Saturday, November 15, 2003

‘Liquid Drano’ for the arteries

Intravenous doses of a synthetic component of “good” cholesterol reduced artery disease in just six weeks in a small study with startlingly big implications for treating the nation’s No. 1 killer.

The treatment used a laboratory-produced version of an unusually effective form of HDL, the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease by removing plaque, or fatty buildups, from the bloodstream.

“This is clearly on the level of a breakthrough that will have far-reaching implications,” pointing the way toward a rapid treatment for fatty buildups, said Dr. Bryan Brewer, chief of molecular diseases at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The surprisingly quick results, though preliminary, shatter a long-standing belief that heart disease is a slow-progressing disease that takes a long time to undo, said Rader, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

A pint of Guiness also works.

A pint of the black stuff a day may work as well as an aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks.

Drinking lager does not yield the same benefits, experts from Wisconsin University told a conference in the US.

In England, post-operative patients used to be given Guinness, as were blood donors, because of its high iron content. This practice continues in Ireland.

Of course, the Mediterranean Diet Fights Heart Disease.

A Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil and low in red meat can combat inflammation that silently simmers away for years inside blood vessels, lowering the risk of a heart attack, a new study suggests.

Many people have questioned whether previous benefits attributed to the Mediterranean diet were actually due to other lifestyle factors -- such as increased exercise -- in people following this diet. But the study clearly shows that this heart-healthy effect was independent of any other lifestyle factors, including exercise, says Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD, lecturer in the department of nutrition and dietetics at Harokopian University of Athens in Greece.

"The Mediterranean diet, independent of any other factor, reduces levels of inflammation related to heart disease risk," he tells WebMD.

According to Lichtenstein, the heart-healthy benefits most likely came from the Mediterranean diet as a whole, not from specific components.

In addition to having olive oil with most meals, the typical Mediterranean diet is very high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and cereals; moderate in fish intake; and has lower amounts of meat and dairy than the typical American diet. Drinking alcohol is also a frequently practiced dining ritual.

"God knows what sorts of interactions take place within the foods, and we need further research to pinpoint them exactly," Trichopoulos tells WebMD.

"But typically, people in Greece eat twice as many vegetables as Americans -- nearly a pound a day. And you really can't eat a pound of vegetables a day unless you have olive oil to make them appetizing. My advice is to try to double the amount of vegetables and fruits you currently have, and eat more fish, legumes, and non-refined cereals."

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