Just three cups of tea daily reduces stroke risk

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London: Daily consumption of three cups of tea a day reduces the risk of stroke and death from stroke, according to the findings of a recent meta-analysis.[1]

The meta-analysis included 10 studies from 6 different countries: China, Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and the United States. Three of the studies included only women and three only men. Three studies combined the effects in men and women and one study presented its results for men and women separately. These 10 studies included seven populations that drank mainly or exclusively black tea and three that drank mainly green tea.

Commenting on the study from the Tea Advisory Panel, Dr Catherine Hood notes: Ā“These latest health findings are really exciting for all of us tea drinkers. Despite different countries studied and the different tea drinking customs represented across the studies, the meta-analysis showed that tea consumption was associated with reduced risk for stroke and reduced risk of death from stroke. The risk of a fatal or non-fatal stroke in people drinking 3 or more cups of tea a day was reduced by 21 per cent compared to those who did not drink tea.

Ā“Mechanisms by which the tea may protect against stroke could possibly be down to three mechanisms. Firstly, tea has been shown to reduce blood pressure in stroke-prone rats and blood pressure control is the key strategy to reduce risk of stroke in humans. Secondly, tea and the catechins it contains can improve blood vessel function. Thirdly, through the effects of theanine, tea has a protective effect on brain function and may reduce blood vessel damage in the brain.

Ā“In this research, the beneficial effect was not specific to green or black tea, or to the Asian or non-Asian populations in the studies. Moreover, black tea was as effective as green tea in reducing stroke. The authors suggest that their findings may be one of the easiest lifestyle changes to make to significantly reduce the risk of stroke.Ā”

The Tea Advisory Panel: The Tea Advisory Panel is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from the UK TEA COUNCIL, the trade association for the UK tea industry. For further information please call + 44 (0)207 7058989.

Exercise helps prevent brain shrinkage

New research in AlzheimerĀ’s prevention shows the important relationship between exercise and preventing AlzheimerĀ’s disease.

A new study has found that people with early Alzheimer’s disease who were less physically fit had four times more brain shrinkage than those who were more physically fit.

(Researchers think that exercise has a direct effect on preserving brain volume, says lead author Jeffrey M. Burns, MD. Preserving brain volume also aids brain function.

“People with early Alzheimer’s disease may be able to preserve their brain function for a longer period of time by exercising regularly and potentially reducing the amount of brain volume lost,Ā” Dr. Burns writes. Ā“Evidence shows decreasing brain volume is tied to poorer cognitive performance, so preserving more brain volume may translate into better cognitive performance.”

The people were tested with treadmill walking, oxygen consumption (a measure of aerobic fitness), mental tests and brain imaging. The results strongly indicated the positive benefits of exercise and a correlation with the prevention of AlzheimerĀ’s disease.

Exercise isnĀ’t the only thing that can help your brain resist the ravages of this disease. There are many proven natural ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. Research supports the use of fish oil, ginkgo, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid, green tea and curcumin as effective steps towards AlzheimerĀ’s prevention.

Metabolic fingerprinting can reveal causes of disease

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London: Causes of disease can be revealed by metabolic fingerprinting, according to first ever ‘metabolome-wide’ study.

Your metabolic ‘fingerprint’ can reveal much about the possible causes of major diseases, according to the first ‘metabolome-wide’ association study ever carried out, published today in the journal Nature.

The study provides new insights into the possible causes of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, by analysing the metabolic fingerprints of 4,630 adults in the UK, USA, China and Japan, from their urine samples.

Metabolic fingerprinting looks at the relative levels of many different metabolites, which are the products of metabolism, in a person’s blood or urine. Metabolites act as markers which can reveal a lot about how diet and lifestyle contribute to risks for certain diseases.

The research shows that adults in the UK and USA, which have similar incidences of high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, have similar metabolic fingerprints, reflecting similar lifestyles in spite of their geographical distance from one another.

In contrast, although adults in Japan and China have similar genetic profiles, they have very different metabolic fingerprints from one another and from adults in the UK and USA, and also have major differences in the incidence of many diseases.

Japanese people living in the USA have metabolic fingerprints that resemble other people in the USA, and dissimilar fingerprints to their counterparts living in Japan. This shows that lifestyle is a dominant feature in determining metabolism.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, one of the authors of the research from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Imperial College London, said:

“Our research illustrates how metabolome-wide association studies can give us important clues as to the causes of major health problems such as high blood pressure. Metabolic profiling can tell us how specific aspects of a person’s diet and how much they drink are contributing to their risks for certain diseases, and these are things which we can’t investigate by looking at a person’s DNA. What is really important is that we can test out our new hypotheses directly, in a way that is not
easy with genetic biomarkers”.

Professor Paul Elliott, a co-author of the research from the Department
of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College, added:

“The flip-side of this is that whereas a person can’t alter their DNA, they can change their metabolic profile by changing their diet and lifestyle. This means that as we figure out where the problems lie, we should also be able to show people ways to reduce their risk of certain diseases.”

The new study reveals that people with increased levels of the amino acid alanine, which is found in many foods but which is particularly high in animal protein, have higher blood pressure and also increased energy intake, levels of dietary cholesterol, and body mass index.

People with increased levels of the metabolite formate have lower blood pressure and increased energy intake. Formate arises from the action of microbes in the gut or as a product of metabolism in the body.

Increased levels of hippurate, a by-product of metabolism by microbes in the gut, are found in people with lower blood pressure, lower levels of alcohol intake, and higher levels of dietary fibre.

For the study, researchers took urine samples from volunteers aged between 40 and 59 and analysed these for over several thousand metabolite signals, using NMR spectroscopy and advanced statistics. The volunteers were participating in the INTERMAP study, an epidemiological study investigating the links between diet and blood pressure.

The study was carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, UK; Northwestern University, Chicago, USA; Akademisch Ziekenhuis St Rafael, Belgium; Shiga University of Medical Science, Japan; and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China. It was funded by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and local funders in the participating countries.

More information:

1. “Human metabolic phenotype diversity and its association with diet and blood pressure” Nature, 20 April 2008

Corresponding author: Jeremy Nicholson, Imperial College London (for full list of authors please see paper)

2. About high blood pressure (source: Blood Pressure Association, UK)

* 16 million people in the UK have high blood pressure

* High blood pressure is the major cause of stroke, dementia, heart attacks and heart failure and it is responsible for more than half of these. These are the major causes of death and disability in the UK.

3. About metabolism (source: Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary, fifth
edition). Metabolism is the sum of all the chemical and physical changes that
take place within the body and enable its continued growth and
functioning.

* Metabolism involves the breakdown of the complex organic constituents of the body with the liberation of energy, which is required for other processes and the building up of complex substances, which form the material of the tissues and organs, from simple ones.

4. About Imperial College London

Imperial College London – rated the world’s fifth best university in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings – is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and
business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture. Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

Diabetics face increasing risk of heart attack, says new research

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London: As the number of people with diabetes continues to grow, the number of diabetics who have a heart attack has doubled over the last ten years, UK researchers say.

The number of people with type 2 diabetes, the form associated with being overweight, has grown in the UK from 1.4 million in 1996 to two million. Thousands more are believed to have the disease without realising.

And around 13,000 people with type 2 diabetes are now treated for a heart attack every year, compared with less than 6,000 in 1996.

Hospital admissions for other associated diseases such as strokes and angina has also doubled among diabetics, along with keyhole heart surgery, according to a new Imperial College in London and Leicester University.

They compared the records of cardiac treatments carried out in English hospitals between April 2005 and March 2006 with those from April 1995 to March 1996.

The analysis showed that diabetics accounted for 13.9 per cent of patients treated for a heart attack in the later period, up from 7.2 per cent a decade ago.

Angina admissions had more than doubled, from 6.7 per cent to 15.3 per cent, while the proportion of diabetics among those being treated for strokes had risen from 6.1 per cent to 11.3 per cent.

The researchers looked only at type 2 diabetes, the most common form. This is usually identified in middle age, although Britons’ expanding waistlines mean more children are being diagnosed with it.

Type 2 diabetes is often controlled initially with a stringent diet and exercise regime, but many sufferers will see their condition worsen over time and will eventually need tablets or insulin injections.

The high blood sugar levels among those with diabetes make them five times as likely to develop heart disease as the rest of the population.

Exercisers are biologically younger, reveals new research

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London: People who exercise regularly appear to be biologically younger than those who lead sedentary lifestyles, scientists have found.

Inactivity not only leads to a greater risk of ageing-related diseases, but it may also influence the ageing process itself, researchers believe.

A study of twins found there was a difference of about nine years of ageing between those who exercised regularly and those who did not, even after considering other influences including body mass index (BMI), smoking and socio-economic status (SES).

Researchers at King’s College London and in the US studied ageing in 2,401 twins by analysing telomeres, which cap the end of chromosomes in cells and protect them from damage.

Telomeres shorten with age, leaving people increasingly susceptible to cell damage which causes disease.

However there is considerable variation between individuals, and recent research has also linked lifestyle factors such as smoking and obesity with shorter than average telomeres.

Those who exercise regularly are already known to be at lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis.

Comparing twins who were raised together but did different amounts of exercise, the researchers found that on average the telomeres were significantly longer in the more active twin.

The study concluded: “The US guidelines recommend that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week can have significant health benefits.

“Our results underscore the vital importance of these guidelines. They show that adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals.”

Folate shown to slow dementia, says new US report

New York: A folate study has revealed that the vitamin can slow the cognitive decline of ageing.

The research, presented at the recent US Alzheimer’s AssociationĀ’s first conference on prevention of dementia, demonstrated that otherwise healthy people could slow the decline in their brain function by taking double the recommended daily dose of folate.

Scientists found that men and women 50-75 years old who took 800mcg of folate a day over three years scored significantly better in cognitive tests than peers taking a placebo. On memory tests, the supplement users had scores comparable to people 5.5 years younger, said the researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“It’s the first study to convincingly show that [folate] can slow cognitive decline,” said lead author Jane Durga. The study involved healthy older people, not those with Alzheimer’s symptoms, so it doesn’t show if folate might ward off that disease. “That’s the key question,” Durga said.

Previous research has suggested that folate along with other B vitamins can reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid thought to play a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The current study involved 818 middle-age adults who had elevated levels of homocysteine at baseline. They were randomized to receive either folate or a placebo for three years. Blood folate levels for those in the supplement group increased five-fold and plasma total homocysteine concentrations decreased by around 25 per cent by the end of the study.

“I think I would take [folate], assuming my doctor said it was OK,” said Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Marilyn Albert, who chairs the Alzheimer’s Association’s science advisory council.

“We know Alzheimer’s disease, the pathology, begins many, many years before the symptoms. We ought to be thinking about the health of our brain the same way we think about the health of our heart,” she added.

Folate is found in such foods as oranges and strawberries, dark green leafy vegetables and beans. In the United States, it also is added to cereal and flour products.

Durga said it’s not clear how folate might work to protect the brain. Some studies suggest folate lowers inflammation; others suggest it may play a role in expression of dementia-related genes.

There is research now suggesting ways to protect the brain against age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association has begun offering classes to teach people the techniques. Topping the list:

* Exercise your brain. Using it in unusual ways increases blood flow and helps the brain wire new connections. That’s important to build up what’s called cognitive reserve, an ability to adapt to or withstand the damage of Alzheimer’s a little longer.
* In youth, that means good education. Later in life, do puzzles, learn to play chess, take classes.
* Stay socially stimulated. Declining social interaction with age predicts declining cognitive function.
* Exercise your body. Bad memory is linked to heart disease and diabetes because clogged arteries slow blood flow in the brain.
* Experts recommend going for the triple-whammy of something mentally, physically and socially stimulating all at once: Coach your child’s ball team. Take a dance class. Strategize a round of golf.
* Diet’s also important. While Alzheimer’s researchers have long recommended a heart-healthy diet as good for the brain, the folate study is the first to test the advice directly.

The recommended daily dose of folate in the USA is 400 micrograms; doctors advise women of childbearing age to take a supplement to ensure they get that much.

The research findings add to mounting evidence that a diet higher in folate is important for a variety of diseases. Scientists have long thought that folate might play a role in dementia, and previous studies have shown people with low folate levels are more at risk for both heart disease and diminished cognitive function.

For more information: www.hsfolate.com

New research casts doubt on BMI weight system

Washington: A study of 33,000 adults has discovered that putting on a few pounds could actually lengthen your life. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health most adults may be healthy with an extra half stone than that recommended under the current Body Mass Index(BMI) measuring system.

BMI is calculated by dividing a patient’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. A rating below 18 is regarded as underweight, while above 25 is overweight and a mass index over 30 is regarded as obese.

But while many doctors use the index as a general guideline to good health, the US researchers have found that the average person classified as overweight in the UK actually lives longer.

Changing the current recommended BMI to 26 for men would allow the average male to carry 24lb more than is currently recommended. Women could quite happily tip the scales at half a stone more than suggested.

The study also found that adults with BMIs as high as 35 have the same life expectancy as skinny people who have BMIs of 20.

According to the research, only those with BMIs over 35, equivalent to 17st 6lb for a 5ft 10in man and 15st for a 5ft 5in women, face a marked reduction in life expectancy.

Researcher Dr Jerome Gronniger, of the US Congressional Budget Office, said: ‘This work does not support the idea that reducing weight alone would result in any large mortality risk reduction for most of the population.’