cholesterol is linked to the risk of plaque rupture. More from Reuters:
In individuals without symptoms who have thickened walls of the carotid arteries, two major arteries located on each side of the neck that provide blood and oxygen to the brain, the total blood levels of cholesterol are strongly associated with the presence a lipid, or fat-based," core within plaque, which have a vulnerability to rupture, researchers report.


"We know that a lipid core, made up of fatty dead tissue deposits, within an atherosclerotic plaque puts the plaque at risk for causing an adverse clinical event, such as a stroke if the plaque is in the carotid artery or a heart attack if the plaque is in the coronary artery," lead investigator Dr. Bruce A. Wasserman told Reuters Health.

To identify factors associated with a lipid core, Wasserman of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues examined subjects taking part in a study of atherosclerosis, also referred to as hardening of the arteries. All of the subjects were free of cardiovascular disease and were among participants with the thickest carotid artery walls, as determined by ultrasound.
Okay, here’s a no-brainer—lower cholesterol! Not sure how? Dr. Fuhrman offers up some advice for getting your cholesterol down. Check it out:
A vegetable, fruit, nut, and bean-based diet has been shown to be the most effective cholesterol-lowering dietary approach in medical history. This newsworthy data with the potential to save millions of lives has been ignored by the mass media. With this dietary approach, most patients drop their total cholesterol below 150 and LDL below 100, without the need for medications. In areas of the world where people eat a diet of unrefined plant foods, people have total cholesterol levels below 150, and there is zero incidence of heart disease in the population1…


…The dietary program I recommend for heart-disease reversal utilizes natural cholesterol-lowering therapies instead of drugs, which eliminates the risks of drug side effects. And because my dietary program is richer in fiber and nutrients than the typical vegetarian diet, my patients achieve spectacular reductions in cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure. Fortunately, this approach also can help those who already have heart disease. They can avoid future heart attacks and reverse and remove atherosclerosis.
And trust me, not only is Dr. Fuhrman’s approach effective—it’s delicious! Oh, and for more on cholesterol, don’t forget about Wednesday’s post Low Cholesterol and Cancer-Risk.
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Low Cholesterol and Cancer-Risk

“Low cholesterol as a result of eating healthfully does NOT place one at higher risk of cancer,” exclaims Dr. Fuhrman in response to a recent Reuters report that low cholesterol has been linked to stomach cancer-risk. From the report:
Some studies have linked low cholesterol levels to higher death rates from cancer in general, Dr. Kouichi Asano, of Kyushu University, Fukuoka, and colleagues explain in the International Journal of Cancer. "With respect to gastric cancer, a limited number of studies suggest this inverse association, while others do not."


The researcher looked into this in a study involving some 2,600 residents of Hisayama, Japan, who were followed for 14 years.

Gastric cancers developed in 97 subjects. After accounting for age and gender, stomach cancer rates rose significantly with descending cholesterol level. For example, among subjects with the highest cholesterol levels, the gastric cancer rate was the equivalent of 2.1 cases per 1000 persons per year; among those with the lowest cholesterol, the rate was 3.9 per 1000 person-years.
I talked to Dr. Fuhrman at length about this study and he thinks it’s a bunch of hooey. He goes on to explains why you shouldn’t worry about low cholesterol and cancer if you’re consuming a superior diet. Take a look:
Low cholesterol levels around the world in healthy populations are linked lower rates of all cancers and that was confirmed in the China-Oxford-Cornell Study. That means if you eat a cardio-protective diet that earns you a low cholesterol level. That is indicative of a lower risk and protection against multiple cancers.


Cancer is a disease with a slow doubling time. It is in the body on the average of 8-12 years prior to diagnosis in the U.S. and 12-18 years prior to diagnosis in areas without modern screening and detection. Having cancer and having cancer even when it is not yet diagnosed lowers cholesterol levels. Having very low cholesterol, on a diet that you would expect to generate a high-cholesterol, is suspicious and it could potentially be a sign of an undiagnosed or early cancer.
Take my cholesterol numbers for example:


I’m not worried about getting cancer from low cholesterol—are you?

Super-Size that Organ Damage

If you ever see me eating fast-food, odds are I’ve got a gun pointed to my head. A quick burger and fries is a bad idea, and now, a new study has determined that fast food can stress the liver. ABC News reports:
In a new study, 18 slim, healthy Swedish men and women took on a fast food diet, eating meals from popular chains twice a day for four weeks while refraining from exercise.


At the end of the experiment, blood tests showed evidence that the subjects eating fast food had liver damage. They also had gained an average of 16 pounds.

The subjects were eating "an outrageously high amount" of calories, said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Ayoob said the calorie intake was almost double the average daily caloric intake of most Americans, which is about 2,700 calories.

Studies have shown that a diet high in fat and calories — the magic recipe for delicious, greasy fast food — puts people at greater risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which can lead to cardiovascular diseases and heart failure.
How can a boardroom of fast-food executives live with themselves? I guess they just call the tobacco execs for support.

Health Points: Friday

A recent review of scientific research suggests cranberries may offer a natural defense against the development of this dangerous disease. Researchers feel that many of these results are due to the fact that cranberries contain a greater concentration of antioxidants than other commonly consumed fruit and that these nutrients may be working together to offer even greater benefits.

The report conducted at Tufts University, and published in Nutrition Reviews, found that cranberries offered a range of different benefits that work to promote cardiovascular health. These benefits include effects on cholesterol as well as on blood pressure and the development of blood clots, all established risk factors for heart disease.
One in five of all male deaths and one in 20 of all female deaths between the ages of 30 and 69 will be caused by smoking, said the study, conducted by a team of doctors and scientists from India, Canada and Britain and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


"The results we found surprised us, because smokers in India start later in life and smoke fewer cigarettes or 'bidis' than those in Europe or America, but the risks are as extreme as in the West," said Prabhat Jha of the Center for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto, the lead author of the study.
On average, the students gained 14 pounds, added 2.6 inches to their waistline, and padded their body fat percentage by 3.7% during the study.


Blood samples provided by the students throughout the study show a spike in levels of the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase (ALT). ALT levels rose quickly -- typically within a week -- after the students started the fast-food diet.
Tuna is one of those annoying pregnancy foods that might be really, really good or really, really bad for the baby.


Instead of driving yourself crazy (like I did!) trying to guess the proper amount to ingest without putting increasing your mercury level to the point of now return, you can use the handy dandy Tuna Calculator that will give you a suggested weekly serving based on your weight.
PCC Natural Markets is prohibiting suppliers from using cloned animal products in their food. It also wants them to disclose where ingredients are from and what they mean by terms such as "natural flavors."


These moves come months after the Seattle chain eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from its eight stores and began identifying the countries of origin for its meat, seafood, peanuts and fresh and frozen produce.
According to the research, red wine and alcohol consumption were found to have virtually identical impact on health, with one drink of either substance helping to reduce the work rate of the heart.


The findings, which are published in the February edition of the American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology, could challenge the perception that polyphenol content of red wine is responsible for cardiovascular benefits.

Red wine has been linked to extended survival rates of mice and prevented the negative effects of high-calorie diets, in other testing, due to the presence of the polyphenol, resveratrol.
"You're in a dark, gloomy place," said Bruce Hollis, a leading vitamin D researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina. "In the winter, you could stand outside naked for five hours and nothing is going to happen."


Increased use of sunscreen has turned a seasonal shortfall into a year-round condition for many people. A recent survey in Britain found 87 percent of adults tested during winter, and more than 60 percent in summer, had subpar vitamin D levels. Doctors in many parts of the world — including California — report a resurgence of childhood rickets, soft bones caused by lack of vitamin D.
Tobacco giants Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco actively collude with cigarette smugglers to gain a foothold in lucrative developing markets, campaigners alleged on Wednesday.


"Transnationals benefit in a number of ways from the illicit trade in tobacco," said Kathyrn Mulvey, director of international policy with the lobby group Corporate Accountability International (CAI).

Food Scoring Guide: Weight Loss and Cholesterol

When you drop body fat, your cholesterol lowers somewhat. But when you reduce animal protein intake and increase vegetable protein intake, your cholesterol lowers dramatically. In fact, when a high-fiber, high-nutrient, vegetable-heavy diet was tested in a scientific investigation, it was found to lower cholesterol even more than most cholesterol-lowering drugs.1 As you eat more vegetables and fewer animal products, the nutrient density of your diet will go up automatically. Vegetables not only contain adequate protein, they have no saturated fat or cholesterol, and they are higher in nutrients per calorie than any other food. You can achieve your ideal weight and slow the aging process with a high phytochemical intake. So eat more vegetables!

The cholesterol-lowering effects of vegetables and beans (high-protein foods) are without question. However, they contain an assortment of additional heart disease-fighting nutrients independent of their ability to lower cholesterol.2 They fight cancer, too. Cancer incidence worldwide has an inverse relation with fruit and vegetable intake.3 If you increase your intake 80%, the risk of getting cancer drops 80%.
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Congress onto Jarvick-Lipitor Ad Deal

Here’s more on the congressional investigation into Lipitor’s advertising campaign featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik; pioneer of the artificial heart. Stephanie Saul of The New York Times reports:
The demand for records was made in letters mailed Thursday to nine advertising firms thought to be involved in Dr. Jarvik’s advertising campaign for Lipitor, the cholesterol medication that is the world’s top-selling drug.


The letters from Representatives John D. Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, said the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on oversight and investigations were investigating “false and misleading statements and the use of celebrity endorsements of prescription medications in direct-to-consumer advertising.”

The committee released a copy of Dr. Jarvik’s contract with Lipitor’s maker, Pfizer, revealing that the company agreed to pay Dr. Jarvik, a pioneer in artificial hearts, a minimum of $1,350,000 over two years for serving as celebrity pitchman for Lipitor.
For background on this whole Jarvick-Lipitor mess, check out Jarvik on the Hot Seat. It kicked up a good comment stream. Take a look:
Paige: "For many people like me, diet and exercise aren't enough."


Me: Same here! The other commercials that REALLY annoy me are the Vytorin TV ads, the ones with the family and food. Makes me insane! Grrrrr!
Speaking of Vytorin, Julie Upton, RD of Poked & Prodded is less than impressed by Vytorin’s hard-to-swallow claims. Here’s a bit:
You’ve probably heard about the study that says that the popular cholesterol-lowering drug, Vytorin, might not slow the progression of heart disease.


You probably also know the drug’s annoying ads that go “Cholesterol. It can come from … barbecued ribs and from your Grandma Barbie.… Cholesterol comes from two sources: food and family….”

Soon, however, you may stop seeing those ads, because Vytorin seems to be no better at preventing the buildup of arterial plaque than first-generation statin medications like Lipitor and Zocor or its less expensive generic, simvastatin. The results are making many nervous statin-takers wonder if their medication is actually reducing their odds of developing coronary artery disease.
I often wonder. Who watches these commercials then runs out and asks their doctor to prescribe them—nuts!