March 21

Diet and cardiovascular health

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Moorooka Brisbane Southside Naturopath

Brisbane South side Naturopath and Acupuncturist, Michelle Blum looks at evidence based dietary interventions for cardio-vascular health.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of illness and death in Australia. Such prevalence results in a landslide of well-meaning but conflicting advice and misinformation, particularly online. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease when identified and addressed early, can make all the difference for preventing a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or a heart attack.

Naturopathic in-clinic screening methods forcardiovascular disease may include:

  • Monitoring your blood pressure and pulse
  • Analysing your iris, tongue and nails
  • Checking your waist circumference
  • Testing your blood circulation and respiratory health
  • Exploring other risk factors such as diet, exerciseand physical environment

To assess your risk of cardiovascular disease, yourNaturopath can also interpret routine blood test results and explain therelationship between markers such as

  • Cholesterol / triglycerides and the importance oftheir ratios
  • C-reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation
  • Vitamin B12, B6 and folate levels
  • Homocysteine levels

High homocysteine levels can directly contribute tothe development of cardiovascular disease, by increasing the damaging effect ofcholesterol on the blood vessel walls. Homocysteine levels can become elevatedif you are not getting enough vitamin B12, B6 or folate in your diet, or if yourability to absorb these nutrients isn’t quite up to scratch.

What’sthe best diet for preventing cardiovascular disease?

The results are in – a 2019 study followed over 16 000 adults and found that those who followed a mostly plant-based diet were at a lower risk of heart failure than those who followed a diet high in processed or fried foods and consumed sugar sweetened beverages1<sup>1</sup>. The plant-based diet group were at 41% lower risk for experiencing heart failure. Unsurprisingly, the fried diet group were evaluated as having a 71% increase in risk of heart failure1.

A plant-based diet is also less likely to result in theformation of trimethylamine n-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite produced by gutbacteria which plays a role in how fats are processed in the liver2. Higher levels of TMAO are oftenfound in cases of cardiovascular disease. Because TMAO is formed during the breakdownof certain nutrients found in red meat, egg yolk and full fat dairy products,limiting these foods can help to reduce risk. Interestingly, choosing balsamicvinegar and olive oil can help negate the effects of TMAO2.

Whatabout a vegetarian diet for stroke?

When assessing over 13 000 people for a link betweendiet and risk of stroke, researchers found that those on a vegetarian diet, enjoya 74% lower risk of stroke3. It is important to note that astrictly vegetarian diet can result in inadequate intake of important nutrientslike vitamin B6 and B12. Deficiency in these vitamins can elevate homocysteinelevels which as mentioned above, can increase your risk of cardiovasculardisease. The solution? Consider decreasing your intake of animal products andincrease the quality of the products you’re choosing! Still include some highquality animal products but choose organic or grass-fed options for your meatand eggs.

Oliveoil or coconut oil – which is healthier in for the heart?

Many people are choosing coconut oil over othercooking oils such as olive or canola oil. However, a recent study found thatcoconut oil does have the ability to raise levels of LDL cholesterol, which isproblematic for those at risk of cardiovascular disease4. This study was based on theconsumption of 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day – an amount most peoplearen’t going to be eating on a daily basis.

A 2020 study found that replacing just a teaspoon ofmargarine, butter or mayonnaise with olive oil per day, reduces risk ofcardiovascular disease by up to 7%5. The study was conducted in theUnited States over 24 years and determined that those who consumed ½ atablespoon of olive oil per day were 14% less likely to develop cardiovasculardisease and 18% less likely to develop coronary heart disease5.

The key points:

  • A plant-based diet decreases risk of heart failure, while a diet featuring fried or highly processed foods and drinks has a higher risk of heart failure
  • A Mediterranean style diet with a range of plant fibres from vegetables, legumes, nuts and fruits with a daily dose of high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar can help to mediate the effects of animal products in cardiovascular disease risk
  • Don’t overdo the coconut oil and replace high fat condiments with olive oil

Contact Michelle Blum Natural Health if you would like to book an appointment or discuss how Naturopathy and/or Acupuncture can assist you with your particular health concern.

ReferenceList:

1.       Lara KM,Levitan EB, Gutierrez OM, et al. Dietary Patterns and Incident Heart Failure inU.S. Adults Without Known Coronary Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019.doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2019.01.067

2.       Senthong V, Wang Z, Fan Y,Wu Y, Hazen SL, Tang WHW. Trimethylamine N-oxide and mortality risk in patientswith peripheral artery disease. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016.doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.004237

3.       Chiu THT, Chang H-R, WangL-Y, Chang C-C, Lin M-N, Lin C-L. Vegetarian diet and incidence of total,ischemic, and hemorrhagic stroke in 2 cohorts in Taiwan. Neurology.2020;0:10.1212/WNL.0000000000009093. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000009093

4.       Eyres L, Eyres MF, ChisholmA, Brown RC. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans.Nutr Rev. 2016. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuw002

5.       Marta Guasch-Ferré, GangLiu, Yanping Li, Laura Sampson, JoAnn E. Manson, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Miguel A.Martínez-González, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett QS and FBH. Olive OilConsumption and Cardiovascular Risk in U.S. Adults. J Am Coll Cardiol.2020;(March).

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