Air pollution: ‘Heart disease link found’

Herbs and Helpers

Extremely small particles of pollution have the potential to evade the lungs’ protective filter system and end up deep in the body, scientists suggest.

Researchers speculate the particles could then build up in blood vessels and raise the risk of heart disease.

They say their early study – based on extremely small particles of gold – brings them a step closer to cracking the “mystery” of how air pollution and heart disease and stroke are linked.

The work appears in ACS Nano.

‘Missing link’

Air pollution is estimated to help shorten of the lives of about 40,000 people a year in the UK.

Several studies suggest it does this in the most part by worsening or triggering heart or lung problems.

But despite many theories, exactly how air pollution affects the heart is not fully understood.

Some scientists suspect that it may be partly down to extremely tiny pollution particles (known as nanoparticles) that could potentially be too small to be removed by the body’s filter system in the nose and lungs.

To investigate researchers, from the University of Edinburgh and universities in the Netherlands studied extremely small particles of inert gold – at a similar size to those found in diesel exhaust fumes.

Scientists asked 14 healthy volunteers to breathe in air containing pieces of gold, which scientists consider inert, while exercising for two hours.

A day later, researchers found that gold nanoparticles had made their way into the bloodstream of most participants.

And for some people, the particles remained in the body for months – they were detected in people’s urine three months later.

Scientists suggest this shows that nanoparticles of pollution have the potential to make a similar journey into the body.

Dr Nicholas Mills, co-author of the work, said: “We have always suspected that nanoparticles in the air that we breathe in could escape from the lungs and enter the body, but until now there was no proof.

“These findings are of wide importance for human health, and we must now focus our attention on reducing emissions and exposure to airborne nanoparticles.”

Anti-pollution masks are becoming a more common sight in Europe’s polluted cities

In another similar experiment, researchers asked three patients with clogged-up blood vessels to breathe in air containing tiny gold nanoparticles.

A day later, when the patients had part of their damaged blood vessels surgically removed, there was evidence of this gold building up in the diseased parts of vessels.

Researchers speculate that by accumulating in vulnerable areas of the body air pollution particles could worsen heart disease and stroke.

Dr Zongbo Shi, at the University of Birmingham, said: “This is a well designed and high quality study, and the results unequivocally showed that nanoparticles can travel from lungs to blood vessels and different organs.

“This research provides a missing link or mechanism between airborne nanoparticles exposure and their adverse health effects. ”

But Prof Peter Dobson, at the University of Oxford, argues the study has a number of pitfalls, including the fact that gold does not match the chemistry of particles present in pollution.

And Mike Hawes of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the industry had invested billions into reducing emissions and had drastically reduced or banished pollutants such as particulates.

Meanwhile Prof Jeremy Pearson, at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said there was no doubt that air pollution was a killer that needed to be taken seriously.

But he cautioned more research was still needed to pin down the mechanism involved and firm up the evidence.

Source: BBC

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Potentially harmful effects of energy drinks – it’s not the caffeine

Herbs and Helpers

(Reuters Health) – Drinking 32 ounces of energy drink is associated with potentially harmful changes in blood pressure and heart function that are beyond those seen with caffeine alone, according to a new study.

There are more than 500 energy drink products on the market, and their increased popularity is matched by a significant rise in energy drink-associated emergency department visits and deaths.

Manufacturers and fans of these products claim they are as safe as caffeine, but there is little evidence to support that claim.

Caffeine in doses up to 400 mg (about five cups of coffee) is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. While energy drinks usually contain caffeine, little is known about the safety of some of their other ingredients the study team writes in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

To see what effects these other components have, researchers compared physical changes in a group of 18 healthy men and women after consuming a commercially available energy drink and after drinking another concoction with the same amount of caffeine but none of the other ingredients.

Besides 320 mg of caffeine – the amount in about four cups of coffee – the energy drink contained 4 ounces of sugar, several B vitamins and a proprietary “energy blend” of taurine and other ingredients that are often found drinks like Monster Energy, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy.

Sachin A. Shah of David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base and University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and colleagues measured the participants’ blood pressure and used an electrocardiogram (often called an ECG or EKG) to measure heart electrical activity for 24 hours after the subjects consumed the drinks.

An ECG change known as QTc prolongation and sometimes associated with life-threatening irregularities in the heartbeat was seen after drinking the energy drink, but not after drinking the caffeine beverage, the study team reports.

Several drugs have been withdrawn from the market just for causing ECG changes of a similar magnitude, the authors note.

Blood pressure increased by close to 5 points after drinking the energy drink, but by just under 1 point after drinking the caffeine beverage. Blood pressure also remained elevated six hours later.

These changes are by no means worrisome for healthy individuals, the researchers say, but patients with certain heart conditions might need to exercise caution consuming energy drinks.

Larger studies are needed to evaluate the safety of the noncaffeine ingredients contained in energy drinks, they conclude.

“The energy drink industry claims that their products are safe because they have no more caffeine than a premium coffee house coffee,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Harris from University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity in Storrs, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“However, energy drinks also contain a proprietary ‘energy blend,’ which typically consists of stimulants and other additives. Some of these ingredients (including taurine and guarana) have not been FDA-approved as safe in the food supply, and few studies have tested the effects of caffeine consumption together with these ‘novelty’ ingredients,” she said by email.

“On top of that, energy drinks are highly marketed to adolescent boys in ways that encourage risky behavior, including rapid and excessive consumption,” she said. “As a result, emergency room visits by young people in connection with energy drinks are rising.”

Any research that compares the effects of consuming energy drinks versus caffeine alone provides important evidence for public health advocates who have urged the energy drink companies to stop targeting youth with these potentially harmful products, Harris added.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1f4U4k9 Journal of the American Heart Association, online April 26, 2017.

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Yes, frozen food IS nutritious, experts insist

Herbs and Helpers

Eating frozen fruits and vegetables is good for you, a new study reveals

Those who eat frozen produce eat more overall servings than non-consumers

Nutritionists tell Daily Mail Online they’re a good alternative to fresh produce – and one says they might even be better for you

SCROLL DOWN FOR RECIPES

Next time you go grocery shopping, there’s no need to steer clear of the frozen food aisle.

Many turn their nose up at those cheap packets of iced fruits and vegetables, questioning whether they have any nutritional value compared to fresh produce.

But a new study claims that is simply an image problem: frozen food is actually good for us.

And although the research was funded by the Frozen Food Foundation, nutritionists insist it’s true.

The researchers – and three nutritionists not involved in the study – say there is clear evidence that people who regularly stock their freezers with fruits and vegetables eat far more servings of nutrient-rich foods than people who rely on fresh.

They also appear to have significantly greater intakes of key nutrients such as potassium, fiber and calcium.

Ultimately, the nutritionists tell Daily Mail Online: ‘Any fruit or vegetable is better than none.’

SCROLL DOWN FOR RECIPES

A new study has found that those who eat frozen fruits and vegetables don’t just eat more servings overall, but they also have significantly greater intakes of key nutrients such as potassium, fiber and calcium

The study, presented by Dr Maureen Storey of the American Society for Nutrition, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, run by the CDC and designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US.

Researchers compared consumers of frozen fruits and vegetables to non-consumers from 2011 to 2014.

They found that those who eat frozen fruits and vegetables had more servings of the produce than non-consumers.

The frozen produce consumers also had much higher intakes of nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.

Researchers also found that adult consumers had significantly lower BMIs than non-consumers.

Nutritionist Lara Metz, of Lara Metz Nutrition, told Daily Mail Online that frozen produce is a great alternative to fresh.

‘I absolutely recommend frozen fruits and vegetables to my clients if they don’t have access to fresh produce,’ she said.

‘They’re frozen at peak ripeness, and they have lots of vitamins and antioxidants.’

Tammy Lakatos Shames, of The Nutrition Twins, adds that there are some cases where the frozen variety might even be healthier than the fresh.

‘When you take your groceries home from the store, they’re exposed to air, light and heat, any of which could potentially contaminate them,’ she said.

‘So at times, the frozen fruits and vegetables are more nutrient-dense because they take longer to go bad.’

Both the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services define calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin D as nutrients of public health concern because low intakes have been linked to various ailments.

They’re frozen at peak ripeness, and they have lots of vitamins and antioxidants Lara Metz, of Lara Metz Nutrition

Specifically, the guidelines attribute low intake of fiber and potassium to decreased fruit and vegetable consumption.

‘At a time when Americans are only eating half of the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, our research shows that eating frozen fruits and vegetables can help fill the gap in fruit and vegetable consumption,’ said Dr Storey.

‘In addition to increased consumption of nutrients of concern, frozen fruit and vegetable consumers also had a higher intake of vitamins A and C.’

Both the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services define calcium, potassium, dietary fiber and vitamin D as nutrients of public health concern because low intakes are associated with health concerns.

Specifically, the guidelines attribute low intake of fiber and potassium to decreased fruit and vegetable consumption.

The USDA recommends eating between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

But the CDC found that only 33 percent of American adults meet that goal for fruits and 27 percent for vegetables.

Nutritionist Adena Neglia, of Brown & Medina Nutrition, told Daily Mail Online that some people might be turned off from frozen foods because of the difference in preparation.

She said: ‘Sometimes frozen fruits and vegetables have to be blanched and people don’t like how that tastes, or the texture feels weird and they don’t know how to prepare them properly.

‘But they’re a good alternative and any fruit or vegetable is better than none.’

Metz says that the most important thing is to read the nutrition label to avoid sodium and preservatives.

‘Just read the food label,’ she said.

‘On my bag of frozen spinach, the ingredients are just spinach.

‘As long as they’re not adding preservatives, they’re a great addition to your diet. And you can even freeze your own fresh produce if you don’t think you’ll finish it on time.’

THREE WAYS TO USE YOUR FROZEN PRODUCE

Lara Metz, of Lara Metz Nutrition, says that they are plenty of ways you can use your frozen fruits and vegetables.

Here are three easy recipes for you to follow:

  1. SMOOTHIES

INGREDIENTS

Liquid: water, milk or non-dairy milk
Frozen fruit: berries or banana
Fresh vegetables: spinach or kale
Protein: hemp, chia seeds or nut butter

METHOD

Blend, pour and serve (no ice needed thanks to the frozen fruit!)

  1. SOUPS

INGREDIENTS

Stock: Chicken or vegetable
Frozen vegetables

METHOD

Heat up the stock
Add the vegetables
Simmer until cooked through
Serve!

  1. STIR-FRY

INGREDIENTS

Protein: chicken or beef
Vegetables: mixed frozen veg
Splash of olive oil

METHOD

Put the pan on a high heat
Add the protein to the pan (with a splash of oil if not using non-stick pan)
Fry until almost completely cooked through
Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, then add your frozen vegetables
Cook for between five and seven minutes
Serve!

Source: Daily Mail

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