Article Content


[check mark] Effects of dietary sodium reduction on CVD


[check mark] Dial E for Exercise


[check mark] Can early growth help cholesterol levels later?


Early Life Growth Spurts Protect Against "Bad" Cholesterol

Tall toddlers and rapidly growing teens are likely to find themselves with lower cholesterol, particularly the "bad" type, in later life. Conversely, piling on the pounds after the age of 15 boosted cholesterol levels, the study showed. The findings are based on just under 3,000 participants of a Medical Research Council long-term study, tracking a representative sample of 5,362 people born in 1 week of March in 1946.


Heights and weights were measured at the ages of 2, 4, 7, 15, 36, and 53. When participants reached the age of 53, blood samples were taken to measure cholesterol levels.


When all the figures were analyzed, the results showed that when faster height was gained before the age of 2, and after the age of 15, the cholesterol level was lower at the age of 53.


Growth in leg length, rather than trunk length, was more strongly associated with lower cholesterol levels. Higher body fat levels at the ages of 36 and 53 and more rapid weight gain between the ages of 15 and 53 were associated with higher total cholesterol levels, including higher levels of the harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.


The researchers found that the effects of the growth spurts in either height or girth could not be explained by weight at birth, which is a well-known factor in adult health or lifetime socioeconomic status.


Source: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health


Study Shows Vitamin K2 Plays Significant Role in Cardiovascular Health

A new study suggests that Vitamin K2 provides significant benefits for promoting cardiovascular health. The study shows for the first time that a high intake of vitamin K significantly reverses arterial calcification induced with anticoagulant medication use.


The animal study found that high-dose vitamin K not only blocked new arterial calcium buildup but also reduced existing levels by over 37% within only 6 weeks. The most potent inhibitor of vascular calcification known is matrix GLA protein (MGP), a vitamin K-dependent protein, meaning vitamin K is required to activate this important protein. In humans, oral anticoagulants that interfere with vitamin K (warfarins) block MGP function and induce calcification. Also, inactive MGP levels in the blood are an indicator of cardiovascular disease, and a new test has been developed to measure these levels.


Calcium buildup in arteries is an early warning sign of increased risk on coronary heart disease in humans. People with higher arterial calcium levels are more likely to develop arteriolosclerosis, stroke, and other heart ailments later in life than those with normal levels. Researchers also note as evidence the increased risk of calcium in blood vessels (arterial calcification) associated with cardiovascular disease in people with vitamin K-poor diets.


Source: Blood


Eating Less Salt Could Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

People who significantly cut back on the amount of salt in their diet could reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease by a quarter. The researchers also found that a reduction in salt intake could lower the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by up to a fifth.


Cardiovascular disease refers to the group of diseases linked to the heart or arteries, for example, a stroke or heart disease. Although there is already a substantial body of evidence showing that cutting back on salt lowers blood pressure, studies showing subsequent levels of cardiovascular disease in the population have been limited and inconclusive.


This research provides some of the strongest objective evidence, to date, that lowering the amount of salt in the diet reduces the long-term risk of future cardiovascular disease, say the authors of the report.


Researchers followed up participants from 2 trials completed in the 1990s which had been conducted to analyze the effect that reducing salt in the diet had on blood pressure.


All the participants had high-normal blood pressure (prehypertension). They were, therefore, at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. There were 744 people who took part in the first Trial of Hypertension Prevention, which was completed in 1990, 2,382 in the second, which ended in 1995. In both trials, participants reduced their sodium intake by approximately 25% to 35%, alongside a control group who did not cut back on their salt intake.


Detailed information on cardiovascular and other health problems was sought from participants in the earlier trials. As part of this, researchers found that participants who had cut back on salt during the trials tended to stick to a lower salt diet compared with those who had been in the control group. In total, the researchers obtained information from 2,415 (77.3%) participants, 200 of whom had reported some sort of cardiovascular problem.


The reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular problems as a result of the sodium reduction intervention was substantial. The results showed that these prehypertensive individuals were 25% less likely to develop cardiovascular problems over the course of the 10 to 15 years posttrial. There was also a 20% lower mortality rate. This risk reduction was evident in each trial.


To the authors' knowledge, this study is the first and only study of sufficient size and duration to assess the effects of a low-salt diet on cardiovascular problems based on randomized trial data. It provides unique evidence that lowering salt in the diet might prevent cardiovascular disease.


Source: BMJ


Phone Counseling Helps Patients Improve Eating and Exercise Habits

"Phoning it in" works when it comes to losing weight and getting fit, according to a new systematic review. Researchers reviewed 26 studies published between 1965 and early 2006. Twenty took place in the United States; the rest were conducted in Australia and New Zealand. All of the studies were randomized controlled trials.


The studies used either live telephone counselors, such as nurses, health educators, or trained researchers, or automated phone systems. The telephone proved to be an effective delivery mechanism for health behavior change, overall, 77% of the studies found that people receiving phone counseling made positive dietary and physical activity behaviors.


Sixty-nine percent of the studies that evaluated physical activity, 83% of the studies that evaluated dietary behaviors, and 75% of the studies that addressed both diet and exercise reported positive improvements after the telephone counseling intervention.


Although telephone counseling was the primary method of delivering information about exercise and nutrition for all of the studies, most interventions also offered participants nutrition and exercise information via an initial face-to-face meeting and printed materials.


Longer interventions appeared to be especially effective in helping people change their ways. Of the 13 studies that lasted between 6 and 12 months, and included 12 or more calls, 77% reported positive changes in dietary behaviors and physical activity levels. In comparison, only 50% of the interventions lasting less than 6 months reported positive outcomes.


Despite the review's overall positive findings, few studies evaluated whether the positive outcomes of phone counseling lasted after the counseling sessions ended. Only 2 studies evaluated costs; both concluded that phone interventions did offer cost benefits. The telephone also allows for a real-time interaction; thus, a telephone counselor can help people problem-solve their trouble spots, reevaluate their goals, and set new goals if they are successful.


Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society


Impact of Exercise on Body Fat Is Different for Boys and Girls

The impact of exercise on body fat differs for boys and girls, suggests research on exercise to curb the rising tide of obesity in children, which has tended to take a unisex approach.


The findings are based on a random sample of 224 children aged between 7 and 10 years at 12 schools in the Republic of Ireland. One in 5 children was overweight, and 6% were obese, figures which are significantly higher than those of other European countries, say the authors. More boys than girls were obese.


Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured in all the children, using a validated running test, and the amount of exercise taken over a period of 4 days. Boys exercised hard twice as often as girls. On average, they spent more than an hour a day, exercising vigorously. Girls spent just over half an hour a day.


Running at 9 km/h, or its equivalent, was classified as vigorous exercise. Overall, all the children who scored well on measures of cardiorespiratory fitness were significantly leaner and had smaller waists than those whose fitness levels were poor.


Waist size is important, say the authors, because midrift fat is associated with certain metabolic changes, which in turn are linked to poorer cardiovascular health. Boys tended to be more physically fit than the girls, but the amount of hard exercise taken regularly had a direct impact only on the boys' weight.


Unlike the girls, those boys who did the least hard exercise were the fattest. And those who led a predominantly sedentary lifestyle had the thickest waists. The authors suggest that the current measure of body mass index may be inadequate, by itself, to determine the extent of cardiovascular risk in children and adolescents.


Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine