Some cardiologists are not prescribing statins routinely, but instead are offering some patients plant extracts instead to lower cholesterol, for example citrus bergamot. On March11, 2013, a national radio show featured a popular, well-published cardiologist and a PhD nutritionist discussing the health benefits of citrus bergamot, among other flavonoids some patients take instead of statins.
You may want to listen to an archived broadcast, The Cholesterol Myth, broadcast, Monday, March 11, 2013. But lengthy aromatherapy may pose risks to heart. The question is whether you're taking a supplement like a softgel or capsule or inhaling the fragrance of some oil and for what period of time.
The two guests were Jonny Bowden, PhD an expert on weight loss, nutrition and health, who discussed how traditional heart disease protocols-- with their emphasis on lowering cholesterol, obscure the real causes of heart disease. Cardiologist and author Dr. Stephen Sinatra also spoke on the show hosted by George Noory.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist whose integrative approach to treating cardiovascular disease has revitalized patients with the most advanced forms of the illness. His holistic treatment methods focus on reducing inflammation and maximizing the heart’s ability to produce and use energy.
They include six all-natural core therapies, which Dr. Sinatra combines with select conventional treatments, based on individual needs. Dr. Sinatra’s expertise is grounded in more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. Intriguing is the use of citrus bergamot to normalize cholesterol with some patients, instead of routinely prescribing statins.
Citrus bergamot is becoming more popular as an alternative to statins on a global basis
Can citrus bergamot lower your cholesterol as opposed to taking prescription statin drugs? Recently speakers have been appearing on radio shows touting the health benefits/effects of citrus bergamot. Check out the site, "Health Benefits Of Bergamot." A recently published research on Journal of Natural Products 2009 showed Citrus Bergamot has “statin like” principles, "carrying the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid (HMG) moiety." How healthy are the flavonoids? Are they swallowed like a capsule? And how do they differ from essential oils used in aromatherapy?
Four flavonoids have been identified in citrus bergamot that are able to interfere with the natural synthesis of cholesterol in human body, by inhibiting the activity of the first enzyme in the cholesterol synthesis pathway: HMG-CoA reductase (3-hydroxy-3-methyl glutaril-coenzyme A reductase). These flavonoids is linked to 3-metil-3–hydroxy glutarile portion, which is exactly the substrate of HMG-CoA reductase.
This suggests that these compounds mimic endogenous HMG-CoA substrate and interfere with the synthesis of mevalonate, a critical compound at the top of the cholesterol synthesis pathway. By interfering with mevalonate synthesis, the polyphenolic flavanoids block the cholesterol production in the human body in a way similar to statins.
The presence of these flavones in the bergamot juice explains popular knowledge and recent clinical data on blood cholesterol-reducing potential of citrus bergamot. That's some of the reasons why citrus bergamot has been offered to people who don't want to take prescription statins as a possible alternative.
Flavones in citrus bergamot may lower cholesterol
Cholesterol-lowering properties of bergamot juice were discovered in an Italian study published in the November 2010 "Fitoterapia" journal. Bergamot reduced total cholesterol LDL -- the bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar and increased HDL -- the good cholesterol, in patients with elevated cholesterol who consumed bergamot extract for 30 days, according to the study.
There are other herbal or plant-based extracts or oils that are used for various reasons such as to suppress inflammation or help lower blood pressure. But people who spread the word about natural solutions can't say they cure anything or treat anything because then the food becomes a drug. And you can't legally use food as a drug to treat any problem. But you can use food to "support and maintain healthy bodies."
What researchers looked for was that bergamot inhibited the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which promotes cholesterol synthesis, and lowered blood pressure. Researchers found that HMG-CoA reductase is active when blood glucose is high. So, by lowering blood sugar levels, citrus bergamot also indirectly affects the activity of HMG-CoA reductase.
On the March 11, 2013 Coast to Coast radio program, Jonny Bowden, PhD (aka 'The Rogue Nutritionist') an expert on weight loss, nutrition and health, discussed how traditional heart disease protocols-- with their emphasis on lowering cholesterol, obscure the real causes of heart disease. Citing bad cholesterol or the LDL marker as the cause for heart disease is an inaccurate simplification, he said, adding that there are five different types of ADL, and five different types of LDL that be assessed by more accurate measures such as the Particle Test, (Berkeley blood test) rather than the more typical blood test. In general, the only people that need to be on statin drugs are middle-aged men who already have coronary disease, he remarked, according to the radio show's website.
Do too many doctors under report or disregard the side effects of their patients on statins?
Bowden connected the prescribing of statins to male patients with an increase in sexual problems and erectile dysfunction (ED). Rather than dietary fats, Bowden pointed at sugar and refined carbohydrates as the real culprits in cardiovascular disease, with surging insulin levels causing inflammation in the small lining of blood vessels. Stress also contributes to heart disease, he noted on the radio show's website.
As far as supplements, he recommended Coenzyme Q10, and omega 3 essential fatty acids for everyone, and for those who already have heart problems, 200-400mg of Coenzyme Q10, 400-600 mg of magnesium, 5 grams of ribose 3 times a day, and 2-3 grams of carnitine.
The supplement Citrus Bergamot has also been found to contribute to a healthy heart
But short-term exposure to essential oils also lowers blood pressure and heart rate, but only if exposure is under an hour and not longer. Citrus bergamot is a supplement that people take, not an essential oil designed to be used for aromatherapy.
Cardiologist and author Dr. Stephen Sinatra joined the conversation in the third hour, sharing Bowden's conclusions and supplement recommendations. Dr. Sinatra discussed the JUPITER trial, a study that evaluated whether statins reduced heart attacks in people with normal cholesterol levels. But after taking the statins, some women in the study started showing an increased risk for diabetes, he detailed, according to the radio show's website.
Overexposure to essential oils may be harmful to cardiovascular health in young, healthy subjects.
But what about very short term exposure to the scents, and what about essential oils as air fresheners or fragrances on fabrics? The scents which permeate our health spas from aromatic essential oils may provide more benefits than just a sense of rest and well-being. Air pollution is bad for heart health.
And too long exposure to scents of essential oils or other smells, even some air fresheners could be making you sicker. But brief exposure to the scent of essential oils may relieve some stress. However, there needs to be more research to find out the connection between cardiovascular events and exposure to essential oils as far as the aroma of them.
You may want to check out a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, (European Society of Cardiology) that reports how the essential oils which form the basis of aromatherapy for stress relief are also reported to have a beneficial effect on heart rate and blood pressure. The study notes how short-term exposure to essential oils may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But the beneficial effect is only when following short-term exposure. On the downside, those beneficial effects were reversed when exposure to essential oils lasted more than an hour.
Aromatherapy is still presented as a natural healing practice using essential oils
The study was performed in men and women working in various spa centers in the city of Taipei in Taiwan, where the traditions of ancient Chinese civilizations are maintained in religious ceremonies and healing therapies. Aromatherapy currently is still presented as natural healing with essential oils extracted by infusion from aromatic plants.
In the study, 100 young, healthy non-smoking spa workers taking part in the study visited the study center on three occasions (about once a week), when each volunteer was exposed to vapors of essential oils released from an ultrasonic ionizer for two hours. During this time and on each visit three repeated measurements – resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) – were taken from each spa worker in the study room, a small space measuring 4 meters in height by 3.5 m in length and 3.2 m in width. Before each participant entered the study room, 100% pure bergamot essential oil was vaporized for 1 hour.
Essential oils are volatile compounds made of aromatic chemicals from plants
Essential oils are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) composed of hundreds of aromatic chemicals, and VOC levels in the room were also measured throughout the study period. Results showed (after adjusting for age, sex, BMI, day of the week, and visit order) that the room's VOC level was significantly associated with reduced blood pressure and heart rate for between 15 and 60 minutes after the start of exposure.
These associations were statistically significant. For example, after 45 minutes exposure 15-minute SBP had reduced by a mean of 2.10 mmHg and heart rate by 2.21 beats per minute.
Don't expose yourself to essential oils for more than an hour or you'll increase your blood pressure and heart rate
After exposure for more than 1 hour - from 75 to 120 minutes after the start of exposure - VOC levels became associated with an increased 15-minute mean blood pressure and heart rate. After 120 minutes, for example, mean SBP had risen from baseline by 2.19 mmHg, and heart rate by 1.70 beats per minutes. Thus, say the authors, "prolonged exposure for longer than 1 hour to essential oils may be harmful to cardiovascular health in young, healthy subjects," according to the news release, "Short-term exposure to essential oils lowers blood pressure and heart rate."
As background to the study the authors note that aromatherapy has long been used for stress relief and associated with some healing properties. Even exposure to the essential oil vapors from fragrant candles has been found to reduce test-taking anxiety among nursing school students in the USA.
It's still unknown if exposure to essential oil increases the risk of cardiovascular events through a partial effect on blood pressure and heart rate
Be cautious -- because you don't know whether if you keep exposing yourself to essential oils you could be increasing the risk of a cardiovascular event. That's what scientists don't know at this time. However, says investigator Dr Kai-Jen Chuang from Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, according to the news release, it's still unknown whether exposure to essential oil increases the risk of cardiovascular events through a partial effect on blood pressure and heart rate.
"Our results suggest that exposure to essential oil for 1 hour would be effective in reducing heart rate and blood pressure," said Dr Chuang, according to the news release, Short-term exposure to essential oils lowers blood pressure and heart rate. "However, the most interesting finding of our study is that exposure to essential oil for over an hour was associated with elevated blood pressure and heart rate."
Effects of essential oils on stress reduction has been documented -- but which oils?
Dr Chuang explained that, although the effect of essential oils on stress reduction has been well documented, epidemiological studies have reported an association between VOCs and cardiopulmonary effects - asthma among hairdressers, for example. Studies by Chuang's own group in Taiwan have already shown that exposure to VOCs for over an hour in hair salons can lead to increased serum levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and 8-OHdG (a marker of oxidative stress). Overexposure to essential oils, he suggested, may in such ways be harmful to cardiovascular health in young, healthy subjects.
He also noted the opinion of the American Heart Association on air pollution in the development of cardiovascular disease. This acknowledges the direct effects of air pollution on the lung and cardiovascular system through neural and central mechanisms to cause a systemic inflammatory response.
"These potential biological processes may also be applied to the adverse effects of VOC exposure on cardiovascular health, although at this time there is no proof available for this hypothesis," said Dr Chuang, according to the news release. You can read the original study's abstract, "The effect of essential oil on heart rate and blood pressure among solus por aqua workers." Eur J Prevent Cardiol, November 29 2012." The European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation is a journal of the European Society of Cardiology. Authors are Chuang K-J, Chen H-W, Liu I-J, et al.
Another example of the health effects of plant extracts is how thyme oil can suppress inflammation
Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation. Essentials oils can be extracted from thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot. These essential oils can suppress the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme ... six (thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot) that reduced COX-2 expression in cells. But don't confuse essential oil bergamot with the supplement bergamot that people take as a supplement and not inhale like an essential oil for aromatherapy.
Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation
For those who do not drink, researchers have found that six essential oils –from thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot—can suppress the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme, in a manner similar to resveratrol, the chemical linked with the health benefits of red wine. They also identified that the chemical carvacrol was primarily responsible for this suppressive activity.
These findings, appearing in the January 13, 2010 issue of Journal of Lipid Research (JLR), provide more understanding of the health benefits of many botanical oils and provide a new avenue for anti-inflammatory drugs, according to the news release, "Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation."
Essential oils from plants also are in some cough drops
Essential oils from plants have long been a component of home remedies, and even today are used for their aromatherapy, analgesic, or antibacterial properties, as you see in some cough drops. Of course, the exact way they work is not completely understood. However, Hiroyasu Inoue and colleagues in Japan believed that many essential oils might target COX-2 much like compounds in wine and tea.
So, they screened a wide range of commercially available oils and identified six (thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot) that reduced COX-2 expression in cells by at least 25%. Of these, thyme oil proved the most active, reducing COX-2 levels by almost 75%. Check out the research analyzing thyme oil.
Researchers analyzed thyme oil
When Inoue and colleagues analyzed thyme oil, they found that the major component –carvacrol– was the primary active agent; in fact when they use pure carvacrol extracts in their tests COX-2 levels decreased by over 80%.
The original January 2010 study is "Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPAR-gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression" by Mariko Hotta, Rieko Nakata, Michiko Katsukawa, Kazuyuki Hori, Saori Takahashi, and Hiroyasu Inoue. Corresponding Author: Hiroyasu Inoue, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Nara Women's University, Nara, Japan.
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