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Health & Food

Choosing the Right Supplement for Your Heart

Do you, or anyone you know, take a supplement or consume some type of functional foodfor your heart? If so, this post is a must read! My favorite magazine, Today’s Dietitian, printed an article in their August edition, which focused on the effectiveness and safety of heart supplements and functional food ingredients. Here are some important highlights from their article;

Plant Sterols and Stanols

– Found naturally in the walls of plants and cell membranes.

– Compete for the same binding sites as cholesterol in the GI tract, therefore they are said to inhibit excessive cholesterol absorption.

– It is recommended to consume 2 grams per day, and no more than 3 grams, in order to reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 15%.

– While studies have shown they work for LDL reduction, no studies have shown they successfully reduce risk of cardiovascular events.

– Foods like orange juice, chocolate, and breads are poor carriers, so don’t waste your money on those types of products. Dairy, mayo, dressings, and margarines are the best carriers.

Fish Oil (EPA/DHA)– Recommended by the American Heart Association for patients with documented heart disease or high triglycerides.

– Consuming fish oil may help reduce triglycerides by 20% to 30%. Studies have also shown fish oil may help lower blood pressure, slightly increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and reduce whole body inflammation (a consequence of smoking, unhealthy eating habits, environment, strenuous exercise, etc).

– 2 to 4 grams of fish oil (EPA/DHA) per day is the typical dose for therapeutic means (4 gram doses should only be taken under the care of a physician).

– While fish oil may help lower triglycerides, there is still more research needed to determine whether it can help reduce cardiac events.

– Those without documented heart disease or high triglycerides can support good health by consuming fish twice a week or by taking a fish oil supplement with .5-1 grams EPA/DHA.

– When buying a supplement make sure they have indicated how many milligrams of EPA and DHA are in each dose. Some companies simply write, “1000 mg Fish Oil”, but this is not enough information (fish oil contains more than just EPA/DHA). They should also disclose the exact amount of EPA/DHA, since this is what is most important for heart health. Unfortunately, even if they disclose this information it still may not be true, because supplements aren’t regulated. Always look for the USP, GMP, or NSF symbol to know whether you’re getting what you pay for.

Red Yeast Rice

– Red yeast rice is a yeast grown on fermented rice (sounds….interesting…). It is common in certain Asian foods, such as Peking Duck.

– It is sometimes referred to as “Nature’s Statin” because it has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by 20% to 50%.

– It works by blocking a key enzyme that is necessary to make endogenous (made in the body) cholesterol. It may also contain other key ingredients such as monounsaturated fats, isoflavanoids, and sterols, which may also add to the cholesterol lowering effect.

– The amount recommended is about 1200mg/day, taken in two doses (600 mg at one time, then another 600mg later in the day).

– Be careful when buying over the counter products because many products have been shown to lack significant amounts of the ingredient. Similar to what I said above, always look for the USP, GMP, or NSF symbol on your supplements.

– Keep in mind that the side-effects of Red Yeast Rice may be very similar to statins. Talk to your doctor before starting this supplement.

Pomegranate Juice– Claims for this product indicate it may be able to “decrease hardening of the arteries”.
– The polyphenols in pomegranate juice are believed to reduce the production of plaque in arteries and may even reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver.

– Research indicates that the juice has the most significant effect on those with severe plaque and/or severe oxidative stress. Healthier individuals see insignificant effects.

– Those on blood pressure medications need to be very cautious because pomegranate juice may potentiate its effect (in other words, it may make it work even better, thus potentially causing dangerously low blood pressure).

– Be weary of some products on the market, as many appear to be of inconsistent quality (even those labeled as 100% juice). Those made with the outer layers and peel are less effective.

QUESTION: What have you done for your heart lately?

I take a fish oil pill everyday, with .5 grams of EPA/DHA combined (the dosage is 1 gram, but I only take half because I’m pretty healthy, no need to waste my money!). I also eat plenty of fiber, do 4-5 days of cardio a week, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and of course I try to relax and stay stress-free (this is the hardest one for me!).

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