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Fish Oil Pills Not Shown to Prevent Diseases or Deaths

A review of 20 studies shows that fish oil pills (a source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) do not reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes (Journal of the American Medical Association, September 12, 2012;308:1024-1033), even though both European and North American guidelines recommend taking omega-3 pills from fish, flax seeds or walnuts after a heart attack. The 20 studies, analyzing 68,680 patients, found that omega-3 pills did not prevent death, death from a heart attacks, sudden death, heart attacks, or strokes. There is some data that fish oil pills can lower triglycerides slightly.

Other research data show that people who eat fish twice a week are at reduced risk for heart attacks and death from heart attacks. Eating fish more often than twice a week has not been shown to increase protection against heart attacks.

Most doctors agree that you help to prevent heart attacks by:
• eating lots of fruits and vegetables,
• reducing intake of red meat,
• avoiding sugared drinks including fruit juices when you are not exercising,
• avoiding sugar-added foods when you are not exercising,
• not smoking,
• not living with a smoker,
• not taking more than 2 drinks a day,
• enlarging your muscles,
• getting rid of body fat, and
• avoiding vitamin D deficiency.


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Vitamin D Pills Raise Cholesterol

Giving 50,000 IU/week of vitamin D3 (more than 15 times the Recommended Dietary Allowance) to people with vitamin D deficiency, for 8 weeks, increased risk for heart attacks by raising blood levels of total cholesterol, the bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides more than in the placebo group (Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, September 2012). Vitamin D pills also increased blood calcium levels and reduced blood parathyroid hormone levels; both are associated with increases in the bad LDL cholesterol and increased risk for heart attacks.

The authors state: "Our study challenges the notion that vitamin D repletion ameliorates dyslipidemia and raises the possibility that vitamin D supplements may worsen the lipid profile for some patients."

WHY THIS STUDY MAY REFUTE THE NOTION THAT VITAMIN D PREVENTS HEART ATTACKS: Lack of vitamin D is felt to increase risk of heart attacks by raising blood sugar levels. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased risk for diabetes (Nutrition Journal, September 9, 2012). Insulin prevents blood sugar levels from rising too high by attaching to insulin receptors on cells and then driving sugar from the bloodstream into cells. Lack of vitamin D prevents insulin from lowering high blood sugar levels.

When insulin fails to control blood sugar levels, and blood sugar levels rise too high, the cholesterol in the bloodstream turns into small particle cholesterol, a sign of diabetes which increases risk for heart attacks. Giving massive doses of vitamin D to people with vitamin D deficiency does not change the number of small particle cholesterol molecules. Thus vitamin D pills do not correct the underlying abnormality associated with increased diabetes risk: small particle cholesterols.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS: If your blood level of hydroxy-vitamin D is below 75 nmol/L (30 ng/ml), you are not getting enough vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D increase your chances of developing high blood sugar levels that can damage every cell in your body. You cannot meet your needs for vitamin D from the food that you eat. You have to get more sunlight or take pills. Of course, excessive exposure to sunlight may increase risk for skin cancers. It is cumulative ultraviolet exposure over a lifetime that increases risk for skin cancers. So expose your lower legs to sunlight for short periods during the warmer months.

Follow all the rules for preventing diabetes:
• Drink sugared drinks (including fruit juices) only when you exercise,
• avoid sugar-added,
• restrict red meat,
• exercise at least one hour a day,
• avoid being overweight,
• eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables, and
• avoid fried foods.


Oats Help to Prevent Heart Attacks by Lowering Cholesterol

Men and women who took 100 grams of OAT cereal a day had far greater improvement in their blood tests to measure risk factors for heart attacks than a group who took 100 grams of WHEAT flour-based noodles daily for 6 weeks (Nutrition Journal, August 2012;11:54). Those taking oat cereals daily had lower total cholesterol and the bad LDL-cholesterol, and a greater reduction in the circumference around their bellies.

Oats are a much richer source of soluble fiber than wheat. Soluble fiber cannot be absorbed, so it passes to the colon where bacteria ferment it to change the soluble fiber into short chain fatty acids that are absorbed through the walls of the colon, pass into the bloodstream, and then pass to the liver where they markedly reduce the liver's ability to make cholesterol.


This week's medical history:
Eva Peron's Cervical Cancer

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


Recipe of the Week:

Cranberry-Wild Rice Salad

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


September 16th, 2012
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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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