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Red and Blue Berries Protect Against Heart Attacks

Women who eat more than three servings per week of strawberries or blueberries are far less likely to suffer heart attacks (Circulation, January, 2013). Strawberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries get their red and blue colors from antioxidant flavinoids called anthocyanins that have been shown in other studies to:
• lower high blood pressure,
• relax constricted arteries,
• stabilize plaques in arteries,
• block inflammation, and
• inhibit growth factors that increase heart attack risk.

In this study, researchers followed 93,600 women in the Nurses' Health Study II for 20 years. The 32 percent reduction in heart attack risk was seen after adjustment for multiple factors including body mass index, physical activity, saturated fat intake, use of caffeine and alcohol, and family history of heart attacks.

SOURCES OF FLAVINOIDS: Wine, tea, dark chocolate, most berries, even eggplants are also good sources of flavinoids. In this study, other fruits such as apples and pears were not associated with decreased risk. Other studies show that berries are associated with protection against dementia, diabetes, and osteoporosis (Public Health Nutrition, 12/13/2012).

Other studies also show that reduced risk for heart attacks is associated with eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds.

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More Sets Yield More Muscle Growth

Untrained, sedentary men lifted 80 percent of the maximum weight that they could lift in one set or in three sets. Those who lifted three sets of 10 had a much bigger growth in muscle size and strength than those who lifted one set of 10 (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, January 2013; 27(1):8-13).

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Fish, but Not Fish Oil Pills, Reduce Heart Attack Risk

• A review of 17 prospective studies shows that EATING FISH ONCE A WEEK, compared to eating less fish, was associated with a 16 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks.

• A review of 14 randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trials showed that TAKING FISH OIL PILLS (EPA-DHA) does not offer protection from fatal heart attacks (Current Opinion in Lipidology, Dec 2012;23(6):554-9).

These conclusions agree with previous studies showing that eating fish is associated with protection from heart attacks, while taking fish oil pills is not (Eur Heart J, 2008 Aug;29(16):2024-30; Eur Heart J, September 2011).

POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS:
1) It is possible that fish, but not fish oil pills, prevent heart attacks because the fish oils act in combination with other nutrients found in the fish, such as vitamin D, iodine or selenium.

2) Drugs to treat high blood pressure, cholesterol and clotting may be so far more effective than omega-3s that any added benefit of omega-3 pills does not show up in population studies of people taking medications.

3) Fish oil pills increase blood levels of the "bad" LDL cholesterol that increases risk for heart attacks (Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, September 22, 2011).

People appear to receive maximum benefit from eating fish once or twice a week; more has not been shown to be better. People in Nordic countries eat large amounts of fish but the extra fish does not add further protection from heart attacks.

HOW DO FISH HELP TO PREVENT HEART ATTACKS? The main beneficial nutrient appears to be the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that is thought to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage blood vessels to cause heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to lower cholesterol when they are substituted for saturated fatty acids such as those found in meat.

HOW DOES INFLAMMATION CAUSE HEART ATTACKS? Heart attacks are caused by a sudden breaking off of a plaque from the inner lining of an artery. The broken-off plaque travels down an ever- narrowing artery until it eventually blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle to cause a heart attack. Cholesterol deposition into plaques is a late happening in progression towards a heart attack. First your immunity punches a hole in the inner lining of the artery. This is called inflammation. Then you bleed and a clot forms over the erosion. Only after the clot forms does cholesterol enter a plaque.

BEST SOURCES OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: Fish contain omega-3s because they eat plankton or other fish that have eaten plankton. Deep-water fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines or tuna, contain the most omega-3s. Many other types of seafood contain smaller amounts of omega-3s.

Most freshwater fish have far less omega-3s than saltwater fish. Farm-raised fish contain omega-3s IF they are fed fish meal. Some farmed fish, such as tilapia and catfish, can thrive without eating fish meal. They are fed corn that does not contain omega-3s and therefore they do not contain omega-3s; their fatty acid composition is similar to that of chicken.

DIFFERENT OMEGA 3S FROM PLANTS: Short chain omega-3 acids are found in vegetable oils such as canola, soybean and flaxseed; and in various nuts and seeds. The human body cannot convert more than five percent of plant omega-3s to long chain fatty acids, the type found in fish. This may explain why fish omage-3s help to prevent heart attacks while plant omega-3s are far less likely to do so. One study showed that plant omega-3s may not help to prevent heart attacks (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published online September 2011).

GOOD DIET: Most nutrition experts recommend eating a healthful diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and probably fish; and reducing intake of sugared drinks, desserts and other refined carbohydrates, red meats and fried foods. Taking supplements or chemicals extracted from foods, such a fish oil pills, will not protect you from an unhealthful diet.

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This week's medical history:
Emily Dickinson, SAD Poet

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

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Recipe of the Week:

Firehouse Chili

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

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January 20th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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