Monthly Archives: December 2017

Hard on the Heart: Disease of Depression

While medical experts have long known of the correlation between psychological and physical health, mental illness was not considered a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease—until a recent series of research confirmed that depression may serve as one of the most significant causes of heart problems.

Approximately 350 million people suffer from depression globally, according to data from the World Health Organization. According to new research, the risk of fatal heart disease in men due to depression is almost the same as the risk from elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, and smoking.  The findings further pointed to a greater need for heart health screenings among patients with depression, in addition to mental health checks for patients with cardiovascular disease.

The causality is twofold, as patients with pre-existing heart disease conditions are more likely to become depressed due to their poor health and otherwise healthy people diagnosed with depression are likewise significantly more apt to develop heart disease, compared to the general population. Viewed across the population, depression accounts for roughly 15% of cardiovascular deaths—comparable to the other known risk factors.

A professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Ahmed Tawakol, has conducted extensive research surrounding the connection between stress and heart health, stating that only over the past few decades “has mounting evidence suggested that stress and depression may be more than simple markers of heart disease; they might be important causes.”

While it remains unclear exactly how depression impacts heart health, it is likely that stress hormones play a critical role. Yet leading a healthy lifestyle—including diet, physical activity, managing stress, being smoke-free—is known to be effective in preventing and treating both depression and heart conditions.

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Biomarkers Could Predict Best Diets

A new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has indicated two biomarkers that can predict the efficacy of certain diets for weight loss: specifically, for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

Through an analysis of over 1,200 adults, researchers discovered that a person’s fasting blood glucose levels, fasting insulin levels, or both, could pinpoint which diets would most likely lead to weight loss. These biomarkers were particularly effective in determining which diets were best for people with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Each year, millions of us attempt to lose weight through diets, but not all of us succeed. A new study has uncovered two biomarkers that could predict how effective certain diets will be for weight loss, particularly for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

Statistics from the American Diabetes Association indicate that approximately 29.1 million people in the Untied States have diabetes; estimates show that around 75 million people have pre-diabetes, yet almost 90% remain unaware. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the condition: the body is unable to effectively use the hormone insulin, which causes high blood glucose levels. For people with prediabetes, blood glucose levels remain higher than normal—yet not high enough to lead to a diagnosis of diabetes.

The researchers in the study believe that a person’s fasting blood glucose and insulin levels could be utilized to help identify the most effective diet for weight loss, after analyzing the data of three dietary clinical trials: the Diet, Obesity, and Genes trial, the OPUS Supermarket intervention (SHOPUS), and the Nutrient-gene interactions in human obesity (NUGENOB) trial. The subjects were all overweight; the researchers evaluated and assessed their fasting blood glucose levels, and fasting insulin levels, in order to determine whether the levels were associated with weight loss in response to certain diets.

These results symbolize a kind of breakthrough in personalized nutrition: among adults with prediabetes, the team found that a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits was the most effective for weight loss. For example, in the SHOPUS trial, adults with prediabetes who followed a diet high in the aforementioned foods lost more weight than those who followed a controlled diet. For people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that a diet rich in plant-based, “healthy” fats, and low in carbohydrates, was most effective for weight loss.

The team reported that adding participants’ fasting insulin levels to the analysis further strengthened the identified correlations between diet and weight loss, confirming the hypothesis that fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels may be biomarkers for weight loss.

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Type 2 Diabetes & A Rigorous Diet

Some people with Type 2 diabetes were able to put the disease in remission without medication by following a rigorous diet plan, according to a study published today in The Lancet medical journal.

“Our findings suggest that even if you have had Type 2 diabetes for six years, putting the disease into remission is feasible,” Michael Lean, a professor from the University of Glasgow in Scotland who co-led the study, said in a statement.

The researchers looked at 149 participants who have had Type 2 diabetes for up to six years and monitored them closely as they underwent a liquid diet that provided only 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months. The participants were then reintroduced to solid food and maintained a structured diet until the end of the yearlong study.

The researchers found that almost half of the participants (68 total) were able to put their diabetes in remission without the use of medication after one year. In addition, those who undertook the study also lost an average of more than 20 pounds. Thirty-two of the 149 participants in the study, however, dropped out of the program.

The study comes at a time when more than 100 million American adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a report released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes was defined by the CDC as a condition that if not treated often leads to Type 2 diabetes within five years. In addition, approximately 90 to 95 percent of the more than 30 million Americans living with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.

Roy Taylor, a professor at Newcastle University in the U.K. who co-led the study said in a statement announcing the findings that the impact that diet and lifestyle has on diabetes are “rarely discussed.”

“Rather than addressing the root cause, management guidelines for Type 2 diabetes focus on reducing blood sugar levels through drug treatments. Diet and lifestyle are touched upon but diabetes remission by cutting calories is rarely discussed,” Taylor said. He added that the participants were not asked to increase their physical activity at all, but only asked to modify their diet.

“A major difference from other studies is that we advised a period of dietary weight loss with no increase in physical activity, but during the long-term follow up increased daily activity is important,” Taylor said.

Taylor also wrote that the study offered a more universal approach to reversing diabetes compared to undergoing bariatric surgery, which can achieve Type 2 diabetes remission for some people, but “is more expensive and risky, and is only available to a small number of patients.”

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