Pharmacy Times
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Cocoa Snacks Can Cut Cholesterol

Chocolate lovers, rejoice. A new studyshowed that snacking on cocoa-flavoredbars that are enriched with phytosterolscan significantly lower cholesterol levels.Phytosterols, plant-derived compoundssimilar to the cholesterol found in mammals,have been shown to help cut cholesterol,and the FDA has endorsed foodproducts enhanced with the sterols "aspart of a dietary strategy to reduce therisk of coronary disease."

In order to study the effect of phytosterol-enriched foods on blood levels ofcholesterol, the researchers assigned 67patients with high cholesterol to eat 2snack bars that contained 1.5 g of plantsterols every day for 6 weeks, or 2 barswithout the sterols.

The participants who ate the enrichedbars had a 4.7% reduction in total cholesterol.In addition, they experienced a 6%reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL)cholesterol after the 6 weeks. They alsoshowed an increase in high-density lipoproteinlevels.

The researchers concluded that addingphytosterol-enriched snacks to aregimen of healthy diet and regular exercisecan help significantly lower totaland LDL cholesterol.

The results of the study were publishedin the Journal of the AmericanDietetic Association (November 2006).

Controlling Cholesterol Improves Lymphoma Survival

According to a new US study, patients recovering fromHodgkin's lymphoma have a better chance of survival if theyalso control their cholesterol levels. The study showed that"lipid screening in Hodgkin's survivors is cost-effective and providesphysicians with a guideline on how frequently theyshould be screening for high cholesterol, an important risk factorfor heart disease," according to Aileen Chen,MD, a radiationoncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston, Mass,where the study was conducted.

The study looked at Hodgkin's survivors treated with chestradiation in order to treat lymph nodes. These patients' heartsalso received small amounts of radiation, which puts them atadded risk of heart disease. High cholesterol levels increasethis risk. The study showed that those patients who werescreened for high cholesterol every 5 years and received statintherapy as a result were shown to live an average of 6 monthslonger, compared with patients who were not screened andtherefore did not receive therapy. The study's findings werepresented in November 2006 at the annual meeting of theAmerican Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

Sugar Cane Extract Does Not Lower Cholesterol

A new study supported growingevidence that an extract fromCuban sugar cane does not helplower cholesterol levels. Thereare several plant-based productsthat do help cut cholesterol levels,such as plant sterols used inmargarines and other foods.Cuban sugar cane policosanols,however, are quickly droppingout of this category.

Researchers at the Universityof Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada,studied 21 otherwise-healthymen and women with high cholesterollevels who consumedeither 10 mg of policosanols or aplacebo for 28 days. After a 28-day "washout period," the participantsswitched supplements.The researchers found no effecton any measure of the participants' cholesterol levels fromconsuming policosanols.

Proponents of the supplementpoint to numerous human andanimal studies from a laboratoryin Cuba that have shown dramaticcholesterol-lowering resultsfrom policosanol intake,comparableto that of statins. Similar studiesconducted elsewhere, however,have shown no beneficialeffect on cholesterol levels. Researcherssuspect that the Cubanpopulation might be more susceptibleto the effects of policosanolfor either genetic or dietaryreasons. The study's findingswere published in the November2006 issue of the AmericanJournal of Clinical Nutrition.

Statins Cut Heart Risk in Patients Without CVD

New research indicated that there are definite benefitsto prescribing statins for individuals who currently do nothave cardiovascular disease (CVD) but are at moderaterisk for heart attacks, stroke, or other CV events. An analysisof studies that involved >48,000 patients supportsrecent guidelines about which patients should receivestatin therapy, according to lead study author Niteesh K.Choudhry, MD, an associate physician at Brigham andWomen's Hospital, Boston, Mass. The results of the analysiswere published in the November 27, 2006, issue of theArchives of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Choudhry said that if the 23 million Americans atmoderate risk for CVD took statins for an average of 4.3years, ~85,800 strokes and 383,000 major coronary eventswould be prevented. The study showed that patients withmoderate CVD risk factors, such as diabetes, high bloodpressure, and high cholesterol, who took statins had a 29%lower risk of major CV events, and a 14% reduced risk ofstroke. He pointed out, however, that statin use did notdecrease the threat of coronary heart disease or overalldeath in this population.

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