Monday 31 March 2014

Cardiovascular Disease and Vitamin D

Some people believe that cardiovascular disease is caused by dietary cholesterol. Scientific evidence does not support this viewpoint and it is therefore a belief (like Santa Claus). While belief in a magic cholesterol fairy is enough to satisfy the curiosity of some, other may require more solid evidence for their nutritional edification. For these people the recent evidence linking low intakes of vitamin D to increased cardiovascular risk might be of interest.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone. Vitamin D can be created in the skin of humans via the action of ultraviolet light or consumed in the diet. This vitamin D is then converted to its active forms, 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the liver and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D in the kidney. These active forms of vitamin D then enter cells were they interact with the vitamin D receptors in the nucleus, and this alters gene regulation that elicits cellular changes.

Vitamin D And Calcium

One of the functions of vitamin D is to increase calcium absorption from the intestine. In this regard, vitamin D increases blood calcium levels. Deficiencies of dietary vitamin D and low levels of sunlight exposure cause reductions in vitamin D, and this reduces calcium absorption. As plasma levels of calcium fall, cellular levels of calcium rise due to a compensatory outflow of calcium from bone. This shift in calcium metabolism is called the calcium paradox disease.

The Calcium Paradox Disease

The calcium paradox disease is problematic because the high concentrations of cellular calcium cause increases in blood pressure, and may also be a causative factor in the development of insulin resistance. The metabolic syndrome is characterised by insulin resistance, particularly in the liver. High blood pressure accompanies many of the metabolic changes that are seen the metabolic syndrome, the development of which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Calcitonin Link

Calcitonin is a hormone that is release when plasma calcium levels rise. The function of calcitonin is to lower elevated blood calcium levels. However, calcitonin may also be a satiety signal, and this may explain the inverse association between calcium intake and body weight. As body weight is associated with cardiovascular disease, low intakes of calcium may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease via the calcitonin hyperphagia link.

How Much Vitamin D?

If you are exposed to sunlight of high intensity daily, you do not need dietary vitamin D. Those who live at high latitudes or cannot access intense sunlight however, must rely on dietary vitamin D for health. The problem is that the amount of vitamin D in most foods is generally low, and food with high concentrations of vitamin D are not commonly eaten. Supplements are therefore likely necessary, and up to 2000 IU per day in adults is now recommended in the absence of sunlight.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Olive Oil For The Heart

Regular consumption of the modern Western diet is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Whereas those who consume traditional diets are protected from circulatory problems. The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of the indigenous people of the Mediterranean areas of Southern Italy, France and Greece. This diet has been extensively studied and evidence suggests that it is particularly cardioprotective.

Olive Oil

Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. One component of the Mediterranean diet that is thought to provide at least some of this protection is olive oil. Studies show that olive oil can lower blood cholesterol levels by around 10 %, and in particular, can cause reductions in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and lipoprotein(a), two of the lipoproteins associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Regular consumption of the modern Western diet is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Whereas those who consume traditional diets are protected from circulatory problems. The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of the indigenous people of the Mediterranean areas of Southern Italy, France and Greece. This diet has been extensively studied and evidence suggests that it is particularly cardioprotective.

Olive Oil

Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. One component of the Mediterranean diet that is thought to provide at least some of this protection is olive oil. Studies show that olive oil can lower blood cholesterol levels by around 10 %, and in particular, can cause reductions in low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and lipoprotein(a), two of the lipoproteins associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Traditionally olive oil is made by simply mechanically pressing the olives and extracting the oil that drips off. This unfiltered, unprocessed ‘extra virgin’ oil contains small particles of olives. This olive particulate mixture is beneficial because olives contain powerful plant antioxidants. These antioxidants prevent oxidative stress in humans, and this in turn protects the artery linings from the development of endothelial dysfunction.

Filtered Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Most of the extra virgin olive oil that is available commercially is filtered. In this process the oil is still machine pressed to extract the oil, but them the larger particles of olive are removed by filtration. This removes some of the antioxidants from the oil, and although it is still beneficial, it is not as beneficial as unfiltered varieties. Without the olive particles olive oil has no health properties whatsoever and is just like any other monounsaturated oil.

Refined Olive Oil

Because mechanical pressing is inefficient, manufacturers of oil have found a way to increase the oil yield by using high temperature, pressures and solvents to extract the oil from the olives. In this process the fatty acids in the oils are often damaged and changed structurally. Removal of all of the antioxidants is also part of this process as this produces an almost odourless, colourless oil that is commercially more profitable.

Refined Olive Oil And Health

While extra virgin (mechanically pressed) olive oil, be it filtered or unfiltered, is beneficial to the health, the refined variant is not. Regular consumption of any refined deodorised oil is harmful to the health and may significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. For this reason, only olive oils that states ‘extra virgin’ on the label, and which has been extracted only my mechanical press should be considered as part of a healthy diet.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Glucosamine: Anti-inflammatory and Cardioprotectant?

The theory that cholesterol and saturated fat are the cause of cardiovascular disease has been pretty much demolished by scientific observation. Anecdotal reports and logical deduction also suggest that those that eat cholesterol and saturated fat freely do not develop the disease. Therefore some other factor is the likely cause of cardiovascular disease. Rather than focus on individual dietary components, more recent studies have investigated diets as a whole.

Western Diets

The Western diet is characterised by low quality foods. Processed meat, refined cereal grains, instant breakfast cereals, sugar and trans fatty acids, with foods cooked at high temperatures and pressures, typify the Western diet. These foods are thought to cause nutrient overload in the liver, and as a result metabolic dysfunction develops. The end result of this process is abdominal obesity, which is just an outward manifestation of an inward metabolic problem.

Systemic Inflammation

Accumulation of abdominal fat is a characteristic of the metabolic syndrome. As fat accumulates in and around vital organs in the abdominal cavity, particularly the liver, immune cells invade the tissue. The immune cells release cytokines, and these chemicals create an environment of systemic inflammation. Cardiovascular disease is now thought to possibly be a disease of systemic inflammation, caused by metabolic dysfunction.

Oxidative Stress

Chronic systemic inflammation increases oxidative stress by causing the production of free radicals. As free radicals accumulate, at first they are neutralised by antioxidants. However, as antioxidant defences become depleted, free radicals damage tissues and cells. If these tissues and cells are part of the endothelium of the artery walls, endothelial dysfunction can develop. This leads to high blood pressure and modified blood flow characteristics.


It is known that antioxidants are able to protect from cardiovascular disease. This is because dietary antioxidants prevent the depletion of antioxidant defences and protect from endothelial dysfunction. However, what about anti-inflammatories? Well, it appears that anti-inflammatories may also have beneficial effects against cardiovascular disease. This likely relates to their ability to inhibit the systemic inflammation and thereby inhibit oxidative stress.


Glucosamine is best known for its ability to treat and prevent joint pain. This is partly because glucosamine is a building block of cartilage. However, few realise that glucosamine is an effective anti-inflammatory. Studies show that glucosamine is one of the few dietary supplements associated with reduced mortality. This may be because its anti-inflammatory effect srae able to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Friday 28 March 2014

High Fat Diets: Cardioprotective?

High fat diets are diets that contain mainly protein and fat. They exclude carbohydrates almost entirely and as a result they have been demonised by the mainstream medical community. Atkins popularised the high fat diet, but such diets had been in existence well before The New Diet Revolution was published. The fact that high fat diets are cardioprotective is counterintuitive as we are told that saturated fat is the cause of cardiovascular disease.

Early Saturated Fat Research

The evidence that saturated fat is a cause of cardiovascular disease is weak. It was Ancel Keys who popularised the idea that high intakes of saturated fat are a cause of cardiovascular disease. However, his early research has been shown to be fraudulent, as he manipulated the data. Many studies since that time have followed this practice and many of these papers have been discredited for methodological faults.

Saturated Fat And Atherosclerosis

The claim that saturated fat is a cause of cardiovascular disease pivots on two main points. Firstly that saturated fat causes atherosclerosis, and secondly, that atherosclerosis is a cause of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately for proponents of this hypothesis, neither of these things are true. Firstly, there is no evidence to show that saturated fat causes atherosclerosis. Secondly, atheroscleotic individuials do not always suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Eat Fat, Lose Weight

One of the interesting things about high fat diets is that they seem to cause weight loss. This is especially true for those who have found their belly fat particularly stubborn to shift. The reason that high fat diets cause weight loss, is in my opinion, because they exclude sugar and refined carbohydrates. Both fructose and fibreless carbohydrates are implicated as the primary drivers of obesity, and excluding them reverses the metabolic dysfunction that causes weight gain.

Weight Loss Equals Cardioprotection

Because high fat diets cause weight loss they are cardioprotective. Abdominal fat is an outward manifestation of an inward metabolic dysfunction. As abdominal fat and metabolic dysfunction develop, they cause systemic inflammation and this leads to endothelial dysfunction in the arteries of the body, increasing blood pressure. High fat diets, also low sugar diets, reverse abdominal obesity and metabolic dysfunction and so protect from cardiovascular disease.

Saturated Or Trans Fats?

Saturated fats have been blamed as a cause for cardiovascular disease. However, this vilification is not justified. In fact, many of the studies that have implicated saturated fatty acids as a cause of cardiovascular disease, may actually have been measuring, directly or indirectly, another group of fatty acids called trans fats. The trans fats are now suspected to cause cardiovascular disease, a hypothesis supported by many well written scientific studies.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Can Cardiovascular Disease Be Reversed?

The allopathic medical approach to cardiovascular disease is to treat the symptoms. In some respects this is successful at keeping the patient alive, but at the expense of their long term quality of life. In fact, Western medicine has nothing to treat the route cause of cardiovascular disease. The best cardiovascular drugs available to medicine are the statins, which may lower cholesterol levels, but does not significantly improve long term mortality rates.

The Nutritional Approach

The success of mainstream medicine is put to shame by the ability of the nutritional sciences to treat cardiovascular disease. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nutrition scores highly in this regard. Plants provide a veritable cornucopia of compounds that have been shown in scientific studies to prevent cardiovascular disease. But does nature offer anything to reverse the condition once it has developed?


Tocotrienols are a sub-group of vitamin E. They are plant polyphenols that have antioxidant effects in humans. Tocotrienols are able to cause regression of carotid stenosis (a blockage in the carotid artery). The result of this is an increase in blood flow to the heart, which explains the ability of vitamin E to protects from heart attacks.  How tocotrienols can cause regression of arterial plaques is not known, but it is interesting to speculate as to the possible mechanisms of action.

Antioxidants Reverse Endothelial Dysfunction

Tocotrienols are powerful antioxidants in humans. They inhibit the oxidation of fatty acids in cell membranes and this causes a reduction in lipid peroxides. High concentrations of lipid peroxides are harmful to to health. Accumulation of oxidised products such as lipid peroxides decreases the synthesis of nitric oxide in the walls of arteries and this can cause endothelial dysfunction. Antioxidants such as tocotrienols can prevent this process.

Tocotrienols Increase Blood Flow?

Antioxidants improve the function of the endothelium of arteries by inhibiting free radicals. This allows the arteries to remain elastic and undergo flow mediated dilation in response to increases in blood pressure. This may explain the ability of tocotrienols to increase blood flow and regress carotid stenoses. However, because tocotrienols are only found in limited foods, supplements have to be taken to obtain high concentrations.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Omega-3: Fish Versus Plant Source

Omega-3 fatty acids are cardioprotective. These special molecules are a group of fatty acids with multiple double bonds, and this structural characteristic gives them important physiological properties. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids can be converted into hormone-like substances called eicosanoids, that are able to regulate cell function. In doing so, they can reduce inflammation and platelet aggregation, which explains their cardioprotective effects.

Plant Source Omega-3

Plant derived omega-3 fatty acids are in the form of the essential fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Humans metabolise ALA using enzymes by elongating the molecule and adding double bonds. Two of the fatty acids that ALA can be metabolised to are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA can further be metabolised to eicosanoids that have beneficial cellular effects.

Fish Oils

Fatty fish contain both EPA and DHA. Therefore if fish is consumed plant source omega-3 is not required in the diet. Eating fatty fish, or consuming fish oil capsules containing EPA and DHA are both effective ways to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Vegetarians don’t have much choice with regards their source of omega-3 fatty acids as they can't eat fish. However, for omnivorous humans, the choice presents a dilemma.

Fish Is Polluted

Evidence shows that the World’s waterways are becoming polluted. This pollution bioaccumulates in organisms, which results in those at the top of the food chain being the most polluted. Cold water predator fish therefore accumulate significant levels of pollution and this is passed onto humans when they consume the fish for their oil. Eating fatty fish or taking fish oil capsules can therefore increase exposure to pollution.

ALA Is Poorly Converted to EPA and DHA

Because consumption of fish may be problematic with respect to increasing intake of pollutants, it might be considered that plants source ALA is a better option. However, ALA is poorly converted to EPA and DHA in humans, and most of the intake of dietary ALA is actually burnt as a fuel. Therefore consuming ALA doesn’t provide the same level of cardioprotection as consuming EPA and DHA from fish oil supplements.

Fish Oils Are More CardioProtective That Plant ALA

When considering the facts, it becomes clear that fish oil is a far superior cardioprotective that ALA from plants. However the pollution is problematic. One way round this is to consume DHA from algae grown in pollution free tanks. However, this source of DHA is expensive. Another alternative is to find a brand of fish oils that have had the pollutants removed. Eating fish from non-polluted waterways is also advisable, if they can be found.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Five Cardioprotective Herbs

Plants are Nature's pharmacy. Most drugs are derived from plant compounds, but the original plants chemicals tend to be more effective and have fewer side effects than their pharmaceutical derivatives. Herbalism is often seen as a quack science by mainstream medicine, but the pharmacological effects of many herbs have been scientifically observed and reported. Many plants posses cardioprotective effects if consumed regularly.

1. Hawthorn

Hawthorn is found in hedgerows throughout Europe. The flower of the hawthorn tree contains the substance tyramine which is thought to be protective of heart function. Tyramine may increase catecholamine release, which explains the ability of hawthorne to strengthen the heat beat. The flowers and berries are rich sources of flavonoids, including anthocyanins, which may have cardioprotective properties through the prevention of endothelial dysfunction.

2. Horse Chestnut

The horse chestnut tree is best known for producing seeds called conkers. The conkers from the horse chestnut tree contain aescin which is able to cause constriction of blood vessels and thus prevent oedema and inflammation. Both the bark and the conkers are a rich source of flavonoids such as aesculetin, which may improve circulation. Evidence suggests that horse chestnut may be an effective treatment to strengthen blood vessels and increase blood flow.

3. Olive Leaf

Olive groves are found throughout the Mediterranean regions, where the olive leaves are used medicinally in tinctures and infusions. In particular olive leaf is used in conjunction with other medicinal plants to lower blood pressure. The leaves contain secoiridoids such as oleuropein which may be the active chemical that lowers blood pressure. Oleuropein may also dilate the coronary artery, modulate heartbeat and help regulate blood sugar levels.

4. Butcher’s Broom

Butcher’s broom is found in southern England and Wales. It has spiky leaves and possesses red berries. The plant is a rich source of steroidal saponins that may have cardioprotective effects. In particular, butcher’s broom may be effective at preventing oedema, poor circulation, varicose veins and may protect veins and capillaries. Studies in Europe attest to the effectiveness of butcher’s broom through published papers from clinical trials.

5. Celery

Celery is a plant possessing a ridged shiny stem. The wild variety has an unpleasant taste, but cultivated varieties are often used in soups, salads and other foods. The stem contains a compound called 3-n-butylphthalide that may have blood pressure lowering effects. Evidence suggests that celery also possesses anti-inflammatory effects which may also provide cardioprotective activity. Blood pressure lowering effects may be seen by eating only a few stems per day.

Monday 24 March 2014

Fish: Cardioprotective Poison?

It is now recommended to limit intakes of farmed fish. Wild fish contains pollution, but in much lower concentrations. 

Research shows that fish oil supplements are cardioprotective. This is because fish oil contains two long chain fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. These fatty acids accumulate in cell membranes and increase their fluidity, reducing the risk of a heart attack. In addition, they can also decrease inflammation, which may be a cause, or contributory factor, in the development of cardiovascular disease.

Fatty Fish

Fish oils are extracted from fatty fish. These fish live in cold waters and have oils in their skin and flesh. Fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and trout are fatty fish. Eating the flesh of fatty fish provides eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Fish are therefore not only a good source of protein, but supply long chain fatty acids that are cardioprotective. Therefore fish can be a good alternative to fish oil supplements.


Technically, fish are a better source of long chain fatty acids than fish oil supplements. This is because the long chain fatty acids in fish are delicate and extracting them to capsules can damage their structures. However, eating fish has a downside. The waterways of the World are becoming increasingly polluted. This pollution bioaccumulates in large cold water fish making them poisonous if eaten regularly in large quantities.


Current recommendations are to not eat fish regularly if you are pregnant. This relates to the ease with which the pollution within the fish can accumulate in the developing foetus. Therefore the pollution within fish, that includes mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins, is real and a danger to health. Farmed fish are particularly problematic because they accumulate parasites and as a result are fed high concentrations of drugs to keep them alive.

Capsules or Fish?

When the fat is extracted from polluted fish, much of the pollution is transferred in the oil to the capsules. This means that fish oil capsules can be just as unhealthy as eating fish. However, some capsules are treated to remove this pollution. Buying treated capsules therefore is the best way to ensure a supply of cardioprotective long chain fatty acids without consuming potentially harmful pollutants and toxins. If you eat fish, go for wild fish, and avoid all farmed varieties.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Antioxidants In Oats: Cardioprotective?

Oats contain antioxidants (alkylrecorsinols) that may be cardioprotective.

The antioxidant theory of cardiovascular disease suggests that systemic oxidative stress, caused by excessive free radical production, is the cause of cardiovascular disease. In particular, free radicals interfere with the production of nitric oxide in the endothelial lining of arteries and this causes a deficiency of nitric oxide. As nitric oxide is required for the dilation of arteries, free radical damage can inhibit arterial function and raise blood pressure.

Oats And Fibre

Oats appear to offer protection from cardiovascular disease. Traditionally this has been thought to be due to the presence of soluble fibre in oats. This fibre can decrease the absorption rate of glucose by creating a physical barrier along the absorptive surface of the small intestine. While much research supports the contention that the fibre content of oats is beneficial. oats are also a good source of antioxidants, which may confer cardioprotective benefits.


Alkylresorcinols are lipid polyphenols in oats. Structurally they are composed of a long aliphatic chains with a resorcinol polyphenolic head. Alkylresorcinols are also present in barley, rye and wheat, and possibly other cereal grains too. As consumption of oats rises, plasma levels of alkylresorcinols also rise, showing that they are absorbed and enter the blood. Like other polyphenols, it is likely that they then have biological effects.

Antioxidants and Endothelial Dysfunction

One way that alkylresorcinols may protect from cardiovascular disease is thought inhibition of free radicals in the endothelial lining of arteries. By allowing increased nitric oxide production through inhibition of free radicals, alkylresorcinols may improve endothelial function and improve the dilation and elasticity of arteries. Therefore the soluble fibre content may not be the only reason that oats are protective of cardiovascular disease.

Whole Grain Versus Refined Grains

Alkylresorcinols are present only in the bran of cereal grains. When cereal grains are refined, the bran and germ layers are removed. As well as removing most of the vitamins, minerals and fibre, this also strips the cereals of their alkylresorcinols. Therefore refined cereal grains do not provide the same antioxidant protection as whole grains. In fact, refined grains may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by interfering with glucose homeostasis.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Grapes And Walnuts: Cardioprotective

The traditional view that cardiovascular disease is caused by dietary cholesterol and saturated fat is not just outdated, but absurd. Many so called ‘experts’ still believe the fairy stories told about cholesterol, which is unfortunate as this belief causes more people to die of what is essentially a preventable condition. However, prevention of cardiovascular disease is only possible if it is accepted that factors other than cholesterol are involved in its development.

Endothelial Dysfunction

The endothelial lining of arteries plays an important role in maintaining blood flow and blood pressure. The endothelium is a muscular wall that expands and contracts elastically in response to blood flow. Dilation of the endothelium is only possible when nitric oxide is produced in the artery walls. Inhibition of this process causes a dysfunction to develop that results in arteries losing their elasticity, which ultimately causes changes to blood pressure and blood flow.

What Causes Endothelial Dysfunction?

Endothelial dysfunction is caused by a lack of nitric oxide production in the artery walls (nitric oxide is also called endothelium-derived relaxing factor). Normally nitric oxide is synthesised by the enzyme nitric oxide synthase. However, this process is inhibited by free radicals. Long term exposure to free radicals therefore causes cardiovascular disease. Diets that prevent free radicals are therefore protective of cardiovascular disease.

Grapes Prevent Endothelial Dysfunction

Grapes are interesting food. Apart from the obvious benefit that they make great alcoholic drinks, they also have other interesting properties. In particular, they are rich in polyphenol antioxidants. Regular consumption of grapes therefore protects the endothelium of arteries by ensuring that adequate nitric oxide is synthesised. Studies investigating grapes have shown that they lower blood pressure. Grape seed extracts are also beneficial.

Walnuts And Cardiovascular Disease

Walnuts are also a rich source of antioxidants. In particular, walnuts contain ellagic acid. In a similar fashion to grapes, walnuts can therefore protect the endothelium of arteries and prevent endothelial dysfunction. However, walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids which may decrease platelet aggregation and blood clot formation. Walnuts therefore are cardioprotective by more than one mechanisms which explains their beneficial health effects.

Healthy Snack

Low quality diets and smoking contribute to cardiovascular disease because they induce systemic inflammation. Frequent infection and pollution does the same. The more free radicals that an individuals is exposed to, the greater their risk for developing endothelial dysfunction. The solution to this problem is to eat a high quality diet. Healthy snack such as grapes and walnuts can significantly boost antioxidant defences and therefore should be included as part of such a diet.

Friday 21 March 2014

Cayenne Pepper Protects From Cardiovascular Disease

Cayenne pepper may protect from cardiovascular disease. 

A number of geographical regions consume large amounts of cayenne pepper. These regions are known to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease. While this reduced risk could be attributed to other factors in the diet or the lifestyles of these populations, some evidence suggests that cayenne pepper protects the cardiovascular system from disease. As with most nutrients, protective effects seem to come from multiple mechanisms.

Blood Clotting

Cayenne pepper has a number of beneficial effects that may explain its cardioprotective reputation. In particular, it may reduce the chance of blood clots forming because it can reduce platelet aggregation. In addition, cayenne pepper increases fibrinolytic activity, that is to say it increases the rate at which blood clots are broken down. A combination of decreased aggregation and increased fibrinolysis explain its ability to reduce heart attacks.

Plasma Lipid Levels

Cayenne pepper can also favourably modify plasma lipid levels. In particular, regular consumption of cayenne pepper can lower triglycerides and low density lipoprotein blood levels. This may result from the ability of cayenne pepper to reduce triglyceride synthesis in the liver, which in turn lowers plasma levels of very low density lipoprotein and its breakdown product low density lipoprotein. These changes may also be related to the weight loss effects of the herb.

Weight Loss

Cardiovascular disease is associated with abdominal fat. This is because abdominal fat is an outward manifestation of an internal metabolic dysfunction. The inflammation associated with this dysfunction may increase oxidative stress in artery walls leading to endothelial dysfunction. Because cayenne pepper can increase metabolic rate, it is an effective weight loss herb. The abdominal fat loss caused by cayenne pepper may therefore protect from cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidant Defences

The free radical theory of cardiovascular disease suggests that free radicals are involved in the formation of endothelial dysfunction. As free radicals are produced they interfere with nitric oxide production in the artery walls, and this prevents the arteries relaxing in response to blood flow. As a result the arteries become inelastic and high blood pressure develops. By inhibiting free radical production, cayenne pepper may prevent endothelial dysfunction.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Niacin and Cholesterol Levels

Proponents of the cholesterol theory of cardiovascular disease claim that high intakes of dietary cholesterol cause increases in the blood levels of certain lipoproteins that carry cholesterol. This in turn we are told leads to the development of atherosclerosis, which is the cause of cardiovascular disease. The solution is suggested to be a reduction in the dietary cholesterol intake and a lowering of blood cholesterol with statin drugs.

Current Mainstream Treatments

Scientific evidence shows that lowering intakes of dietary cholesterol does not prevent cardiovascular disease. Dietary cholesterol is not able to influence blood cholesterol concentrations because most of the cholesterol in the blood is synthesised endogenously in the liver from other substances. Statin drugs do cause very small reductions in the amounts of deaths from cardiovascular disease, but this is offset by higher deaths from other causes.


Statin drugs and low cholesterol diets, the current mainstream treatment for cardiovascular disease, do not save lives. In fact evidence supports the contention that low cholesterol diets and statin drugs are both detrimental to the health. Statin drugs have dangerous side effects including muscle pain and coenzyme Q10 depletion and low cholesterol diets are dull and tasteless. The fact that blood cholesterol can be more effectively lowered by other substances is also problematic.


Niacin is one of the substances that makes up the vitamin B3 group of vitamers. In lower doses niacin is best known as a cofactor to electron carriers (NAD) in energy producing reactions. However, niacin also has pharmacological effects when taken in very high doses. Studies show that niacin is able to effectively lower cholesterol levels in humans. In fact, niacin is as effective as many pharmaceutical drugs in this respect.

How Does Niacin Work?

Niacin lowers plasma levels of low density lipoprotein, very low density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a). Niacin can do this because it inhibits the synthesis of triglycerides in the liver, and this in turn reduces the need for the primary triglyceride lipoprotein transporter (very low density lipoprotein). Because low density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a) are breakdown products of very low density lipoprotein, levels of these drop too.

More Benefits?

Niacin is able to reduce blood level of low density lipoprotein, very low density lipoprotein and lipoprotein(a) all of which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, niacin can also increase blood levels of high density lipoprotein by inhibiting its breakdown. High density lipoprotein is associated with protection from cardiovascular disease, and so niacin may therefore have multiple favourable effects on lipoprotein metabolism.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

How Does Alcohol Prevent Heart Attacks?

Alcohol protects from hart attacks because it increases fluidity in the membranes of blood cells such as platelets. 
Alcohol is known to be cardioprotective. This seems counterintuitive because we are told continually that alcohol is bad for our health Think about it for a second. Alcohol is bad for our health, but protects from cardiovascular disease. The reason for this discrepancy is that alcohol is a metabolic poison in large doses just like fructose. However, unlike fructose, it also has beneficial effects when dunk in moderate amounts, which may reduce the risk of heart attacks.

The Effects of Alcohol On The Liver

Alcohol negatively affects the liver when drunk in large amounts over long periods. This is because only the liver is able to metabolise alcohol. As a result of large intakes, nutrient overload leads to the production of fatty acids that subsequently accumulate in liver tissue. Excessive fat around the liver is termed alcoholic fatty liver and this can progress to cirrhosis of the liver and death. Interestingly fructose has the same effect but this is instead termed non-alcoholic fatty liver.

Other Negative Effects Of Alcohol

So alcohol damages the liver when drunk is large amounts over the long term. However, alcohol also has a number of other effect that can be said to be detrimental. Alcohol may decrease the absorbance of certain vitamins and minerals, and in the long term this may cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Certain B vitamins are known to often be low in alcoholics. In addition, the damage to the liver has negative effects on the metabolism of other nutrients.

Alcohol May Cause Weight Loss

Those who drink alcohol regularly have lower body weights than those who do not consume alcohol. The reason for this is unknown, but may relate to the fact that diets high in alcohol tend to be lower in sugar and other carbohydrates. Because body weight is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, alcohol may be protective of cardiovascular disease because of its weight loss effects. However, this is likely not the reason it protects from heart attacks.

Heart Attack Protection

Alcohol has another interesting property that may explain its ability to protect from heart attacks. When alcohol enters the blood it decreases the stickiness of platelets and reduces the risk of blood clots forming. As blood clots are required in order to cause a heart attack, alcohol can reduce the risk of sudden cardiovascular death. Protection following drinking lasts around 24 hours, and so for alcohol to provide long term protection from heart attacks, it must be consumed every day.

Alcohol And Blood Omega-3 Levels

So alcohol decreases the stickiness of platelets which decreases the risk of suffering a heart attack. Alcohols in general tend to be membrane disrupters and this may be the mechanism by which alcohol is effective. However, alcohol can also increase blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are converted to eicosanoid hormones which are known to have membrane fluidising effect. This may also therefore explain the cardioprotective effects of alcohol.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Does Exercise Protect From Cardiovascular Disease?

Only high quality diets can cause long term reductions in belly fat. Exercise is not effective. 
We are told that improvements in diet and exercise are the way to prevent cardiovascular disease. A growing body of evidence supports the contention that high quality nutrition decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In particular, diets high in unrefined whole grain cereals, nuts, green plant foods, fruits, unprocessed meats, vegetables, fish and dairy are beneficial to the health. However, the science regarding the benefits of exercise is less clear.

Weight Loss And Cardiovascular Disease

As body weight increases the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. This association between being fat and cardiovascular disease is based largely on the presence of abdominal fat. Weight loss decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease because it signifies that the potentially problematic belly fat is decreasing. However, while most assume that such weight loss is caused by exercise, this is in fact not necessarily true.

Does Exercise Cause Weight Loss?

The concept that weight loss is caused by exercise is so ingrained in the psyche of most that to question it invites ridicule. However, the ability of exercise to cause weight loss is controversial. While physical activity levels are associated with lower body weights, the cause and effect of this relationship are not obvious. For example, while exercise could cause weight loss, it is just as likely that being lean facilitates participation in physical activity.

Abdominal Versus Subcutaneous Fat

Abdominal fat is the fat that accumulates around the belly deep in the viscera. This belly fat signifies an underlying metabolic dysfunction caused by insulin resistance. Such fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease because the metabolic changes associated with the fat detrimentally affect health. In contrast, subcutaneous fat is the fat just under the skin, and this sort of fat does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exercise And Abdominal Fat

The ability of exercise to prevent cardiovascular disease therefore pivots on the ability of exercise to reduce abdominal fat. Unfortunately, exercise is not able to reduce belly fat because such fat is not caused by a lack of exercise. Belly fat forms when a low quality diet high in fructose and trans fatty acids is eaten regularly. The way to reduce belly fat is therefore to avoid these foods and eat high quality nutrition devoid of these metabolic poisons.


The ability of exercise to prevent cardiovascular disease is therefore questionable. In fact, exercise might actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease because of the extra stress it causes. Belly fat signifies an underlying metabolic disorder which result in inflammation, and this is a contributory factor in cardiovascular disease. Only high quality nutrition that reverses metabolic dysfunction is effective at reducing inflammation and  preventing cardiovascular disease.

Monday 17 March 2014

Vitamin C Lowers Blood Pressure

Vitamin C lowers blood pressure by preventing endothelial dysfunction. 
Vitamin C has a number of physiological functions beyond its ability to prevent scurvy. One of these roles is that of an antioxidant. Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant that protects cell interiors from free radicals. In this respect it works with vitamin E and cellular glutathione to provide total antioxidant defences against cellular damage. Such cellular damage is thought to lead to the development of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Endothelial Dysfunction and Blood Pressure

Endothelial dysfunction describes the breakdown in the normal elasticity of the arteries. Arteries expand as blood passes through them under pressure, and this is called flow mediated dilation. The elasticity within the arteries then allows them to return to their normal diameter. Nitric oxide is required for the dilation of blood vessels and low levels result in endothelial dysfunction whereby arteries become inelastic and permanently constricted, raising blood pressure.

Vitamin C and Endothelial Dysfunction

Vitamin C can lower blood pressure because it can prevent endothelial dysfunction. Nitric oxide is required for the correct dilation of arteries, and free radicals inhibit its synthesis. Vitamin C can inhibit free radicals and thereby increase nitric oxide levels in arteries. Long term intakes of optimal amounts of vitamin C can therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by restoring correct endothelial function and lowering blood pressure.

What About Other Antioxidants?

Other antioxidants can have the same effects as vitamin C. In fact many dietary antioxidants have been tested and shown to have beneficial effects on endothelial function. High quality diets such as the Mediterranean diet are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, and this explains their blood pressure lowering and cardiovascular disease protecting effects. Vitamin C appears to be effective at preventing cardiovascular disease in both supplemental and food based forms.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Aspirin: Does It Prevent Cardiovascular Disease?

Green leafy vegetables contain alpha linolenic acid and can help to address imbalances in essential fatty acid intake. 

Aspirin is frequently taken prophylactically to prevent cardiovascular disease. This is based on the ability of aspirin to ‘thin’ the blood. Pharmacologically, aspirin is a cyclooxygenase inhibitor which means that it inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase. Cyclooxygenase is able to convert long chain fatty acids into hormonal signal molecules called eicosanoids. Some of these signal molecules cause platelet aggregation which increases the chance of blood clots.

So What’s The Catch?

Because aspirin inhibits cyclooxygenase it can prevent platelet aggregation and reduce the risk of blood clots. However, although cyclooxygenase can convert long chain fatty acids to hormones that have detrimental effects, it can also convert long chain fatty acids to beneficial compounds. Because aspirin inhibits all cyclooxygenase activity, it inhibits both the good and bad hormonal compounds that are synthesised from its activity.

Cardiovascular Disease and Eicosanoids

People with cardiovascular disease have an imbalance in their eicosanoid production. They produce too many of the bad eicosanoids and too few of the good eicosanoids. Aspirin is beneficial in the short term for these people because it limits ALL eicosanoid production. Those people with an imbalance benefit from this because inhibiting all eicosanoid production is more beneficial than leaving the balance in favour of bad eicosanoids.

What Causes Eicosanoid Imbalances?

The eicosanoid imbalance in those with cardiovascular disease is caused by poor diet. Eicosanoids are synthesised from the long chain essential fatty acids alpha linolenic acid and linoleic acid. The ratio of these fatty acids in the diet should be around 3 part linoleic acid for every 1 part alpha linolenic acid. However, the modern Western diet provides a dietary intake of around 10 to 1. This tips the eicosanoid formation in the direction of bad eicosanoids, leading to disease.

Is Aspirin Effective?

Aspirin can be beneficial in the short term for those with an eicosanoid imbalance. However, long term the inhibition of the good eicosanoids causes other detrimental effects. Long term intakes of aspirin prevent heart attacks, but at the same time increase the risk of stroke. Therefore total mortality does not change between those who take aspirin and those who do not. In terms of preventing cardiovascular deaths, aspirin is therefore not an effective long term strategy.

Is There A Better Way?

If you want to prevent cardiovascular disease it is important to maintain a correct eicosanoid balance. This can only be achieved through improvements in diet. In particular the ratio of the linoleic acid to alpha linolenic acid must be brought back to around the 3 to 1 ratio that prevents disease. This is best achieved by avoiding Western foods, which means abandoning the Western diet in favour of a more traditional whole food diet. If this is done, no aspirin will be required.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Beans and Oats: Cholesterol Control

Modern medicine is obsessed with cholesterol. This is based on the erroneous assumption that cholesterol is the cause of atherosclerosis, which in turn is the cause of cardiovascular disease. While evidence does show that changes in lipoprotein concentrations in the blood are associated with cardiovascular disease, the cause and effect in this relationship has been deliberately obfuscated for financial gain by large corporations and the food industry.

Cholesterol Testing

Testing and ‘treating’ high cholesterol levels is big business for the pharmaceutical companies. Their propaganda model has convinced the general population that dietary cholesterol is bad and that regular testing of cholesterol levels, followed by treatment by statin drugs is effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, evidence suggest that statins do not decrease mortality, and so their use is controversial, even ignoring their vicious side effects.

Beans And Oats Lower Cholesterol Levels

Legumes and oats have been extensively researched for their ability to lower cholesterol levels. In this regard they are far more effective than statins drugs because they lower cholesterol levels while producing no side effects. Both oats and legumes are effective in this regard because they contain high concentrations of soluble fibre. Soluble fibre works in multiple ways to control blood sugar levels, errant levels of which are the actual cause of cardiovascular disease.

Cause Versus Symptoms

Statin drugs lower plasma cholesterol levels by inhibiting one of the enzymes that synthesises cholesterol. This forces down cholesterol levels. However, the elevated cholesterol levels result from an underlying metabolic dysfunction that is not treated by the drugs. Legumes and oats lower cholesterol because the soluble fibre they contain reverses the hypoglycaemia and metabolic dysfunction that is the cause of elevated cholesterol levels.

Is Fibre An Essential Dietary Component

The efficacy of soluble dietary fibre to reverse the metabolic dysfunction associated with eating a Western disease has lead to speculation that fibre might be an essential dietary component. Fibre may be required for the correct metabolism of glucose. Diets high in refined grains and sugar may therefore cause metabolic syndrome which is the cause of cardiovascular disease. Because statin drugs do not reverse metabolic syndrome they are not effective at treating cardiovascular disease.

Friday 14 March 2014

Metabolic Poisons: Cardiovascular Disease

Sugar and trans fats are found in low quality Western processed foods. 

High quality diets are protective of cardiovascular disease. High quality diets are high in unrefined whole grain cereals, micronutrients, protein, unprocessed meats, plant foods rich in fibre, fatty fish, and dairy. However, while high quality diets contain many of the nutrients that are beneficial to the health and provide a positive health outcome, they are also devoid of anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are metabolic poisons that have detrimental health effects.

The Two Worst Metabolic Poisons

Metabolic poisons do what they say on the tin. They poison the metabolism and create an internal milieu that is characterised by metabolic dysfunction. Sugar is a metabolic poison because it contains a molecule of fructose, a known anti-nutrient. Other commonly eaten metabolic poisons are synthetic trans fats that are a by product of vegetable hydrogenation. Alone these metabolic poisons are deleterious, but in combination they can seriously damage your long term health.

Sugar: Sweet and Deadly

Sugar contains fructose, excessive intakes of which poison the metabolism. The processing of fructose is similar to alcohol, and whereas chronic alcohol consumption can cause alcoholic fatty liver, chronic consumption of fructose can cause non-alcoholic liver. Once the liver has been poisoned in this way, a number of systems in the body become disrupted. Cholesterol, glucose and fatty acid metabolism all become deleteriously affected and this lead to further health problems.

trans Fats: Not-So-Sweet, Just As Deadly

Natural vegetable oils are in the cis-configuration. This means the fatty acid chains have a natural kink to their structure. When such liquid are hydrogenated to make solid fats for vegetable spreads, trans fats can be produced. These fats when consumed in solid vegetable oils are metabolic poisons that interfere with essential fatty acid metabolism. The result is inflammation and oxidative stress that damage the artery linings and cause cardiovascular disease.

Avoiding Metabolic Poisons

Luckily it is easy to avoid sugar and trans fats and thus prevent poisoning. This is because sugar and trans fats are only in certain foods and avoiding these foods eliminated such poisons from the diet. Both trans fats and sugar are present in low quality processed foods. Generally the Western diet contains high amounts of these foods which explains the increased risk of cardiovascular disease found in Western populations who consume such junk foods regularly.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Five Ways To Avoid Cardiovascular Disease

Multivitamins contain cardioprotective nutrients.
Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death in Western nations. Avoiding cardiovascular disease can therefore significantly increase your longevity. Genetics can play a role in cardiovascular disease risk. However, nutrition and lifestyle factors contribute the most to the development of cardiovascular disease. Therefore improving your nutritional and lifestyle habits is pivotal if you wish to avoid cardiovascular death.

1. Avoid stress

Stress is perhaps the biggest cause of cardiovascular disease. Studies show that stressed workers developed cardiovascular disease and those with less stress do not. Heart attacks are more common on Monday mornings for a reason. Stress not only depletes the body of nutrients but also changes eating patterns. The result is nutrient deficiencies and imbalances. Chronic stress also increases oxidative stress that may lead to endothelial dysfunction.

2. Take a multivitamin

Nutrient deficiencies cause cardiovascular disease. It is known that vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid deficiencies cause an elevated homocysteine level which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Chromium deficiency is a cause of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome which iare also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A multivitamin can ensure adequate intakes of all essential nutrient required for cardioprotection.

3. Avoid Pollution And Smoking

The dangers of smoking have probably been exaggerated. However, smoking does undoubtedly expose the smoker to high levels of free radicals which can deplete the body of antioxidants. When antioxidants defences are depleted, the resultant oxidative stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Pollution does the same as cigarette smoke by depleting the body of antioxidants. If you smoke and are exposed to pollution and can't avoid it, take antioxidants to combat the damage.

4. Avoid Sugar And Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates cause insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of cardiovascular disease because it signifies underlying metabolic dysfunction which includes oxidative stress and inflammation that may cause damage to arteries. Sugar is particularly problematic because it is a metabolic poison. Eating unrefined whole grains and avoiding refined alternatives is protective of cardiovascular disease.

5. Eat a traditional diet with a high fibre intake

Traditional diets are protective of cardiovascular disease. This is because they contain whole unrefined foods which provide all the nutrient required for optimal health. In addition, they are devoid of metabolic poisons such as trans fats and sugar. Traditional diets are high fibre diets because they contain high concentrations of plant material. Fibre is protective of cardiovascular disease because it has beneficial glycaemic effects and allows better control of blood sugar.