Ix-nay On The Agave!
Oh , gosh! Don’t you just love agave sweetener? So delicious and low on the glycemic index. Doesn’t it just seem like the perfect natural sweetener?
Unfortunately, its very low glycemic index (35 or less) is a reflection of its high fructose content. In turn, that high fructose content places it low on the health scale.
Without going into the word wars between the world’s largest producer of agave syrup and Dr. Mercola (the world’s largest health website),* let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what the Harvard Health website has to say about it:
Fructose once seemed like one of nutrition’s good guys . . . But fructose, at least in large quantities, may have some drawbacks. Fructose is metabolized almost exclusively in the liver. It’s more likely to result in the creation of fats, which increase the risk for heart disease.
Moreover, recent work has shown that fructose may have an influence on the appetite hormones. High levels of fructose may blunt sensations of fullness and could lead to overeating. (It., Ed.)
The agave syrup producers never mention the health dangers of their product, but refute Dr. Mercola while standing up for the sustainability of agave farming and the trickle down to the Mexican farmers involved.
Meanwhile, Mercola quotes the work of Richard Johnson, MD, and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, Denver. Johnson’s explains how sugar and particularly fructose, trip our “fat switch”.
From the Harvard Gazette:
Research Also Shows People Who Eat Nuts Weigh Less
According to the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t consume nuts, say scientists from the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine,contains further good news: The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate fears that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.
The report also looked at the protective effect on specific causes of death.
“The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease — the major killer of people in America,” said Charles S. Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber, who is the senior author of the report and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“But we also saw a significant reduction — 11 percent — in the risk of dying from cancer,” added Fuchs, who is also affiliated with the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s.
Whether any specific type or types of nuts were crucial to the protective effect could not be determined. However, the reduction in mortality was similar both for peanuts (a legume, or ground nut) and for tree nuts — walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, and pine nuts.
Several previous studies had found an association between increasing nut consumption and a lower risk of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones, and diverticulitis. Higher nut consumption also has been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, inflammation, adiposity, and insulin resistance. Some small studies have linked an increase of nuts in the diet to lower total mortality in specific populations. But no previous research studies had looked in such detail at various levels of nut consumption and their effects on overall mortality in a large population that was followed for more than 30 years.
For the new research, the scientists were able to tap databases from two well-known, ongoing observational studies that collect data on diet and other lifestyle factors and various health outcomes. The Nurses’ Health Study provided data on 76,464 women between 1980 and 2010, and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study yielded data on 42,498 men from 1986 to 2010. Participants in the studies filled out detailed food questionnaires every two to four years. With each questionnaire, participants were asked to estimate how often they consumed nuts in a serving size of one ounce. A typical small packet of peanuts from a vending machine contains one ounce.
Sophisticated data analysis methods were used to rule out other factors that might have accounted for the mortality benefits. For example, the researchers found that individuals who ate more nuts were leaner, less likely to smoke, and more likely to exercise, use multivitamin supplements, consume more fruits and vegetables, and drink more alcohol. However, analysis was able to isolate the association between nuts and mortality independently of these other factors.
“In all these analyses, the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30-year follow-up period,” explained Ying Bao of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, first author of the report. Those who ate nuts less than once a week had a 7 percent reduction in mortality; once a week, 11 percent reduction; two to four times per week, 13 percent reduction; five to six times per week, 15 percent reduction; and seven or more times a week, a 20 percent reduction in death rate.
The authors noted that this large study cannot definitively prove cause and effect; nonetheless, the findings are strongly consistent with “a wealth of existing observational and clinical trial data to support health benefits of nut consumption on many chronic diseases.” In fact, based on previous studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2003 that eating 1½ ounces per day of most nuts “may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
The study was supported by National Institutes of Health and a research grant from the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation.
Nuts For Nutrition
Nut Butter Primer
People with a genetically determined, reduced breakdown of the amino acid homocysteine have an increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to healthy people. This is revealed in doctoral research carried out by Mariska Klerk at Wageningen University.
The researchers from Wageningen have demonstrated that people with a genetically determined, specific form of reduced homocysteine breakdown have a 16 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. People with the aforementioned reduced breakdown have on average a 25 percent higher homocysteine concentration in their blood from birth onwards, compared to other people.
Homocysteine has been associated with cardiovascular disease for a long time. However, until recently it was not clear whether an increased concentration of this amino acid in the blood was the cause or consequence of cardiovascular disease. This research into people with a genetic predisposition for a high homocysteine concentration in the blood supports the argument that this high concentration is a cause of cardiovascular disease.
Homocysteine is an amino acid (protein building block) which is formed in the body during the breakdown of another amino acid (methionine) obtained from food. The body regulates the homocysteine concentration in the blood with the aid of several B vitamins, including folic acid. Apart from a genetic predisposition, a shortage of these vitamins can also lead to an increased concentration of homocysteine in the blood. Folic acid supplementation is therefore an effective strategy to reduce the quantity of homocysteine in the blood.
The research has also revealed that people with genetically determined, reduced homocysteine breakdown only had an increased risk of heart disease when the folic acid concentration in the blood was low. This result suggests that reducing the homocysteine concentration in the blood by means of folic acid supplementation will reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers also investigated whether a reduction in the homocysteine concentration in the blood as a result of vitamin B supplementation had a favourable effect on blood clotting in healthy volunteers. The assumption was that homocysteine increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by overstimulating blood clotting (which could eventually result in thrombosis). Despite a considerable reduction in the homocysteine concentration in the blood of people who had received extra vitamin B, no clear effect on blood clotting could be demonstrated.
The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
Believing myths and misconceptions about heart disease may increase heart attack risk, from the Harvard Heart Letter
BOSTON—Knowledge about heart disease changes quickly, but our beliefs don’t always keep up. As a result, misconceptions abound. The June 2013 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter addresses ten commonly held but mistaken, ideas about heart disease.
For example, many people believe that everyone with heart disease should eat as little fat as possible. In reality, eating some fats actually lowers the risk of heart disease. These healthy fats include unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils and other foods, and omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fishes. The ones to be avoided, because they boost heart attack risk, are saturated and trans fats.
Another myth is that people with heart disease should take it easy. Not so. Physical activity is beneficial for both the healthy heart and the diseased heart. It strengthens the heart muscle, increases blood flow to the heart and brain, and improves overall health.
Here’s another: it’s okay for blood pressure to rise with age. High blood pressure is a sign that artery walls are becoming stiff. That forces the heart to pump harder, which damages arteries over time. When blood pressure rises above 140/90 millimeters of mercury at any age, it needs attention.
Another common belief is that it’s okay to eat anything if you take a cholesterol-lowering drug. In reality, eating foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat make these drugs less effective or even ineffective.
Other myths and misconceptions cover diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the benefits of taking vitamins and minerals, “it’s too late to quit smoking,” small heart attacks, angioplasty and stenting or bypass surgery as “cures” for heart disease, and gender. (more…)