Red meat consumption increases ischemic stroke risk

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and the third leading cause of death, killing 137,000 Americans each year.[1]

There are two types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic. Most strokes (about 85%) are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain becomes blocked either by a clot or a ruptured atherosclerotic plaque. The minority of strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, caused by the rupture of a blood vessel leading to bleeding in the brain. Ischemic stroke, similar to a heart attack, is caused by atherosclerosis, whereas hemorrhagic stroke is primarily caused by vessel damage due to years of elevated blood pressure.

A recent study has found that the consumption of red meat, at quantities similar to the average American’s intake, is associated with a large increase in risk of ischemic stroke. Processed meats were also associated with ischemic stroke risk. [2]

In this study, dietary patterns of 34,670 Swedish women were recorded, and the incidence of stroke was recorded over the following 10 years. The women had no cancer or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. Women who ate at least 3.6 ounces of red meat daily were 42% more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke, compared to those who ate less than one ounce per day. The average American eats 3 ounces of red meat daily, which in this study was associated with a 22% increase in risk. Also, women who ate 1.5 ounces or more of processed meat per day had a 24% increase in risk for ischemic stroke compared to those who ate less than 0.5 ounces per day.[3, 4]

In contrast, there is new evidence that dietary antioxidants, as measured by total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of the diet are protective against ischemic stroke.

Participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), with the highest vs. lowest TAC had a 59% reduction in risk. Of course the foods with the highest antioxidant capacity are the nutrient-dense plant foods like green vegetables and berries. [5]

What is the connection between red and processed meats and ischemic stroke?

Atherosclerosis. First, red meat is a calorie-dense, protein-concentrated, saturated fat-rich food with a low content of micronutrients – these characteristics promote inflammation, weight gain and increased cholesterol levels, leading to formation of atherosclerotic plaque. As such, red meat consumption is associated with increased risk of ischemic heart disease and all-cause mortality. [6-9] Since atherosclerotic heart disease and ischemic stroke are so similar, it makes sense that red meat consumption would also increase stroke risk.

Blood pressure is another potential connection. Processed meats are usually high in sodium, which contributes to elevated blood pressure, the most important risk factor for both types of stroke; elevated blood pressure accounts for 62% of strokes.[10] Although salt intake is the dietary factor most known for increasing blood pressure, red meat intake is also associated with high blood pressure. Women who consumed 3.5 servings of red meat per week were found to have a 24% increase in risk of hypertension over a ten-year follow-up period.[11] A 7-year study of middle-aged men similarly found that meat intake was associated with larger increases in blood pressure, while vegetable and fruit intake were associated with smaller increases in blood pressure over time.[12]

Heme iron present in red meat is another factor, which may raise blood pressure and increase oxidative stress. Positive associations were found between heme iron (found only in animal foods) and blood pressure, and negative associations were found between non-heme iron (found in plant foods) intake and blood pressure. [13] Also, the heme iron in red meat can accumulate and cause free radical damage, which is known to contribute to the atherosclerotic process. [14]

These studies paint a clear picture – high nutrient, high antioxidant foods like vegetables and fruit are protective against stroke, and red and processed meats – low nutrient, low antioxidant foods - increase the risk of stroke.

 

References:
1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control: Stroke. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/.
2. Larsson, S.C., J. Virtamo, and A. Wolk, Red meat consumption and risk of stroke in Swedish women. Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation, 2011. 42(2): p. 324-9.
3. Reuters: Red meat raises women's stroke risk: study. The Montreal Gazette.
4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Loss-adjusted Food Availibility: Spreadsheets. Available from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodConsumption/FoodGuideSpreadsheets.htm#meat.
5. Del Rio, D., et al., Total antioxidant capacity of the diet is associated with lower risk of ischemic stroke in a large Italian cohort. The Journal of nutrition, 2011. 141(1): p. 118-23.
6. Preis, S.R., et al., Dietary protein and risk of ischemic heart disease in middle-aged men. Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 92(5): p. 1265-72.
7. Sinha, R., et al., Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Intern Med, 2009. 169(6): p. 562-71.
8. Jakobsen, M.U., et al., Major types of dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of 11 cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(5): p. 1425-32.
9. Fraser, G.E., Vegetarian diets: what do we know of their effects on common chronic diseases? The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2009. 89(5): p. 1607S-1612S.
10. He, F.J. and G.A. MacGregor, A comprehensive review on salt and health and current experience of worldwide salt reduction programmes. J Hum Hypertens, 2009. 23(6): p. 363-84.
11. Wang, L., et al., Meat intake and the risk of hypertension in middle-aged and older women. Journal of hypertension, 2008. 26(2): p. 215-22.
12. Miura, K., et al., Relation of vegetable, fruit, and meat intake to 7-year blood pressure change in middle-aged men: the Chicago Western Electric Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2004. 159(6): p. 572-80.
13. Tzoulaki, I., et al., Relation of iron and red meat intake to blood pressure: cross sectional epidemiological study. Bmj, 2008. 337: p. a258.
14. Brewer, G.J., Iron and copper toxicity in diseases of aging, particularly atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2007. 232(2): p. 323-35.

 

Salt increases heart attack and stroke risk, even if blood pressure is normal

Excess dietary salt is notorious for increasing blood pressure – blood volume increases, placing more stress on blood vessel walls. This forces the heart to pump harder against the pressure, and also structural changes that harden the vessel wall (this hardening is called stenosis) occur in response to these high pressures.

About one-third of all American adults and over 50% of those over the age of 55 have hypertension, and hypertension carries significant risks. Elevated blood pressure accounts for 62% of strokes and 49% of coronary heart disease. [1] Notably, the risk for heart attack and stroke begins climbing with systolic pressures (first number in the blood pressure reading) above 115 mm Hg – considered “normal” by most standards.[2] Also, dietary salt is not only dangerous to the cardiovascular system, but also contributes to kidney disease, osteoporosis , ulcers, and stomach cancer. [3]

There is new evidence that excess dietary sodium intake promotes atherosclerotic plaque development and heart disease, even in those without elevated blood pressure.

In the 1990s, it was found that the relationship between salt intake and stroke mortality was stronger than the relationship between blood pressure and stroke mortality; this suggested that salt may have deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system that are not related to blood pressure.[4] Excess sodium in the diet affects sodium concentrations in the blood, which affects the cells of the blood vessel wall and blood volume, even if blood pressure itself does not change. The eventual results are long-term changes in vessel wall structure, including thickening of the vessel wall and arterial stiffening. Excess dietary sodium prompts changes in hormonal systems and also gene expression in endothelial cells (the cells that make up the inner lining of blood vessels). These changes in turn promote excessive growth of vascular smooth muscle cells, which contributes to thickening of vessel wall, and altered production of structural proteins, such as collagen, elastin, and fibronectin, which contributes to arterial stiffening. Dietary salt has also been associated with endothelial dysfunction (the inability of endothelial cells to properly regulate blood pressure), which is one of the initiating events of atherosclerotic plaque formation. [5-8]

The study population consisted of overweight and obese individuals withoutelevated blood pressure., Their sodium intake was evaluated by measuring the amount of sodium excreted in the urine. The authors found that higher urinary sodium (indicating higher sodium intake) was associated with greater carotid artery intima-media thickness – a predictor of future cardiovascular events. Intima-media thickness (IMT) is an indicator of atherosclerotic plaque development and is established in the medical literature as an accurate predictor of future cardiovascular risk. IMT testing is a non-invasive ultrasound technique for imaging any abnormal thickening in the intima (inner lining) and media (smooth muscle layer) layers of the carotid artery. Thickening indicates atherosclerotic plaque formation, and therefore increased risk of heart attack or stroke. [9] I use this test to assess cardiovascular risk and track patients’ progress in my medical practice.

Reducing dietary salt is not only important for those who already have elevated blood pressure – limiting added salt is essential for all of us to keep our cardiovascular systems in proper working order. On top of consuming the vast majority of our calories from phytochemical-rich, unrefined plant foods, salt avoidance adds another layer of protection against heart attack and stroke. It is also important to remember that a low fat, flexitarian or vegan diet plus a low cholesterol level does not protect you from developing high blood pressure later in life from years of using too much salt; it also does not protect you against the risk of later life hemorrhagic stroke, as long as you overly salt your food.

 

 

References:

1. He, F.J. and G.A. MacGregor, A comprehensive review on salt and health and current experience of worldwide salt reduction programmes. J Hum Hypertens, 2009. 23(6): p. 363-84.
2. Lewington, S., et al., Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies. Lancet, 2002. 360(9349): p. 1903-13.
3. Tsugane, S. and S. Sasazuki, Diet and the risk of gastric cancer: review of epidemiological evidence. Gastric Cancer, 2007. 10(2): p. 75-83.
4. Perry, I.J. and D.G. Beevers, Salt intake and stroke: a possible direct effect. J Hum Hypertens, 1992. 6(1): p. 23-5.
5. Simon, G., Experimental evidence for blood pressure-independent vascular effects of high sodium diet. Am J Hypertens, 2003. 16(12): p. 1074-8.
6. Sanders, P.W., Vascular consequences of dietary salt intake. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol, 2009. 297(2): p. F237-43.
7. Safar, M.E., et al., Pressure-independent contribution of sodium to large artery structure and function in hypertension. Cardiovasc Res, 2000. 46(2): p. 269-76.
8. Dickinson, K.M., J.B. Keogh, and P.M. Clifton, Effects of a low-salt diet on flow-mediated dilatation in humans. Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(2): p. 485-90.
9. Lorenz, M.W., et al., Prediction of clinical cardiovascular events with carotid intima-media thickness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation, 2007. 115(4): p. 459-67.

 

Stroke in the news: Beau Biden, Bret Michaels

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and the third leading cause of death. Almost 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year. Although stroke is usually perceived as a condition that afflicts older Americans, it occurs in people of all ages. About 25% of strokes occur in people under the age of 65, and 10-15% occur in those under age 45.1

Yesterday, at the age of 41, Beau Biden, Delaware Attorney General and son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, suffered what is being called a mild stroke. As of now, there is no available information as to what type of stroke he suffered. Joe Biden himself suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke due to a ruptured brain aneurysm in 1985 at the age of 45.2

Bret Michaels, of the band Poison and a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (a type of hemorrhagic stroke) in April at age 47. He was released last week to a rehabilitation facility.3

What is a hemorrhagic stroke?

Most strokes, about 85%, are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked either by a clot or atherosclerotic plaque. The remaining 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, caused by bleeding in the brain due to the rupture of a blood vessel. This may be the rupture of a small, damaged artery or an aneurysm. Hemorrhagic stroke is even more devastating than ischemic stroke – the rapid bleeding into the brain compresses the neural tissue, most often resulting in permanent damage or death.1

What makes the small blood vessels of the brain susceptible to rupture?

Hemorrhagic stroke, on average, affects younger people than ischemic stroke does, and the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure.4  Elevated blood pressure places stress on the walls of the small delicate vessels in the brain, and is the foremost risk factor for both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Small vessels contain a much thinner layer of muscle, or no muscle layer at all, making them more susceptible to the effects of elevated pressure.

How to protect yourself from hemorrhagic stroke: Avoid salt!

High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, and Americans have a 90% lifetime probability of having high blood pressure. The most effective way to keep blood pressure in a favorable range is to avoid the huge amounts of excess salt that most Americans consume. Stroke mortality is significantly higher in Japan and exceptionally high in certain areas of China where salt intake is high, in spite of low-fat diets.5 It is also well established that Third World countries that do no salt their food are virtually immune to hypertension and strokes.

High-salt consumption may be potentially more dangerous for vegans, vegetarians, and others who have earned low cholesterol levels by eating otherwise healthful diets. Many vegans believe that their low cholesterol levels and decreased atherosclerosis risk make them exempt from all types of cardiovascular disease, but this is not the case. Unlike heart disease, cholesterol is not an important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke. In fact, low cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. A number of studies both in Japan and in the West have illustrated that fewer animal products and a low serum cholesterol were associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.6 The plaque-building process that results in atherosclerosis and premature death may in some way actually protect the fragile blood vessels in the brain from rupture due to high blood pressure. A high-salt diet may dramatically increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in vegans because they can live longer than the general population and not die from a heart attack first. Of course, excess sodium increases both heart attack and stroke death in all diet styles, but in vegans, a high-salt diet may be even more dangerous. To protect against heart attacks, ischemic strokes, and hemorrhagic strokes, you must dramatically curtail salt consumption. 

Excess salt is more dangerous than most people realize. In addition to high blood pressure and stroke, salt contributes to kidney disease, heart diseaseosteoporosis, ulcers, and stomach cancer.7 Avoiding salt is an essential component of a health-promoting, disease-preventing diet.

To learn more, read my articles and newsletters about salt, hypertension, and reducing blood pressure.



References:

1. Centers for Disease Control: Stroke. http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/

American Heart Association: Stroke. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4755

5. Kono S, Ikeda M, Ogata M. Salt and geographical mortality of gastric cancer and stroke in Japan. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1983 Mar;37(1):43-6.

6. Iso HM, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Prospective study of fat and protein intake and risk of intraparenchymal hemorrhage in women. Circulation 2001;103:856.

Yano K, Reed D, MacLean C. “Serum Cholesterol and Hemorrhagic Stroke in the Honolulu Heart Program.” Stroke 1989;20(11): 1460-1465.

7. Tsugane S, Sasazuki S. Diet and the risk of gastric cancer. Gastric Cancer 2007;10(2):75-83

Hidden salt in chicken

The practice of chicken “plumping” by the industry has many consumers outraged. Plumping is term used to refer to injection of salt water, chicken stock, seaweed extract, or some combination of these into chickens – this increases the weight and price of the chicken – plumped chicken can be up to 15% salt water by weight. Of course, cost is important, but even more important is that this practice can also increase the sodium content of the chicken by up to 700%. About 30% of the chickens sold in the U.S. are plumped.

Sodium is not only associated with hypertension – high sodium intake contributes to heart disease, hemorrhagic stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer as well. Conscientious consumers or those with elevated blood pressure who are restricting salt intake to avoid these dangerous outcomes are not expecting there to be anything other than chicken in the package of chicken. The industry is taking advantage of that fact, and adding even more salt into the diets of Americans in the process. Chicken producers say that consumers prefer the taste of plumped chicken, that adding salt water increases moistness and enhances taste - of course it tastes better to most Americans – it’s full of salt!

Taking into account the popularity of chicken among most Americans, this is a serious concern – especially since reducing salt intake in the U.S. by approximately one-third has been estimated to reduce cases of heart attack and stroke by tens of thousands each year. The last thing Americans need is more salt in their diets.

Of course, I recommend minimizing animal products. But if you do occasionally eat chicken, it is simple to make sure that you are paying for only chicken and not salt water. First, remember that “100% Natural” and even “Organic” does not mean that the chicken has not been injected with salt water. Check the ingredient list and the sodium content - chicken meat contains approximately 75 mg sodium per 4-ounce serving – plumped chicken may list up to 440 mg sodium for the same serving size.

 

References:

  1. Salt-Water-Soaked Chicken Not at all Natural, Says CSPI: http://www.cspinet.org/new/201002241.html
  2. Lifescript: Is Your Chicken too Fat? http://www.lifescript.com/Body/Diet/Eat-well/Is%20Your%20Chicken%20Too%20Fat.aspx?utm_campaign=2010-03-06-46296&utm_source=healthy-advantage&utm_medium=email&utm_content=healthy-well-wise_Is%20Your%20Chicken%20Too%20Fa&FromNL=1&sc_date=20100306T000000

Salt update

On January 20th,2010, about a week after NYC Mayor Bloomberg proposed a controversial salt reduction initiative, evidence was presented in the New England Journal of Medicine that salt reduction truly can save lives.

Using mathematical models, the authors were able to make estimates of cardiovascular disease rates based on a population-wide 3 g decrease in salt consumption (1200 mg sodium). 

By their projections, a 3 g salt reduction would result in 60,000 fewer cases of coronary heart disease, 32,000 fewer strokes, and 54,000 fewer heart attacks each year. This is comparable to the cardiovascular benefit from smoking cessation efforts.   These estimates don’t even take into account the beneficial effects on other diseases related to salt excess, like osteoporosis, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.

Health care costs were predicted to decrease by $10 billion to $24 billion, making this type of intervention much more cost-effective than medicating people who have hypertension. With health care reform at the forefront of American politics, this study highlights the value of prevention in bringing down costs. Since about 80% of salt in the diet is already in the food when it is purchased, this intervention must occur at a national policy level rather than a personal responsibility level – hopefully, these data will not be ignored by policymakers.

A 1200 mg decrease in sodium consumption would represent a 34.3% drop in sodium consumption of average Americans, somewhat more ambitious than the 25% reduction proposed by Mayor Bloomberg. But based on the above figures even a 25% reduction is likely to bring cardiovascular benefits.

 

References:

Bibbins-Domingo K et al. Projected Effect of Dietary Salt Reductions on Future Cardiovascular Disease. NEJM. Published at www.nejm.org January 20, 2010 (10.1056/NEJMoa0907355)

Appel LJ and Anderson CAM. Compelling Evidence for Public Health Action to Reduce Salt Intake. Published at www.nejm.org January 20, 2010 (10.1056/NEJMe0910352)

 

NYC cracks down on salt!

First New York City banned trans fat, then required chain restaurants to post calorie counts, then warned about weight gain from sugary sodas, and now it’s taking on salt.

 

Mayor Bloomberg has called for a nation-wide initiative to reduce sodium content of packaged and restaurant food by 25% over the next five years. The program would be voluntary for the food manufacturers and restaurant chains.

Of course, cutting sodium by 50% would be even better, but this is a respectable first step.   A reduction in sodium intake by 50%, according to a recent meta-analysis, is estimated to reduce the rate of stroke by 23% and cardiovascular disease by 17%.1

A similar voluntary salt reduction program has been in action in the U.K. since 2003, and has so far has managed to reduce the average salt consumption consumption from 9.5g (approx. 3,800 mg sodium) to 8.6g (approx. 3,400 mg sodium). This year, the U.K. has set more challenging salt reduction goals for 2012.

Salt is dangerous - I have always warned people about excess salt consumption - here are some facts:

  • The human diet, for millions of years, did not contain any added salt – only the sodium present in natural foods. This equates to less than 1000 mg of sodium per day. 
  • Today, according to the CDC, Americans typically consume 3500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Americans have a 90% lifetime probability of having high blood pressure
  • 80% of sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods. As NYC health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “Most of the salt we consume is in the food when we buy it.”  The Center for Science in the Public Interest has found several chain restaurant meals that contain over 6,000 mg of sodium!
  • And finally, sea salt is not healthier than table salt – all salt comes from the sea, and it doesn’t matter if it’s pink or gray or white, it’s still about 98% sodium chloride. It’s salt, and it’s dangerous. 

Many people interpret public health policies such as these as the “food police” telling us what we can and cannot eat. I see it as the opposite – progress in consumer freedom. By putting a limit on the amount of salt in foods that can be sold to us, we now have the choice. We, not the corporations that sell food to us, are in control of our salt intake. We are able to purchase packaged food and eat at restaurants without consuming dangerous levels of sodium. For those who prefer to ignore the risks of high sodium intake, no one is outlawing salt shakers.

Even more troubling, others see this as an ‘insignificant’ issue compared to health care reform, the economy, unemployment, etc...

Our health and quality of life are insignificant? Heart disease, stroke, kidney disease – insignificant? I don’t think so. People who die from diseases of nutritional ignorance are not around to worry about the economy.

But won’t cutting salt make the foods bland? First, the program plans to reduce salt gradually so that foods will not appear to be bland. And actually, excess salt deadens the sense of taste - if you cut down your salt intake, your taste buds will adjust over time, becoming more sensitive to salt. By avoiding salty foods, you regain your ability to detect and enjoy the subtle flavors in natural foods.

What do you think about this new push in New York City to improve people’s diets? I think it is great.

 

References:

1. Strazzullo P et al. Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies BMJ 2009;339:b4567 ; http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/osteoporosis-sodium-acidbase-balance-and-bone-health.html

2. Tsugane S, Sasazuki S. Diet and the risk of gastric cancer. Gastric Cancer 2007;10(2):75-83

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/business/11salt.html

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/11/new.york.salt/index.html

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/as_salt_on_science_t5MDuh3FqtTWpMS5bs282J 

Sodium, acid-base balance, and bone health

 

We’ve known for years that excessive sodium intake contributes to hypertension, and a new meta-analysis of 13 studies has confirmed that high sodium intake is associated with increased risk of stroke and overall cardiovascular disease.1 Salt consumption is also associated with kidney disease, and a new study suggests that reduced sodium intake could benefit bone health.

Women 45-75 years old with prehyptertension or stage 1 hypertension were assigned to one of two diets.  Both diets supplied the same amount (800 mg) of calcium.  One diet was a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.  The other diet was a low-sodium diet (1500 mg), which included red meat but was designed to have a low acid load.2 

Western diets, generally high in animal protein, produce acid in the body, forcing the body to buffer this acid in part by the release of alkalizing salts from bone (e.g. calcium citrate and calcium carbonate) – this is associated with urinary calcium loss and is thought to contribute to osteoporosis. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes have favorable effects on acid-base balance, since the acid-forming effect of their protein content, which is lower than that of animal products anyway, are balanced by their mineral content.3-4

After 14 weeks, the women on both diets increased markers of bone formation and reduced their calcium excretion – those on the low sodium diet had a greater reduction in calcium loss. The authors concluded that this diet was protecting the mineral reserves in bone, and that this could have long-term implications for bone health. Future studies will likely measure bone mineral density and fracture incidence in response to these diets.2

The average daily consumption of sodium for Americans is around 4000mg, almost double the U.S. recommended maximum of 2300mg. The low sodium diet in this study provided a maximum of 1500mg of sodium per day, but included up to six servings of red meat per week, limited the consumption of nutrient-rich legumes to 4-5 per week, and was based on high-calorie, nutrient-poor grain products - 7-8 servings per day.5 The high-carbohydrate low-fat diet was likely based on grain products as well.

Although both of these diets had favorable effects when implemented in place of a standard western diet, they both have room for improvement. By minimizing the high-protein, high-saturated fat animal products, and replacing grain products with mineral- and phytochemical-rich vegetables, fruits, and legumes as the base of the diet, both acid load and sodium would be further reduced, presumably leading to further benefits on bone health.

 

References:

1. Strazzullo P et al. Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2009;339:b4567

2. Nowson CA et al. The effects of a low-sodium base-producing diet including red meat compared with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on bone turnover markers in women aged 45-75 years. Br J Nutr. 2009 Oct;102(8):1161-70. Epub 2009 May 18.

3. Welch AA et al. Urine pH is an indicator of dietary acid-base load, fruit and vegetables and meat intakes: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and

Nutrition (EPIC)-Norfolk population study. Br J Nutr. 2008 Jun;99(6):1335-43. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

4. Massey LK. J Nutr. Dietary animal and plant protein and human bone health: a whole foods approach. 2003 Mar;133(3):862S-865S.

5. http://dashdiet.org/

 

Sodium and artificial sweeteners linked to decline in kidney function

 

Two studies presented at the American Society for Nephrology’s annual meeting earlier this month are beginning to build data on the links between diet and kidney disease. The researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study to correlate intake of sodium and sweetened beverages with kidney function in 3,000 women over an 11-year period.

In the first study, the authors found that higher dietary sodium intake was associated with a greater decline in kidney function over that 11-year time frame.  Excessive sodium intake is already well-known to promote hypertension and consequently heart disease, and now we have one more reason to avoid it.

In the second study, women who drank two or more servings per day of artificially sweetened soda doubled their odds of kidney function decline.

Sure, we save a few calories drinking a diet soda, but does that really help us? Scientific studies have linked artificial sweeteners and/or diet soda to weight gain, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

As a society, we disregard these possible dangers to the detriment of our health. We have grown accustomed to the intense saltiness of restaurant meals and processed foods, and the intense artificial sweetness of aspartame, acesulfame K, and sucralose. By cutting these harmful substances out of our diets, we can begin to enjoy the more subtle flavors of natural whole foods, and benefit our kidneys in the process.

 

Reference:

American Society of Nephrology (2009, November 2). Diets High In Sodium And Artificially Sweetened Soda Linked To Kidney Function Decline. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 17, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091101132543.htm

 

Bananas Really are the Perfect Food to Me

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Bloggy McBloggenstein of Stop Being So Fat! and does NOT necessarily represent the opinions of DiseaseProof or Dr. Fuhrman.

If I don't have one everyday I feel incomplete. I couldn't think of a better snack to have while on the go that doesn't leave me feeling like I've overloaded on salt or sugar, which most snacks do.

Bananas are the ultimate convenience food! As far as fruit goes (or for that matter any "snack" food) bananas require no washing, cutting, peeling, storage, or packaging. They come in their own biodegradable wrapper that can be removed by hand! What more could you ask for in a convenience food?

Just don't leave the peel lying on the ground. Comedy and/or bodily injury may occur!

And they're so cheap! At least in my neck of the woods, they are usually around $.50 a pound, which can get me 3 or 4, depending on the size. That sure beats spending a dollar at the vending machine for a candy bar that will probably make me feel poorly afterward.

The influence of the Western diet in the past few decades has lead most people's diets to become lacking in enough highly nutritious foods to thrive, especially fruit. Bananas are notably helpful in combating the typical Western way of eating in that they are good sources of several vitamins and minerals that actually help reverse the negative effects of eating too many processed, and not enough whole foods.

Those nutrients include Vitamin C, the great antioxidant; vitamin B6, important for amino acid metabolism as well as even reducing depression for some that are deficient. The minerals potassium and magnesium help to reduce blood pressure, which is great since hypertension rates are skyrocketing mostly due to high sodium intake. Oh, and we can't forget fiber!

With all of these good things to say about bananas, there's really no excuse to not have some on hand.

Image credit: Fernando Stankuns

Most of America's Salt Comes from Processed Food

Presented at the 2009 American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke Conference, experts claim switching to a low sodium diet is the most important lifestyle change people with heart problems can make, but many people ignore their doctor’s recommendation. Scientists surveyed 116 heart patients on what they ate for three days, finding 70% of sodium intake comes from processed foods such as deli meats and fast food; HealthDay News reports.

Boxed breakfast cereals are another high-salt culprit, especially kids’ cereals. Salt is bad news for your heart. Sodium decreases levels of a helpful enzyme that helps blood vessels relax and lowers blood pressure. And consuming a lot of salt worsens metabolic syndrome, which is a known precursor to cardiovascular disease.

As for meat, a recent study revealed men eating too much red or processed meat had a 27% higher risk of dying from heart disease and women had a 50% greater risk. Eek!

Image credit: House Of Sims