Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 11, 2017
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Cocoa galore and more

February is the month to celebrate our hearts. Often we celebrate with an elaborate meal, champagne and, of course, some chocolate. Let’s look at what the latest research says about some of these indulgences.

Chocolate

A recent study suggests that older women could benefit most from consuming cocoa or chocolate.91) Women who had less heart disease consumed chocolate an average of one time a week, consuming the equivalent to the amount of coca found in one cup of hot chocolate. It’s thought that flavonoids are responsible for its healthy benefits.

Alcohol

Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol has been linked to the prevention of heart disease. A study published last year looked at different patterns of consumption to see if that influenced the number of myocardial infarctions or coronary deaths that occurred in the different sample populations.(2) Binge drinkers had a higher incidence of both MI and coronary death.

Vitamin D

One study suggested that lower blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] could increase the risk of a cerebrovascular death.(3) Another more recent study looks back at the electronic medical records of 41,504 patients who had at least one blood test for serum 25(OH)D, and found that there was a significant increase in the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and peripheral vascular disease. Low serum levels of vitamin D were also associated with coronary disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke.(4) In Canada, between 65 to 95 percent of adults may have inadequate blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D — so it is important to test all your patients.

Omega-3 fatty acids

There is new research that suggests that when patients with chronic heart failure receive two grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day in addition to standard therapy there was actually an increase in heart function and a reduction in hospitalizations.(5)

Tomatoes

Research has uncovered a mechanism by which 9-oxo-octadecadienoic (9-oxo-ODA) found in tomatoes can help reduce the levels of lipids in the blood. The chemical seems to have a direct effect on the genes that control fatty acid oxidation and stop the liver from storing triglycerides in mouse liver tissues.(6) While there are no studies on how this chemical might act in humans, research does underscore that the current recommendation to consume a diet rich in vegetables and fruits might have some hidden benefits.

Magnesium

Using the data from the Nurses Health Study, it was found that the risk of sudden cardiac death was lower in women who had higher blood levels of magnesium, and who consumed the most magnesium in their diets.(7) Some of the best dietary sources of magnesium include almonds, cashews, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

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