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Heart healthy diet as effective as statins, American Heart Association …

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Human heart. Credit: copyright American Heart Association

Replacing foods high in saturated fats with those that have unsaturated fats can reduce a person’s chance of developing heart disease as much as cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins, according to new advice from the American Heart Association.

This would mean, for instance, swapping that steak for a healthier avocado, using canola oil instead of butter, and not eating carb-filled junk food.

The new guidance from the heart association is not a leap from past direction, but the group sought a fresh look at the evidence in light of some newer, less scientific studies and dietary fads that officials feared were confusing the public.

How the message about diet is received by patients will largely depend on their doctors’ delivery.

While most physicians would agree that heart health depends on a good diet, some suggest there is a bit more wiggle room than the heart association advisory suggests. Other doctors and health care providers believe the advice does not go far enough in explaining what foods can truly protect their patients from , the nation’s leading cause of death.

“This tries to put it all in perspective – the view from 10,000 feet – but sometimes food can still be controversial,” said Dr. Michael Miller, director of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Center for Preventive Cardiology. He served on the heart association panel that made the recommendations published this month in the journal Circulation.

It’s long been known that consuming less saturated fat lowers people’s LDL, or so-called bad cholesterol, which clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes. But the heart association finds that this is only the case when saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fat and not refined carbohydrates that contain sugar but no fiber. Both unsaturated fat and fiber have been found to help lower cholesterol.

The group says some newer studies mucking up the healthy heart message didn’t consider these dietary replacements.

The guidance should be useful to doctors in advising patients, said Miller, who is also a professor of cardiovascular medicine, epidemiology and public health in Maryland’s School of Medicine. But he’s not a stickler on eliminating all saturated fat. He advises moderation instead.

That means a small, fist-size steak once in a while, two egg whites for every one yoke and even a bit of coconut oil, a culinary darling of late that is mostly saturated fat.

“If you’re good most of the time, allow yourself one unhealthy breakfast, lunch and dinner a week,” he said. “But don’t go nuts and eat a 24-ounce steak.”

He also emphasizes making lifestyle changes such as adding regular exercise and reducing stress. He wrote a whole book on the subject called “Heal Your Heart.”

Anne Butta credits a good diet, low in calories, salt and fat for the good health of her father, John Henry “Hank” Butta, who visited with Miller recently.

Butta, the former CEO of CP Telephone of Maryland, now part of Verizon, and the great-great-grandfather of four, is trim and quick witted at 89 years old.

The Highlandtown native said he grew up eating big Italian dinners and evolved into a “meat and potatoes” guy. He worked a lot and also spent time serving on advisory commissions for former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, as well as refereeing football games and playing golf.

In 2010, he needed triple bypass surgery. This led him to a diet low in calories, salt and fat, although, he still has the occasional treat at home or restaurant.

“One time a month,” he said about how often he now eats a steak. A decade ago, it was “every other meal.”

Miller approved of that schedule.

Miller summed up the heart association advice this way:

-Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats (red meat, butter, palm oil) with polyunsaturated fats (safflower and corn oils, walnuts and salmon) reduces risk of heart disease by 50 percent.

-Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats with monounsaturated fats (canola and olive oil, almonds and avocados) reduces risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

-Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats with complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans and vegetables) reduces risk of heart disease by 18 percent.

-Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats with simple carbohydrates (sugary foods and soft drinks) does not reduce the risk of heart disease.

Still, not all doctors think this is the right message.

Dr. Dana Simpler, an internal medicine doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said the consequences of a poor diet can be so dire that she believes the heart association report was a missed opportunity to warn people about how much all their food matters.

She joins other doctors who advocate for a whole-food, plant-based diet, for which she said there is evidence of reducing the chance of a first or recurrent heart attack close to zero.

That means eating foods that are not processed and have little to no sugar, salt or added oil.

“It continues to surprise me that the AHA makes such modest diet recommendations for preventing our number one killer – heart disease,” she wrote in an email. “Simply substituting saturated fats (bacon, red meat, butter) with unsaturated fats (vegetable oils) reduces heart attacks by 30 percent, but, what about the other 70 percent that still have life threatening heart disease?”

She conceded that a plant-based diet is not easy to follow, “and many people may decide it is too hard for them, but at least let the American public know that there is a diet that will prevent and reverse heart disease almost 100 percent.”

Dr. Seth Martin, co-director of the John Hopkins Hospital’s Advanced Lipid Disorders Center, said he’d like all his patients to eat so well but said “perfection” is tough to achieve. He encourages them to do what they can, from starting with one change or adopting the Mediterranean diet or the DASH , which both center on low-fat, whole-grain and plant-based foods.

The new association advice will help him steer patients to food they can substitute for what they should give up.

“I like the idea of replacing something with something,” he said. “We’re always talking about don’t eat this and don’t eat that, but here they’re talking about what is healthy. Diets are complicated and confusing to people and it’s nice to have clear guidance on the topic. … But I imagine there is still going to be some ongoing debate.”


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Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat may lower cholesterol as well as drugs

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Heart Association restresses healthy diet

BALTIMORE — Replacing foods high in saturated fats with those that have unsaturated fats can reduce a person’s chance of developing heart disease as much as cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins, according to new advice from the American Heart Association.

This would mean, for instance, swapping that steak for a healthier avocado, using canola oil instead of butter, and not eating carb-filled junk food.

The new guidance from the heart association is not a leap from past direction, but the group sought a fresh look at the evidence in light of some newer, less scientific studies and dietary fads that officials feared were confusing the public.

How the message about diet is received by patients will largely depend on their doctors’ delivery.

While most physicians would agree that heart health depends on a good diet, some suggest there is a bit more wiggle room than the heart association advisory suggests. Other doctors and health care providers believe the advice does not go far enough in explaining what foods can truly protect their patients from heart disease, the nation’s leading cause of death.

“This tries to put it all in perspective — the view from 10,000 feet — but sometimes food can still be controversial,” said Dr. Michael Miller, director of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Center for Preventive Cardiology. He served on the heart association panel that made the recommendations published this month in the journal Circulation.

It’s long been known that consuming less saturated fat lowers people’s LDL, or so-called bad cholesterol, which clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes. But the heart association finds that this is only the case when saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fat and not refined carbohydrates that contain sugar but no fiber. Both unsaturated fat and fiber have been found to help lower cholesterol.

The group says some newer studies mucking up the healthy heart message didn’t consider these dietary replacements.

The guidance should be useful to doctors in advising patients, said Miller, who is also a professor of cardiovascular medicine, epidemiology and public health in Maryland’s School of Medicine. But he’s not a stickler on eliminating all saturated fat. He advises moderation instead.

That means a small, fist-size steak once in a while, two egg whites for every one yoke and even a bit of coconut oil, a culinary darling of late that is mostly saturated fat.

“If you’re good most of the time, allow yourself one unhealthy breakfast, lunch and dinner a week,” he said. “But don’t go nuts and eat a 24-ounce steak.”

He also emphasizes making lifestyle changes such as adding regular exercise and reducing stress.

Heart-healthy advice

Miller summed up the heart association advice this way:

• Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats (red meat, butter, palm oil) with polyunsaturated fats (safflower and corn oils, walnuts and salmon) reduces risk of heart disease by 50 percent.

• Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats with monounsaturated fats (canola and olive oil, almonds and avocados) reduces risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

• Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats with complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans and vegetables) reduces risk of heart disease by 18 percent.

• Replacing 10 percent of calories from saturated fats with simple carbohydrates (sugary foods and soft drinks) does not reduce the risk of heart disease.

Still, not all doctors think this is the right message.

Dr. Dana Simpler, an internal medicine doctor at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said the consequences of a poor diet can be so dire that she believes the heart association report was a missed opportunity to warn people about how much all their food matters.

She joins other doctors who advocate for a whole-food, plant-based diet, for which she said there is evidence of reducing the chance of a first or recurrent heart attack close to zero.

That means eating foods that are not processed and have little to no sugar, salt or added oil.

“It continues to surprise me that the AHA makes such modest diet recommendations for preventing our number one killer — heart disease,” she wrote in an email. “Simply substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fats reduces heart attacks by 30 percent, but, what about the other 70 percent that still have life threatening heart disease?”

She conceded that a plant-based diet is not easy to follow, “and many people may decide it is too hard for them, but at least let the American public know that there is a diet that will prevent and reverse heart disease almost 100 percent.”

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Heart healthy diet as effective as statins, American Heart Association says

Replacing foods high in saturated fats with those that have unsaturated fats can reduce a person’s chance of developing heart disease as much as cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins, according to new advice from the American Heart Association.

This would mean, for instance, swapping that steak for a healthier avocado, using canola oil instead of butter, and not eating carb-filled junk food.

The new guidance from the heart association is not a leap from past direction, but the group sought a fresh look at the evidence in light of some newer, less scientific studies and dietary fads that officials feared were confusing the public.

How the message about diet is received by patients will largely depend on their doctors’ delivery.

“This tries to put it all in perspective — the view from 10,000 feet — but sometimes food can still be controversial,” said Dr. Michael Miller, director of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Center for Preventive Cardiology. He served on the heart association panel that made the recommendations published this month in the journal Circulation.

It’s long been known that consuming less saturated fat lowers people’s LDL, or so-called bad cholesterol, which clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes. But the heart association finds that this is only the case when saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fat and not refined carbohydrates that contain sugar but no fiber. Both unsaturated fat and fiber have been found to help lower cholesterol.

Helistroke: Flying doctors to stroke victims may improve outcomes

Dr. Ferdinand K. Hui received the call as he headed to his Harbor East home after working out at the gym.

A patient at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda had suffered a stroke and needed a specialized procedure in which a catheter is used to clear the clogged artery in the brain. Dr. Hui doesn’t have…

Dr. Ferdinand K. Hui received the call as he headed to his Harbor East home after working out at the gym.

A patient at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda had suffered a stroke and needed a specialized procedure in which a catheter is used to clear the clogged artery in the brain. Dr. Hui doesn’t have…

(Andrea K. McDaniels)

The group says some newer studies mucking up the healthy heart message didn’t consider these dietary replacements.

Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, said the consequences of a poor diet can be so dire that she believes the heart association report was a missed opportunity to warn people about how much all their food matters.

She joins other doctors who advocate for a whole-food, plant-based diet, for which she said there is evidence of reducing the chance of a first or recurrent heart attack close to zero.

That means eating foods that are not processed and have little to no sugar, salt or added oil.

“It continues to surprise me that the AHA makes such modest diet recommendations for preventing our number one killer — heart disease,” she wrote in an email. “Simply substituting saturated fats (bacon, red meat, butter) with unsaturated fats (vegetable oils) reduces heart attacks by 30 percent, but, what about the other 70 percent that still have life threatening heart disease?”

She conceded that a plant-based diet is not easy to follow, “and many people may decide it is too hard for them, but at least let the American public know that there is a diet that will prevent and reverse heart disease almost 100 percent.”

Dr. Seth Martin, co-director of the John Hopkins Hospital’s Advanced Lipid Disorders Center, said he’d like all his patients to eat so well but said “perfection” is tough to achieve. He encourages them to do what they can, from starting with one change or adopting the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet, which both center on low-fat, whole-grain and plant-based foods.

The new heart association advice will help him steer patients to food they can substitute for what they should give up.

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China’s pork demand hits a peak, shocking producers, as diets get …


BEIJING China’s frozen dumpling makers are finding there’s a quick route to winning new sales – increase the vegetable content, and cut down on the meat.

This departure from traditional pork-rich dumplings is a hit with busy, young urbanites, trying to reduce the fat in diets often heavy on fast food.

“They like to try to eat more healthy products once a week or fortnight. It’s a big trend for mainland China consumers, especially those aged 20 to 35,” said Ellis Wang, Shanghai-based marketing manager at U.S. food giant General Mills (GIS.N), which owns top dumpling brand Wanchai Ferry.

For pig farmers in China and abroad, it is a difficult trend to stomach. The producers and other market experts had expected the growth to continue until at least 2026.

Chinese hog farmers are on a building spree, constructing huge modern farms to capture a bigger share of the world’s biggest pork market, while leading producers overseas have been changing the way they raise their pigs to meet Chinese standards for imports. Some have, for example, stopped using growth hormones banned in China.

China still consumes a lot more meat than any other country. People here will eat about 74 million tonnes of pork, beef and poultry this year, around twice as much as the United States, according to U.S. agriculture department estimates. More than half of that is pork and for foreign producers it has been a big growth market, especially for Western-style packaged meats.

But pork demand has hit a ceiling, well ahead of most official forecasts. Sales of pork have now fallen for the past three years, according to data from research firm Euromonitor. Last year they hit three-year lows of 40.85 million tonnes from 42.49 million tonnes in 2014, and Euromonitor predicts they will also fall slightly in 2017.

Chinese hog prices are down around 25 percent since January, even though official numbers suggest supply is lower compared with last year.

China’s meat and seafood sales IMG: tmsnrt.rs/2s83aam

RARE LUXURY

Since China began opening up to the world in the late 1970s, pork demand expanded by an average 5.7 percent every year, until 2014 as the booming economy allowed hundreds of millions of people to afford to eat meat more often. During Mao Zedong’s reign as Chinese leader from 1949-76 meat had, for many, been a rare luxury.

Now, growing concerns about obesity and heart health shape shopping habits too, fuelling sales of everything from avocados to fruit juices and sportswear. [reut.rs/2rpFDhp] [reut.rs/2tis0Tg]

“Market demand remains very weak. I think one factor behind this is people believe less meat is healthier. This is a new trend,” said Pan Chenjun, executive director of food and agriculture research at Rabobank in Hong Kong.

Sales of vegetable-only dumplings grew 30 percent last year, compared with around 7 percent for all frozen dumplings, Nielsen research also shows.

“Demand for vegetable products keeps rising, giving us large room for growth,” said Zhou Wei, product manager at number two dumpling producer Synear Food.

Guangzhou-based Harmony Catering says health is the key to reduced servings of meat to the roughly 1 million workers eating at its 300 canteens each day.

Staff at the technology companies, banks and oil majors that are Harmony’s clients will consume about 10 percent less meat today than they did five years ago, but around 10 percent more green vegetables, according to Harmony vice president Li Huang. “It’s mainly because of media, the concept of health has entered popular consciousness,” he said.

For now, it’s mostly urban and white-collar workers paying closer attention to their diets. There’s been, for example, a sharp rise in vegetarian food stations at university campuses. But the government wants a nationwide shift in eating habits.

Childhood obesity in China is rocketing, and the country also faces an epidemic of heart disease, Harvard researchers warned last year. Among the problems, they blamed growing consumption of red meat and high salt intake.

In April, the health ministry kicked off its second 10-year healthy lifestyle campaign, urging citizens to consume less fat, salt and sugar, and aim for a ‘healthy diet, healthy weight and healthy bones’.

By 2030, Beijing wants to see a marked increase in nutritional awareness, a 20 percent cut in the per capita consumption of salt, and slower growth in the rate of obesity, it said in its recently published ‘Healthy China 2030′ pamphlet.

Meat consumption by type and country: reut.rs/2s3F00J

Some companies have been urgently changing the mix of products they sell, going for higher-margin pork meats rather than volume. Sales of traditionally less popular lamb and beef have also been increasing.

Li of Harmony Catering says although servings of pork are down, the firm is including more beef and lamb in meals.

“People usually eat lean beef or lamb, like beef brisket, while with pork it’s both fatty and lean parts, like in ‘hong shao rou’,” said Beijing-based nutritionist Chen Zhikun, referring to the widely consumed braised pork dish.

China’s top pork producer WH Group has been going up market, selling Western-style products in China, such as sausages and ham. A lot of this is imported from Smithfield, the largest U.S. pork producer, which was acquired by WH in 2013.

Some producers say that the recent drop in pork consumption can be partly explained by sharply lower output. A prolonged period of losses during 2013 to 2015 forced farmers to cull millions of hogs, hitting supply and sending pork prices to record levels in 2016.

But for a growing portion of Chinese consumers, price tags on food items are less and less important. A spate of safety scandals in recent years, many related to meat, have made urban Chinese highly sensitive to food quality.

More than 80 percent of people in China surveyed by Nielsen last year said they were willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients, much higher than the global average of 68 percent.

“China is in a new stage where consumption of pork and other foods is no longer a simple matter of ‘more is better’,” said Fred Gale, senior economist at the United States agriculture department.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Beijing Newsroom. Additional reporting by Julie Zhu in HONG KONG; Editing by Martin Howell)

Health Matters: Low Sodium Recommendations for a Healthy Diet

While it is important to regulate and reduce salt intake, many people are misinformed about what foods to avoid and how much sodium is necessary for a healthy diet.

Karina Knight, a registered dietitian, says that some people following a strict low sodium diet have been found to be at a higher risk of heart disease. Foods naturally low in sodium are recommended for a healthier diet, while processed foods like breads, cheeses and meats should be avoided.

People who eat foods high in potassium, calcium and magnesium have been found to have lower blood pressure.

Follow Knight on social media for more tips on how to have a more balanced diet.

Is Fasting the Key to a Healthy Diet?

Only in an era of abundance could an industry—a particular mindset, really—churn out innumerable fad diets promising to be the silver bullet that will finally (finally!) offer perfect health, weight loss, and inner radiance.

At the moment the top sellers in diet and nutrition on Amazon promise you “total health and food freedom,” warn against “hidden dangers in ‘healthy’ foods,” guarantee “fast metabolism,” and declare a “revolutionary diet” that, among other things, helps you “combat cancer.” That’s a tall order for something that, for most of human history, was so scarce and difficult to procure that securing enough to eat was itself considered a blessing.

This is not your ancestor’s diet. Yet it appears that we can turn to our forebears for an important piece of nutritive advice: fasting. In one of the most in-depth pieces I’ve come across on this topic, it seems intermittent fasting is helping many deal with metabolic and immune functions.

Lest you think this a sales pitch—I’ve found the silver bullet!—let’s start at the conclusion. University of Illinois nutrition professor Krista Varady studies alternate-day fasting for a living. She readily offers up the fact that intermittent fasting—taking varied breaks from eating, either on a daily schedule or on alternate days—is “probably another nutritional fad.” 

She has observed that every decade or so fads switch and rearrange. To declare fasting to be an end-all is ambitious; human psychology is generally not designed for the long-term. Novelty usurps integrity and discipline. That said, Varady concludes of fasting, 

I still think that it can really help people out, and I think people who are able to stick to it really reap a lot of metabolic benefits.

The article opens with a 1973 case of a man who survived for 382 days ingesting only “vitamin supplements, yeast, and noncaloric fluids,” in what has to be a hero to the Soylent movement. A.B., as he’s known, dropped 276 pounds. More importantly he gained back only fifteen over the next five years—one criticism of most diets is that the weight returns. 

This is an extreme example, enough to garner a place in the Guinness Book of Records. What A.B. was doing, however, is an old trick once performed, albeit not so extremely, out of necessity. It wasn’t until widespread advancements in agriculture at about 10,000 BC—humans had been growing and harvesting for tens of thousands of years prior—allowed our ancestors to settle down and treat themselves to relatively consistent nutrition. Our dietary habits changed dramatically. 

The synopsis: our ancestors were accustomed to intermittent fasting. They might not have liked it, but their organs adapted, just as ours adapt to an overabundance of sugar- and carb-heavy foods by failing to work properly. Neuroscientist Mark Mattson relates our odd food rhythms to another cycle we’ve completely restructured. Thanks to electric lights our circadian rhythm is thrown off, which affects when and how we eat. He states, 

When there was darkness in the evening, of course people didn’t have much to do. . . . The light enables us to stay awake later in the night. And now we have plenty of food, so we tend to eat.

I practice intermittent fasting at various cycles. I found the 16:8 cycle—fast for sixteen hours, eat all of my day’s food during eight hours—challenging, as I teach (fitness and yoga classes) in the mornings and evenings and often work out before my first class. Interestingly, research, on mice at least, is showing that changing the feeding windows from 16:8, 15:9, or 12:12 “didn’t make that much of a difference.” That said, a fifteen-hour feeding window didn’t seem to have much benefit at all. 

What are the benefits? Besides a metabolic boost and weight loss, here is what the science says:

  • Liver. As insulin resistance decreases and sensitivity increases, the liver’s glycogen source dries up. Your body begins burning ketones as energy—hence, the ketogenic diet—which derives its fuel from visceral fat. 
  • Immune System. Fasting prunes away T cells; breaking the fast replenishes your store of hematopoietic stem cells, which are used to treat cancers and immune system disorders therapeutically. 
  • Heart. Blood lipid levels decrease. So does blood pressure. Some studies have shown a decrease in cholesterol as well, though cholesterol science has changed greatly in the last few years. 
  • Brain. Improved memory and learning in mice. Neurogenesis, the growth and development of neurons, increases. 
  • Cancer. Fasting has been shown to slow the development of breast cancer and melanoma in mice. 

For a deep dive into the studies read the full article on The Scientist. Of all the fads to take root in recent memory, this technique appears consistently reliable. Forget about your blood type. In fact, forget about all food for prolonged periods during the day. Then enjoy the window you’ve chosen to eat within. 

Derek’s next book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health, will be published on 7/17 by Carrel/Skyhorse Publishing. He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

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