Healthy Cardiovascular

Call for better regulation of caffeine diet pills

Caffeine supplements labelled as diet pills should be better regulated according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Caffeine supplements branded as diet pills should be better regulated according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

It follows the death of Chris Wilcock from Darwen, Lancashire, who died on the day that he took the tablets- which were the equivalent to 300 cups of coffee.

A coroner ruled his death in April was due to caffeine toxicity. At least four deaths in the UK have been linked to caffeine pills in the past year.

Neal Patel, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said regulation was a “problem”.

“Unfortunately it does seem to fall between the Food Standards Agency and the medicine agencies and, in fact, it tends to be left to Trading Standards locally to pick out the products and see what’s in them.

“That doesn’t seem good enough given the number of deaths we’ve seen this year.”

Mr Patel added: “There is really flimsy evidence at best that caffeine can help reduce weight.”

Mr Wilcock, who was a pub landlord, died after taking a supplement known as T5, which contained caffeine equivalent to 300 cups of coffee.

T5 is a generic name for products that are often marketed as slimming aids. They are classified as food supplements instead of medicines, are legal and widely available.

Mr Wilcock’s fiancée Heather Thompson said she “tried to talk him out of” taking the pills.

“He just got told to take one a day and avoid alcohol with them – that was it. He didn’t get told of the side effects, he didn’t get told anything. It didn’t even say it on the actual bottle.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said caffeine overdose could lead to symptoms including palpitations, high blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, convulsions and, in some cases, death.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency added: “There is a variety of different ingredients used in the various products with high levels of caffeine being one of the most popular ingredients.

“Such products are typically regarded to be food supplements rather than medicines. In instances where slimming products contain ingredients that are regarded to be medicinal the MHRA will investigate whether there is a breach of human medicines regulations and take action accordingly.”

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Coffee is good for your heart

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries – a heart disease risk factor.

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries - a heart disease risk factor.Researchers studied more than 25,000 male and female employees who underwent routine health checks at their workplace.

Employees who drank a moderate amount of coffee – three to five cups a day – were less likely to have early signs of heart disease on their medical scans.

The findings reopen the debate about whether coffee is good for the heart.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the effect of coffee on heart health- as some studies have linked consumption to heart risk factors, such as raised cholesterol or blood pressure, while others suggest the beverage may offer some heart protection.

But there is no conclusive evidence either way, and the latest research from South Korea, which is published in the journal Heart, only adds to the discussion.

In the study, the researchers used medical scans to assess heart health. Specifically, they were looking for any disease of the arteries supplying the heart – the coronary arteries.

In coronary heart disease, the coronary arteries become clogged by the gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls.

The scan the researchers used looks for tiny deposits of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries to provide an early clue that this disease process may be occurring.

None of the employees included in the Korean study had outward signs of heart disease, but more than one in 10 of them were found to have visible calcium deposits on their scans.

The researchers then compared the scan results with the employees’ self-reported daily coffee consumption, while taking into account other potential heart risk factors such as smoking, exercise and family history of heart problems.

People who drank a few cups of coffee a day were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than people who drank more than this or no coffee at all.

The study authors say more research is needed to confirm and explain the link.

Coffee contains the stimulant caffeine, as well as numerous other compounds, but it’s not clear if these might cause good or harm to the body.

So how much caffiene should one drink?

In the US, experts say up to 400mg a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. There is no recommended daily upper limit for caffeine consumption in the UK, except for pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, you should limit the amount of caffeine you have to 200mg a day – equivalent to two mugs of instant coffee.

Caffiene per serving:
  • one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
  • one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
  • one mug of tea: 75mg
  • one can of cola: 40mg
  • an espresso contains about 50mg of caffeine However, please note- coffee shop caffeine levels can vary widely.
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Sugar worse than salt claim health experts

Health experts claim avoiding sugar could be more important than avoiding salt when it comes to your healthy heart.

Sugar worse than salt claim health expertsScientists have clashed over claims that sugar may be worse for blood pressure and heart health than salt.

US experts say people need to place a greater focus on cutting sugar intake and suggest the benefits of lowering salt levels are “debatable.” Their arguments are published in the journal Open Heart.

But other researchers have said the claims are “disingenuous” and “scientifically unnecessary”. They maintain both need to be reduced.

Researchers from St Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, and Montefiore Medical Centre in the USA reviewed a selection of evidence from basic science experiments, animal studies and human research.

They came to the conclusion that sugar – particularly fructose – may play a stronger role in high blood pressure and other cardiac conditions than salt.

And they say lowering salt consumption under certain levels may do more harm than good as the research team suggests attempts to reduce salt in processed food may drive people to eat more.

The US experts focus on a particular type of sugar – added fructose – often found in processed foods and sugary beverages.

But they say naturally occurring sugars in whole foods, for example those in fruit and vegetables, are not a cause for concern.

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in England suggests most adults and children eat more sugar than recommended.

The World Health Organization recommends sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day – this works out at about a maximum of 50g (1.7oz) of sugar for the average adult.

But the global health body recently acknowledged that halving this, to 5% of total energy intake per day, would have additional benefits.

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Eating yoghurt cuts risk of high blood pressure

Eating a small pot of yoghurt a day can cut the chance of having high blood pressure by a third.Eating yoghurt cuts risk of high blood pressureNaturally occurring calcium can make blood vessels more supple, enabling them to expand slightly and keep pressure low say dietitians.

American researchers who looked at the diets of some 2,000 volunteers, found those who regularly ate a little yoghurt were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

Specifically, those who took two per cent of their calories from yoghurt were 31 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure over a 15 year period, than those who did not.

That equates to about 40 or 50 calories from yoghurt daily, or about half a typical 4.3oz (120g) individual pot.

Huifen Wang, a public health specialist at Minnesota University, presented the research Yogurt consumption, blood pressure, and incident hypertension: A longitudinal study in the Framingham Heart Study at an American Heart Association meeting about high blood pressure.

Calcium from dairy products like yoghurt and milk was particularly good for this, he said.

But taking too much calcium in pill form could have the opposite effect, he cautioned.

Studies indicate it can then be deposited on artery walls, leading to hardening of the arteries.

More than 8.5 million people are registered as having high blood pressure.

People with the condition are three times more likely to develop heart disease and suffer strokes as people with normal blood pressure and twice as likely to die from these.

Patients are often put on drugs to lower their blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

In 2008, the NHS in England spent £83 million on beta-blockers alone.

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Intensive two minute exercise as good as a 90 minute run

Short bursts of exercise lasting just 150 seconds could help protect against heart disease as much as a 90 minute run or longer but less strenuous workouts, according to new research.Intensive two minute exercise as good as a 90 minute runEvidence from a study of men aged 18 to 35 indicated brief but intense exercise was more effective at reducing blood fat levels, which can linger in the body after eating and begin the process of clogging up arteries.

In an experiment led by researcher Stuart Gray, a group of men was asked to sprint, cycle or walk for half an hour.

Those who exercised at peak levels for 30 seconds before resting for four minutes and repeating, saw the fat in their blood drop faster than those who walked at a brisk pace in line with Government guidelines.

The results showed walking cut fat by 11 per cent, compared with not doing any exercise, while short periods of exercise helped reduce fat by 33 per cent – the same effect as a 90 minute run.

Dr Gray, of Aberdeen University, told the British Science Festival that two minute workouts may be more effective in causing the liver to process more fat from the blood before storing it or burning it off.

He said that, while the high intensity training “won’t necessarily” improve strength, it does boost endurance.

He added that the short duration of the exercise was ‘highly important as time is often cited as the main barrier to taking part in exercise.”

However, he said exercising for brief period between resting meant the whole workout took 20 minutes and had to be done regularly.

Dr Gray said: “Although moderate intensity, longer sessions of exercise can help protect the body against cardiovascular disease, the findings of our study showed that higher-intensity shorter intervals of exercise might be a more effective method to improve health and reduce the time commitment to exercise.”

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Spare tyre triples risk of heart attack

People who carry a small “spare tyre” around their waist but are otherwise a healthy weight are at triple the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Spare tyre triples risk of heart attackMen and women who are not overweight but store most of their fat around their waist are at greater risk of heart disease or stroke than even the clinically obese.

This could be because those who are overweight or obese have more weight on their thighs and hips which helps offset the problem, researchers said.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic in the United States examined the health records of 12,785 people with an average age of 44, over a 14-year period.

They recorded patients’ body mass index (BMI) – their ratio of weight relative to height – as well as their waist-to-hip ratio, which signifies how much of their weight they store on their belly.

During the study, 2,562 of the patients died, including 1,138 as a result of a cardiovascular problem such as heart disease or stroke.

The findings suggest that people with a normal BMI but a high waist-to-hip ratio were 2.75 times more likely to die from a cardiovascular condition than people who were normal on both scales.

Even people who were clinically obese and had a high proportion of fat stored around their middle had only 2.34 times the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke compared with the healthiest group.

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Munich, Dr Karine Sahakyan said having a normal BMI “should not reassure them that their risk for heart disease is low”.

“Where their fat is distributed on their body can mean a lot even if their body weight is within normal limits,” she said.

Fat which accumulates between the organs in the abdomen, and causes the waistline to expand, is made of a different type of cell to that which accumulates around the legs and thighs.

Cells in belly fat release chemicals which raise insulin resistance and are thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

People who are overweight and obese have more muscle mass and store some of their fat on their legs and hips, which Dr Sahakyan said was “actually protective”.

Slimmer people are more likely to carry extra weight on the waist, she said.

Patients with a high waist-to-hip ratio can offset their risk by exercising more and sticking to a healthy diet.

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Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for half of cancers

Almost half of cancers are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle that could be avoided by quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising and drinking less alcohol, the most comprehensive study of its kind has found.Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for half of cancersAround 134,000 cancers each year are the result of a poor lifestyle, Cancer Research UK has found.

In the most wide reaching study yet conducted into the issue, it was found that 14 different lifestyle factors ranging from smoking, to lack of exercise, eating too much salt, not having babies, drinking too much and being overweight contributed to four in every ten cancers diagnosed in the UK.

The findings expose the myth that developing cancer is ‘bad luck’ or down to your genes, the researchers said.

Previous studies had suggested around 80,000 cancers a year could be prevented but they did not take into account occupational exposures to things like asbestos, infections that can cause cancer and sunburn as the latest research has.

In a complex set of research studies, scientists calculated how many cancers and of what type could be attributed to each of the 14 lifestyle factors.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Smoking was the biggest factor, causing nearly one in five of all cancers.

But Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said most people would not know that a quarter of all breast cancer cases could be prevented along with half of colorectal cancers.

He added: “Leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee that someone will not get cancer but doing so will significantly stack the odds in your favour.”

Dr Kumar said tackling unhealthy lifestyle factors linked to cancer would also reduce the risk of a host of other killer diseases such as heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney disease and others.

Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Queen Mary, University of London, and study author, said: “Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it.

“Looking at all the evidence, it’s clear that around 40 per cent of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.

“We didn’t expect to find that eating fruit and vegetables would prove to be so important in protecting men against cancer. And among women we didn’t expect being overweight to have a greater effect than alcohol.”

The study found that alcohol was responsible for 6.4 per cent of breast cancers and almost one in ten liver cancers.

Three quarters of stomach cancers could be avoided, mostly by not smoking, eating too much salt and consuming more fruit and vegetables.

Red meat consumption led to 2.7 per cent of cancers, almost 8,500 cases. Obesity was linked to more than five per cent of cancers or almost 18000 cases, including a third of womb cancers.

Lack of breastfeeding was linked to 3.1 per cent of breast cancers and 17 per cent of ovarian cancers.

The study did not examine how many cancer deaths would be prevented with a healthier lifestyle.

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Heart benefits of statins exceed diabetes risk

The benefits of taking statins for hearts exceeds the increased risk of diabetes from the drugs new reserach has found.Heart benefits of statins exceed diabetes risk

Although the cholesterol busting drugs raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in those already prone to the disease, the cuts in heart attacks and strokes are worth it, an article- Cardiovascular benefits and diabetes risks of statin therapy in primary prevention published in The Lancet said.

Millions of people take statins to reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke and it has been argued that everyone over the age of 50 should take them.

However, in people who are already at risk of type 2 diabetes by being overweight for example, taking statins can increase the chances of developing the disease by 28 per cent.

For healthy people not at risk of diabetes, statins have no effect on the disease.

Conversely, statins can cause fatigue, muscle pains, headaches, nausea and memory problems.

Currently UK doctors consider statins for patients whose chances of having a heart attack over the next decade are calculated to be 20 per cent or greater.

A team of scientists led by Professor Paul Ridker, based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA, analysed data gathered during the Jupiter trial, the first controlled study to report that taking statins results in an increased risk of developing diabetes.

They said for those taking statins during the five year trial the drugs clearly increased the likelihood of developing diabetes in patients already at risk of the disease, these patients were still 39 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular illness while using statins, and 17 per cent less likely to die over the trial period.

Patients who were not already at risk of developing diabetes experienced a 52 per cent reduction in cardiovascular illness when taking statins, and had no increase in diabetes risk.

Professor Ridker said: “Our results show that in participants with and without diabetes risk, the absolute benefits of statin therapy are greater than the hazards of developing diabetes.

“We believe that most physicians and patients would regard heart attack, stroke and death to be more severe outcomes than the onset of diabetes, and so we hope that these results ease concern about the risks associated with statin therapy when these drugs are appropriately prescribed – in conjunction with improved diet, exercise and smoking cessation – to reduce patients’ risk of cardiovascular disease.”

In an accompanying commentary article Professor Gerald Watts of the University of Western Australia’s Cardiometabolic Research Centre, at the Royal Perth Hospital, said warnings over the use of statins and diabetes could be altered to apply only to people already at risk of diabetes.

He said: “A major take-home message for the clinician involved in either primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease is that all individuals on a statin who have major risk factors for diabetes, particularly impaired fasting glucose, need to be informed about the risk, monitored regularly for hyperglycaemia, and advised to lose weight and take regular physical exercise to mitigate the emergence of diabetes.”

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Smiling is good for the heart

Smiling, grinning and bearing it really might work suggest scientists following research that smiling really can reduce stress and help the heart.Smiling is good for the heartResearchers found smiling can reduce stress levels and lower the heart rate while performing difficult tasks.

Writing in Psychological Science, the authors tell how they studied the effects of different types of smiling in difficult situations.

Tara Kraft, of the University of Kansas, said: “Age old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events.

“We wanted to examine whether these adages had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health relevant benefits.”

She and Dr Sarah Pressman divided smiles into two categories – standard smiles, which use the muscles surrounding the mouth, and genuine or Duchenne smiles, which engage the muscles surrounding both the mouth and the eyes.

Kraft and Pressman worked to manipulate the types of smiles to examine the effects on stress.

They recruited 169 participants from a Midwestern university and divided them into three groups, with each group was trained to hold a different facial expression.

They were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they engaged facial muscles used to create a neutral facial expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile.

Chopsticks were essential to the task because they forced people to smile without the people being aware that they were doing so: only half of the group members were actually instructed to smile.

Participants were then asked to work on multitasking activities which, unknown to them, were designed to be stressful.

During both of the stressful tasks, participants held the chopsticks in their mouth just as they were taught in training and the researchers measured participants’ heart rates and self stress levels.

Compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.

The participants who held chopsticks in a manner that forced them to smile, but were not explicitly told to smile as part of the training, also reported a smaller decrease in positive affect compared to those who held neutral facial expressions.

Dr Pressman said that the findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

She said: “The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment.  Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well.”

From:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Smiling-is-good-for-the-heart

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Eating two apples a day reduces heart disease by quarter

Eating two apples a day for six months could help protect women against heart disease by cutting their cholesterol levels by almost a quarter according to new research.Eating two apples a day reduces heart disease by quarterScientists found apples significantly lowered blood fat levels in postmenopausal women, the group most at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Snacking on the fruit every day for six months slashed cholesterol by almost a quarter.

The biggest reduction was seen in low density lipoprotein, the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol that furs up arteries and raises the risk of a life-threatening clot forming near the heart or brain.

The findings, by a team of researchers at Florida State University in the US, support previous evidence that apples could be good for the heart.

But the latest study suggests they could benefit one of the highest risk groups.

Around 45 per cent of British women will suffer from heart disease or a stroke and it is the biggest single cause of death among post-menopausal women.

Up to the menopause, women appear to have a natural immunity to heart disease and the rate of illness is only a third of that seen in men.

But from the age of around 50 onwards, the incidence increases sharply.

Researchers wanted to see if eating the equivalent of two apples every day could have a significant effect on heart disease risk.

They recruited 160 women who had been through the menopause and got half to eat 75 grammes a day of dried apple – the equivalent of two medium sized fresh apples.

As a comparison, the other half were told to eat the same quantity of prunes to see if they had a similar effect. Each volunteer underwent blood tests every three months for one year.

The results, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that after three months total cholesterol levels in the apple eating group had dropped by nine per cent and LDL cholesterol by 16 per cent.

After six months, levels were even lower, with total cholesterol down 13 per cent and LDL levels dropping by 24 per cent. There was no further decline in the remaining six months of the experiment.

Prunes lowered cholesterol levels slightly but not to the same extent as the dried apple.

In a report on their findings the researchers said: ‘Consumption of about two medium-sized apples can significantly lower cholesterol levels as early as three months.’

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Two-apples-a-day-keeps-the-cardiologist-away

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