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There is "no clear evidence" that calcium supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, says a new analysis from an international team of researchers. An analysis of data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) indicated that calcium is involved in cardiovascular health, with an increased risk of cardiovascular death linked to low calcium levels. For women, there was a statistically significant increased risk of cardiovascular death linked to low serum calcium levels.


They also note that "no associations is found between cardiovascular death and intakes of calcium from either diet or supplements. However, total calcium intake of 1300 to 2000 mg/d seemed to be associated with lowered risk of ischemic heart disease among men, which was not observed for women.


For this study, data from 20 024 people who had been interviewed in NHANES were followed, and their deaths and causes of death recorded. During the course of the study, 10% of the people died of heart disease. People in the bottom 5% for serum calcium levels had a 50% increased risk of dying from heart disease. The current study suggests that serum calcium is involved in cardiovascular health. There was no strong evidence for an association between calcium supplement usage and cardiovascular death, indicating that calcium supplement usage may be a marker of healthy lifestyle. However, it is possible that calcium supplementation may have a different effect on incident cardiovascular disease than on fatal cardiovascular disease. Whether extremely low or extremely high serum concentrations of calcium are related to cardiovascular mortality and whether these associations differ by sex need to be addressed in future studies in which these markers of calcium are assessed in detail.


Source: van Hemelrijck M, Michaelsson K, Linseisen J, Rohrmann S. Calcium intake and serum concentration in relation to risk of cardiovascular death in NHANES III. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e61037, doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0061037.



Some nutrition experts, including Dr Barbara Moore of our Editorial Board and Shape Up America! think that more informative labels on alcoholic beverages are long overdue. People need an easy way to answer these questions because they are for many people surprisingly high in alcohol as well as an unrecognized source of calories: How many calories are there in a bottle of beer? How much alcohol is there in a shot of whiskey? How many servings are there in a bottle of wine? Consumers and most nutritionists would probably be hard-pressed to know the answers to these questions. Fortunately, that may soon change. Recently, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which has jurisdiction over labeling of alcoholic beverages, took a small, yet positive, step to allow beer, wine, and spirits companies to provide consumers with nutritional and alcohol information on their products. In a ruling, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau said that alcoholic beverage manufacturers can now voluntarily disclose on the label the number of calories and carbohydrates in alcoholic beverages, as well as provide information about alcohol content, such as percent alcohol by volume and fluid ounces of alcohol per serving.


Consumer groups have been advocating for standardized labeling for over a decade so that consumers can be informed about the nutrition and alcohol content of the beer, wine, and spirits they choose to drink. Packaged food, dietary supplements, and drugs all contain essential information about their contents on the package label. Yet alcoholic beverages have remained the one consumable product without similar "serving facts" information. This is a blind spot for American consumers who could use nutrition and alcohol content information to help moderate their drinking and the calories they consume.


Adding standardized serving facts label would help consumers more easily understand the information presented and be able to compare information across products and categories. Importantly, the label could also include the definition of a "standard drink," which is 0.6 fl oz of alcohol. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines and other government publications refer to a standard drink as 12 oz of regular beer, 5 oz of wine, and 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits, each of which contain 0.6 fl oz of alcohol. Knowing how much alcohol is in a serving of beer, wine, or distilled spirits and comparing that to a standard drink can help consumers follow recommendations for moderating drinking. More power to the advocates to better alcoholic beverage labeling!





With the focus on the ill effects of saturated and trans-fatty acids, the majority of food companies lowered levels of the ingredient in their products-and about half completely eliminated use of trans fats, researchers found in a recent study in which they analyzed 270 food products. About 66% had reduced their trans fat content between 2007 and 2011. The majority (82%) listed 0 g of trans fat on their nutrition labels (anything <0.5 g qualifies as trans-fat-free per Food and Drug Administration standards), and half had completely eliminated the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, the main trans fat used in industrially produced foods. Most trans fat in the modern diet is the result of industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Partial hydrogenation converts vegetable oils into semisolid fats that have attractive commercial properties for cooking, baking, and frying. Their use rose during the early and middle 20th century, especially in Europe, but after it was found that trans and other saturated fats had cardiovascular risks, companies were spurred to reformulate their products to reduce them in foods. To assess changes in levels of trans fats in food products, the researchers looked at those 270 products from prominent brands selected from large supermarkets and sold between 2007 and 2011. By 2011, 66% of those products had reduced levels of trans fats, with a mean decline of 1.5 g per serving and a mean 78% drop in trans fat content in that group. More than four-fifths of these reformulated products (82%) had reduced trans fat content to less than 0.5 g per serving. Half still listed partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in the ingredients list. The big question is whether these remaining levels were meaningful in terms of human health and overall intakes. Differences in reformulation could reflect technical challenges of reformulating certain foods. French fries, ice cream, and doughnuts were reformulated to meet trans fat goals; they found, but popcorn, pies, margarines, and rolls, still averaged more than 1.5 g of trans fats per serving. However, in each of those latter categories, the investigators found that some individual products had managed to reduce or eliminate trans fats. To them, this suggested that it was "possible to produce marketable forms of these products with reduced or eliminated trans fat." The researchers continued that "This finding suggests that consumers can view a '0 g trans fat' listing on a reformulated product with cautious optimism, as a substantial proportion of trans fat content has been eliminated. Nonetheless, when consumed across multiple servings and different products, these remaining amounts of polyhydrogenated vegetable oils pose a health risk and should be eliminated," although this statement is debatable, because label declarations and not chemical analyses were used as the evidence, and actual levels may have been lower than this. Also, some experts believe that a focus on total saturated fats including trans fats is more appropriate for estimating health risks than a focus solely on eliminating trans fats from foods. However, consumers should be heartened that on both these counts things are much improved from 20 or 30 years ago.


Source: Medpage Today


Primary Source: Otite FO, et al. Trends in trans fatty acid reformulations of U.S. supermarket and brand-name foods from 2007 through 2011. Prev Chron Disease 2013; doi 10.5888/pcd10.120198.