Cholesterol Watch

Published Online: Sunday, July 1, 2007
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Pistachios May Aid in Lowering Cholesterol

The results of a study presented April 30, 2007, at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, DC, stated that consuming about 1 to 2 handfuls of pistachios per day can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by lowering lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

The multiweek study, conducted by Pennsylvania State University, observed the cholesterol levels of participants who began by eating an average American diet consisting of 35% total fat and 11% saturated fat for 2 weeks. They then tested 3 diets for 4 weeks, each with a 2-week break between each diet, which consisted of varying levels of total fat (25% to 34%) and pistachio intake (0 to 3 oz daily).

The researchers found that those who consumed 3 oz of pistachios daily lowered their LDL levels by 11.6% and their total cholesterol levels by 8.4%. Pistachio-enriched diets also resulted in significantly higher levels of lutein in the blood. The increased lutein from the 3-oz pistachio diet correlated with a reduction in oxidized LDL, which may indicate that the lutein in pistachio nuts lowers the risk of CVD by reducing serum oxidized LDL.

Forecasting Future Heart Disease

A study published in the May 22, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggested that mildly elevated levels of cholesterol or slightly higher than normal blood pressure (BP) levels in patients aged 18 to 30 years are strong predictors of developing coronary artery calcium (CAC) between ages 30 and 35 years.

Researchers studied 5115 patients aged 18 to 30 years in 1985 and 1986 and followed up with physical examinations (BP readings, cholesterol and serum glucose levels, and body mass index recordings) at 2-, 5-, 7-, 10-, and 15-year intervals.

At the 15-year follow-up, 10% of the participants had CAC that was detectable on a computed tomography scan. Compared with young adults who had below-optimal levels of the risk factors at study start, those with above-optimal levels were 1.5 to 3 times more likely to develop CAC 15 years later. At the beginning of the study, 20% of the participants had elevated levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), 25% smoked, and one third were overweight. By the 15th year, 30% had higher levels of LDL, 35% had hypertension, and more than two thirds were either overweight or obese.

Growth Spurts in Kids = Fewer Cholesterol Problems?

The results of a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (March 2007) showed that children who are tall toddlers or who experience growth spurts during their adolescence are more likely to have lower cholesterol levels as adults. Teens who gain excess weight after age 15, however, run a greater risk of higher adult cholesterol levels.

For the study, the researchers at the School of Medicine, Health Policy, and Practice at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, collected data on 2311 men and women who took part in the Medical Research Council long-term study. All of the participants were born during 1 week in March 1946, and they all had their height and weight measured at ages 2, 4, 7, 15, 36, and 53 years. Cholesterol levels were taken at 53 years.

The researchers found that those who had gained more height before age 2 or after age 15 were less likely to have high cholesterol levels at age 53. Lower cholesterol levels were more likely to be associated with leg length, compared with trunk length. Also, more rapid weight gain between ages 15 and 53, as well as higher body fat levels at both ages 36 and 53, correlated with higher total cholesterol counts, including higher levels of low-density lipoprotein. The researchers stated that this finding emphasizes the "importance of nutrition in pregnancy and childhood."

Statins May Help Prevent Second Strokes

The use of statins to lower cholesterol levels after a stroke or mini-stroke may help cut the risk of a second stroke or a heart attack, even in patients with no prior history of heart disease. A French study correlates with past studies that show that "reducing cholesterol so quickly can have positive long-term effects," according to the researchers. The results of the study were presented in May 2007 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston, Mass. The researchers at Denis Diderot University in Paris studied >4700 patients who had experienced a stroke or mini-stroke within 1 to 6 months prior to the study. Half of the patients received atorvastatin, while the other half did not. The researchers then kept track of the patients' outcomes for about 5 years.

They found that a statin-induced 10% drop in levels of low-density lipoproteins over 30 days was associated with a 4% reduction in the risk of a second stroke and a 7% overall risk reduction for heart attack. The findings were the same whether or not the patients had a past history of heart disease - something not found in earlier studies.



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