More on salt, how much do you need?
This research is interesting because it measured sodium and potassium excretion and examined the association between major cardiovascular events and death(O’Donnell M et al. 2014).
Urine samples from 101,945 persons in 17 countries were included in the study with a follow up time of an average 3.7 years. The average estimated sodium excretion was 4.93 g per day and the potassium was 2.12 g per day.
So how does this relate to sodium intake?
Based on the urinary excretion, an estimated sodium intake between 3 g per day and 6 g per day was associated with a lower risk of death and cardiovascular events than was either a higher or a lower intake.
Higher potassium excretion was also associated with lower risks.
These findings are higher than what’s been recommended for sodium intake in the U.S.. The recommendations in the U.S. are now being questioned by many.
Is reducing your salt intake really that healthy?
We don’t need the same amount of salt all the time. Why is that?
When it is hot and we perspire more, or when we exercise and perspire more, we lose more salt which needs to be replaced. On days like that, we need to eat more salt. One of the reasons why runners sometimes get cramps is because of a high salt loss and not enough salt intake to compensate.
The reviewed research is interesting because it looked at salt intake and mortality related to all cause mortality and cardiovascular disease events(Graudal N,et al. 2014). Looking at data from 25 studies it was found that both low salt intake and high salt intake are associated with increased mortality.
This makes sense. Before you cut out all salt, make an assessment of how much you perspire and take into consideration what your blood pressure is.
If your blood pressure is high and your ankles are swollen, obviously you may need to reduce your salt intake. On the other hand if you perspire a lot because you exercise and your blood pressure is normal, you probably don’t need to reduce your salt intake.
Reduce your cardiovascular risk with the right fat.
Common opinion goes like this: fat creates heart disease. New research is questioning that assumption and proving the opposite, that fat can be heart protective. The research reviewed is one of these studies.
7447 participants were assigned to one of three diets:
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts
- A control diet where the participants were advised to reduce fat intake (Estruch R,et al. 2013).
The results showed that the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.
Good sources of healthy fat are avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Fish like wild salmon is a good source of omega 3 fat which is also very important.
The Learn to Eat program explains how to create healthy meals that are even more effective than the standard Mediterranean diet.
Inflammation: it's dangerous!
You might think of inflammation as something you don’t have a problem with unless you have a hot and swollen joint or have recently injured yourself. Even then, it may look like a localized reaction not affecting any other part of your body.
This is far from the truth. Any type of inflammation, in any area of the body, will also affect the rest of the body.
The most dangerous form of inflammation may actually be what we call low grade inflammation because we may not have any visible signs. This means you don’t have to have a swollen joint to have an issue with it. This type of inflammation becomes systemic, which means it will affect your whole body and can be measured testing different inflammatory markers. It is also a risk factor for chronic disease, and cardiovascular disease is one of them.
The reviewed research investigated something interesting. The researchers measured several inflammatory markers: three of them were C-reactive protein, TNF-alpha and IL-6 in both heathy and non healthy obese and non obese participants(Phillips CM, Perry IJ, 2013). The results showed that the determining factor if somebody was metabolically healthy or unhealthy was the degree of inflammation even if they were obese.
This does not mean that it is a good idea to be obese, because that usually leads to increased inflammation, but somebody who is overweight may have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease if they have very low inflammatory markers.
It is very important to keep inflammation low. You can significantly lower inflammation by eating a certain way. For more information on how to lower inflammation with your diet, click here.
Surprising benefit of walnuts
Research has documented that walnuts improve cardiovascular risk factors.
The reviewed research investigated if walnuts may affect the risk of diabetes (Pan A.,et.al.,2013). 58.063 women aged 52 -77 years and also 79.893 women aged 35-52 years were followed over ten years. None of the women had Diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study. The consumption of walnuts and other nuts were assessed every 4 years.
The results showed that women that ate the most walnuts, 2 or more servings per week (1 serving was 28 g) had the lowest risk for Diabetes, but the ones who only ate 1-3 servings per month also showed a reduced risk compared to the women who never or rarely ate walnuts.
The women who ate other nuts also had a lower risk for Diabetes.
Nuts are both a convenient and good snack as long as you don’t have too many at one time. They have a very low glycemic index. Nuts can also be sprinkled on berries or a little bit of fruit as a healthy desert.
The latest on saturated fat
The conservative view on saturated fat has been that it is harmful. Lately fat has, however, gotten a better reputation. There are now people promoting even saturated fat as being healthy. So what should you believe?
There is plenty of research showing that fat is a necessity if you’re going to stay healthy, but is all fat healthy? That is exactly what the reviewed research investigated (Livingstone KM, et. al.,2013). The participants were 2398 men, aged 40 to 59 years. Researchers followed up with the participants at five-year intervals for an average of 17.8 years.
At the start of the study, higher saturated fat consumption was associated with higher systolic blood pressure and also higher diastolic blood pressure. After a 17.8 year follow-up, the participants with higher saturated fat consumption also had a 0.51 m/s higher aortic pulse wave velocity (aPWV), which is a measurement of arterial stiffness. This meant that they had stiffer arteries.
The participants with higher polyunsaturated fatty acid consumption had, at the start of the study both lower systolic blood pressure and lower diastolic blood pressure. After a 17.8 year follow-up, they had a 0.63 m/s lower aPWV, which means they had lower arterial stiffness.
The conclusion is that saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat have the opposite effect. The polyunsaturated fats, which you find in nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fish, are healthy. The saturated fats you find in meat and dairy products are unhealthy.