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Genetic mutations that prevent heart attacks: Can a diet change help others?

Some naturopaths, functional medicine physicians, and various other health professionals may suggest taking cod liver oil (liquid) in specific amounts to lower triglyceride levels in people who don't want to take drugs made to lower triglycerides because they don't want the possibility of various side effects or the expense of buying drugs each month. For example, a Web MD article, "Cod Liver Oil: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings," explains that Cod liver oil is used for high cholesterol, high triglycerides, kidney disease in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, depression, an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), glaucoma, and middle ear infections (otitis media).

Genetic mutations that prevent heart attacks: Can a diet change help others by lowering triglycerides?
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Some people have a mutation on a gene that gives them lifelong low triglycerides in spite of how many fats they eat. See, "Boston scientists say triglycerides play key role in heart health." If you check out the June 19, 2014 Forbes article, "Mutations That Prevent Heart Attacks Upend The Search For New Drugs," you'll find out that every time a new gene mutation is found that controls your risk of high triglycerides or heart disease, it signals the chance for researchers to develop a new drug on which to make money.

Yet few mainstream media news emphasize how to lower triglycerides with diet or supplements such as fish oil, krill oil, calamari oil, or other sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Few reporters discuss whether you maybe need a change of oil. But you'll find such information on sites dedicated to reporting studies on how to use food as medicine for things that perhaps can be changed by diet or supplements, such as your triglyceride level, at least for some people. Researchers found that patients with certain genetic mutations that stop a gene that the body uses to make fat particles called triglycerides have a 40% reduction in their risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to the June 19, 2014 Forbes article by Matthew Herper, "Mutations That Prevent Heart Attacks Upend The Search For New Drugs."

Industry is looking for lower cost when it comes to oils and higher income as well as longer shelf life in processed snacks sold as healthy snacks in food markets

In today's fast-paced society, consumers often reach for nutrition bars when looking for a healthy on-the-go snack on the run or at work. A new study in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFT) found that partially replacing canola oil with fish oil in nutrition bars can provide the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids without affecting the taste.

Producers have been hesitant to incorporate fish oil into foods because it tends to give off a fishy taste or smell, therefore requiring additional processing steps to eliminate these unwanted qualities. However, some brands of cod liver oil supplements or liquid in a bottle contain lemon flavoring and don't have a fishy taste, even when a teaspoon is drizzled over a salad. One example of fish oil that doesn't smell or taste very fishy is Carlson Labs - Cod Liver Oil Lemon Flavor. It has a distinct and pleasant lemon flavor.

Fish-oil fortified nutrition in oat or soy-based snack bars: Omega-3 fatty acids are known to lower triglyceride levels and may help with arthritis

In the study, four levels of fish oil were evaluated to determine consumer acceptance of fish-oil fortified nutrition bars. The results showed that oat and soy-based nutrition bars fortified with the lowest replacement level (20 percent) of fish oil did not affect consumer acceptance or purchase intent, according to the September 25, 2012 news release, "Nothing fishy about fish oil fortified nutrition bars."

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are known to lower triglyceride levels and may help with rheumatoid arthritis. For more than 70 years, IFT has existed to advance the science of food. The nonprofit scientific society with more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries, brings together food scientists, technologists and related professions from academia, government, and industry. For more information, please visit the IFT site.

Single-larger-portion-size and dual-column nutrition labeling may help consumers make healthful decisions, reports Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

In another study from Philadelphia reported in January 23, 2013, scientists looked at the Nutrition Facts label that was introduced 20 years ago. The Nutrition Facts label is only one tool that can help consumers make informed food choices. Check out the site, How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.

The FDA's Nutrition Facts Label provides consumers with important information about what's in the food, including: the serving size, the number of servings in the package, the number of calories per serving, and the amount of nutrients for each serving of a packaged food. However, research has shown that consumers often miscalculate the number of calories and the nutritional content of products that have two or more servings per container but are usually consumed in a single eating occasion.

Two nutrition labeling changes could have the potential to make nutritional content information easier to understand: 1) dual-column information that details single serving and total package nutrition information, and 2) declaring nutritional information for the entire container.

New study looked at consumer's accuracy using modified versions of the Nutrition Facts label: Is it trustworthy and helpful?

Amy M. Lando, MPP, and Serena C. Lo, PhD, of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, MD, conducted an online study with more than 9,000 participants to measure consumers' accuracy in using modified versions of the Nutrition Facts Label and to assess their perceptions of how useful, trustworthy, and helpful the label was. Check out the site, Key to Choosing Healthful Foods Using the Nutrition Facts Label.

Says Ms. Lando, according to the January 23, 2013 news release, Can changes in nutrition labeling help consumers make better food choices? "FDA commissioned this experimental study to look at whether different ways of presenting the serving size and nutrition information on the Nutrition Facts label might help consumers. In particular we were interested in studying products that have two servings per container but that are customarily consumed in a single eating occasion."

Evaluating some modified Nutrition Facts labels

Study participants evaluated nine modified Nutrition Facts labels and the current label format for four fictitious products (two frozen meals and two grab-and-go bags of chips). The labels were classified into three groups. The first group of labels used a single-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; the second group used versions of a dual-column format to display information for products with two servings per container; and the third group used single-column formats that listed the contents of the product as a single, large serving.

The study team also tested whether changes in formatting, such as enlarging the font size for the declaration of 'Calories,' removing the information on the number of calories from fat, or changing the wording for the serving size declaration, would be helpful to consumers in determining the calories and other nutrient information for a single serving and for the entire package.

More accurate assessment of the number of calories or amount of fat and other nutrients per serving and in the whole package would be great

Study investigators determined that participants could more accurately assess the number of calories or amount of fat or other nutrients per serving and in the entire package when a single, large serving per container format or a dual-column format was used. Check out the site, Nutrition Facts Label Images for Download.

"This research is just one step in understanding how some potential food label modifications might help consumers make better decisions. Ideally, we would like to see how these labels perform in a more realistic setting, such as in a grocery store, with actual packaged foods as opposed to large labels on a computer screen," concludes Dr. Lo, in the news release.

The Nutrition Facts label is only one tool that can help consumers make informed food choices and maintain healthy dietary practices, but it is a valuable tool so it's important to continue exploring ways to support effective use of the label for these purposes." For example, if you want to know more about trans fats, check out the site, Talking About Trans Fat: What You Need to Know.

You may wish to check out the audio podcast on the labeling tested, the results, and implications of the study

In that audio podcast accompanying the study, Ms. Lando and Dr. Lo discuss their study methodology, the labeling they tested, and study results and implications. Also, regarding health and well being based on nutrition choices, you may want to read the article from the FDA at the site, Eating Healthier and Feeling Better Using the Nutrition Facts Label

Examples of some facts from the website of the FDA's Nutrition Facts Label show that more than 75% of the sodium you eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods, according to the FDA site, Sodium: Look at the Label. The Nutrition Facts Label on food and beverage packages is a useful tool for making healthful dietary choices. FDA offers informative education materials that provide practical tips for using the label to reduce sodium in your diet as well as other nutritional health-related tips.

You also may wish to check out the sites such as, Nutrition Information for Raw Fruits, Vegetables and Fish, How to Understand & Use the Nutrition Facts Label, and Using the Nutrition Facts Label: A How-To Guide for Older Adults. Older adults may benefit from using nutrition changes to help slow down certain conditions of aging in situations where nutrition can be of help in managing conditions, according to the FDA site, Using the Nutrition Facts Label: A How-To Guide for Older Adults.

For children, teenagers, and families, see the site, Kids 'n Fiber — Video. Children and teenagers as well as teachers or parents may be interested FDA sites such as, Make Your Calories Count or Questions & Answers on Make Your Calories Count. It may inspire some students, teachers, or parents for developing a science project for school assignments.

For children, there's the Spot the Block Campaign, an award-winning outreach campaign that challenges tweens (ages 9 to 13) to use the Nutrition Facts Label (the "block") to make healthy food choices. With engaging content, parent information, and grassroots outreach, kids and families across the United States can Spot the Block.

Videos about the FDA's Nutrition Label

You can view some of the FDA's nutrition videos such as The Food Label and You, Eat for a Healthy Heart, or Read the Label. Also there are informative sites from the FDA's nutrition videos for consumers such as Trans Fat Now Listed With Saturated Fat & Cholesterol.

Many shoppers are not familiar where hidden trans fats could show up in foods they never realized were made using trans fats such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils put in some ready-to-eat pie no-bake crusts you find on various supermarkets shelves where you put in your own filling and chill instead of baking the crust.

Traditional, ethnic, and modified diets for overweight kids

Researchers are studying both children and older adults who eat the Mediterranean diet as to what type of health effects the diet has, such as who's less likely to be overweight on that diet. You have several types of diets that are similar in vegetables and fruits, for example the Pan-Asian vegetarian diet, the non-vegetarian Pan-Asian diet, and the Mediterranean diet, all which include vegetables and fruits.

The non-vegetarian diets of the Mediterranean and Asia also include some seafood, but less meat than vegetables and fruits. Until fast-food eateries started opening in Asia offering lots of diary products, breads, and more red meat, you had different parts of the world eating different foods as staples of their diets.

Experts examined the Mediterranean Diet’s health effects for older adults in new research. The Mediterranean Diet must have been researched hundreds of times in studies. This new study focused on its effects on older adults as to the diet's ability to keep metabolic syndrome at bay as well as other health conditions such as chronic kidney disease, gout, cardiovascular morbidity, and mortality. Focus is on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the diet as applied to older adults with high cardiovascular risk.

The study looked at older adults at high cardiovascular risk, which is different from many other studies of the diet that focused on younger, healthy people. According to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, a baseline adherence to a Mediterranean diet (MeDiet) is associated with a lower risk of hyperuricemia, defined as a serum uric acid (SUA) concentration higher than 7mg/dl in men and higher than 6mg/dl in women. The paper, “Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Hyperuricemia in Elderly Participants at High Cardiovascular Risk” can be accessed at the Oxford Journals site.

The Mediterranean diet consisted of a high consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and wine

Hyperuricemia has been associated with metabolic syndrome, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, gout, and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The MeDiet is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, nuts, and whole grain; a moderate consumption of wine, dairy products, and poultry, and a low consumption of red meat, sweet beverages, creams, and pastries. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the MeDiet might play a role in decreasing SUA concentrations, explained an April 18, 2013 news release, "Experts examine Mediterranean diet's health effects for older adults."

Conducted by Marta Guasch-Ferré and 11 others, this study is the first to analyze the relationship between adherence to a MeDiet in older adults and the risk of hyperuricemia. The five-year study looks at 7,447 participants assigned to one of three intervention diets (two MeDiets enriched with extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, or a control low-fat diet). Participants were men aged 55 to 80 years and women aged 60 to 80 years who were free of cardiovascular disease but who had either type 2 diabetes mellitus or were at risk of coronary heart disease.

The findings below demonstrate the positive health effects of a MeDiet in older adults:

  • Rates of reversion were higher among hyperuricemic participants at baseline who had greater adherence to the MeDiet.
  • Consuming less than one serving a day of red meat compared with higher intake is associated with 23 percent reduced risk of hyperuricemia.
  • Consuming fish and seafood increased the prevalence of hyperuricemia.
  • Drinking more than seven glasses of wine per week increased the prevalence of hyperuricemia.
  • Consuming legumes and sofrito sauce reduced the prevalence of hyperuricemia.
  • Reversion of hyperuricemia was achieved by adherence to the MeDiet alone, without weight loss or changes to physical activity.

The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,400+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. But the Mediterranean Diet isn't the same as a reversal diet to unclog arteries filled with soft plaque, and it isn't a vegan diet.

Children's weight and the Mediterranean diet

Did you know that more children in Sweden eat a Mediterranean diet compared to children on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus? A recent study of 8 European countries presented at the (2014) European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Sofia, Bulgaria, shows that children consuming a diet more in line with the rules of the Mediterranean one are 15% less likely to be overweight or obese than those children who do not, according to research recently presented at the ECO2014 | 21st European Congress on Obesity that ran from May 28 to May 31, 2014.

The USA used to hold the title as the world's most obese nation. But now it's a close second, with Mexico in first place, according to the NY Post article, "Mexico beats US to be world's fattest country – but we're still a close second." Yet so many foods found in Mexico are similar to the Mediterranean diet also with lots of tomatoes, onions, peppers, cactus, jicama, bean varieties, and other vegetables, at least as found in vegetarian-friendly Mexican restaurants. Could it be the overuse of tortillas, cakes, pork, lard, white flour, sugar, and candies?

Or is it the frozen desserts? A typical Mediterranean diet dessert is supposed to be fresh fruit such as pomegranates or citrus. But too often Mediterranean islands serve desserts with boiled sugar and water diluted with honey poured over cakes still made with white flour and too many fried donut-like pastries or deep-fried calimari instead of small amounts of grilled seafood and lots of vegetables with fruit for dessert, fruit with no added sugars. Then again, many countries serve a lot of bread and little filling at meals, often to save money.

People in some Mediterranean countries eat less of a native diet

Most people think that children in Cyprus, an island in the palm-tree latitudes surrounded by the Mediterranean sea would be eating lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olives, legumes, beans, seeds, grape vine leaves wraps instead of cabbage leaves, and seafood. But it's kids in Sweden eating more of what's known as the Mediterranean diet. And it takes food promotions focused on health to popularize Mediterranean diets in Sweden.

That makes people think of Sweden importing foods that won't grow there and lots of trade in groceries and produce. What's not considered a Mediterranean diet are meals heavy on the butter, cream, and cheese (dairy products) and lots of red meat. But herring also is popular in Sweden. Then again, in some Mediterranean areas most popular are different types of ice cream varieties, and fast-food eateries have opened in most of European countries, where people are eating more dairy products. You have some Mediterranean countries where some people routinely use the less costly corn oil for cooking and export the best of their olive oil to other countries.

You may wish to check out the article, "12 Things You Shouldn't Be Cooking With Olive Oil." In the U.S., sales of olive oil surpassed corn oil in the ’90s, and they have increased in the last decade by more than 350%, according to that article.

The research on child obesity and diets is by Dr Gianluca Tognon, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues across the 8 countries: Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia and Hungary.

The researchers used data from the IDEFICS study (Idefics study | Identification and prevention of Dietary and lifestyle induced health effects in children and infants), funded by the European Commission. Weight, height, waist circumference, and percent body fat mass were measured in children from these eight countries.

Vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish

The parents of these children were interviewed by means of a questionnaire specifically designed for the IDEFICS study and enquiring about the consumption frequency of 43 foods. Additional dietary data have been complemented by a telephone interview performed on a sub-sample of parents.

The adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was assessed by a score calculating by giving one point for high intakes of each food group which was considered typical of the Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fruit and nuts, fish and cereal grains), as well as one point for low intakes of foods untypical of the Mediterranean diet (such as dairy and meat products). High scoring children were then considered high-adherent and compared to the others.

Swedish children most Mediterranean in present diet

Interestingly, the prevalence of high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet was found to be independent of the geographical distribution, with the Swedish children scoring the highest (followed by the Italians) and the children from Cyprus scoring the lowest.

The team found that children with a high adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet were 15% less likely to be overweight or obese than low-adherent children. The findings were independent of age, sex, socioeconomic status or country of residence.

The children with high adherence at baseline were 10-15% less likely to be among those who went through major increases in BMI, waist circumference and body fat

“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries. Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of EU obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected.” says Gianluca Tognon, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, according to the June 10, 2014 news release, "Children consuming a Mediterranean diet are 15 percent less likely to be overweight."