Friday, January 21, 2011

Spread the word: medicinal margarine not worth the money

IF YOU struggle with high cholesterol, you are better off visiting your GP for a prescription than looking for a solution in the supermarket aisles, says a medical paper that casts doubt on the effectiveness of food products claiming to reduce cholesterol reabsorption.

Many margarines and spreads advertise an ability to reduce cholesterol levels in consumers by up to 15 per cent through the addition of plant-based sterol and stanol esters, which compete with cholesterol in the body and inhibit its reabsorption. High cholesterol is a main cause of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in Australia.

But the author of the paper, Sheila Doggrell, a Queensland biomedical writer and pharmacologist, argues that this figure represents only the very top of the cholesterol-reducing capabilities of these products and that under normal consumption conditions they are unlikely to achieve reductions of above 1.3 to 3.8 per cent.

Under the same conditions, prescription treatments for abnormally high cholesterol were shown to reduce the cholesterol levels of participants by more than 20 per cent.

Unilever, which produces the sterol-enhanced spread Flora pro-activ, says that the product is not designed to be relied on as a comprehensive medical solution.

"Plant sterols are not a replacement for medication, however they are effective used in conjunction with some cholesterol-lowering medication," the company said, citing a statement issued by the National Heart Foundation in 2008.

Dr Doggrell argues that the products are not necessary at all. "If you have a problem with high cholesterol you are wasting your money paying extra for cholesterol-reducing products," she said.

Research done by the consumer advocacy group Choice shows that sterol-enhanced products can cost up to three times as much as the regular alternatives.

Dr Doggrell's advice is that the margarines and spreads on the market are simply not effective enough to make any difference to someone who has been diagnosed with abnormally high levels of cholesterol, and that the products provide no benefit to those whose cholesterol falls within the normal range.


Lounging on the couch is bad for your fitness health, experts claim

As far as I can see, the research showed only that unfit people watch a lot of TV. Causative inferences are speculative

FITNESS fanatics who reward themselves by lounging in front of the TV after a gym workout should think again.

Researchers believe long bouts slumped in front of the idiot box or computer screen have an adverse affect on the heart's ability to recover from physical exertion.

The news is a worrying development for couch potatoes. Heart rate recovery is considered an important indicator of heart health, and its speed is associated with the risk of death.

Sitting in front of a screen uses less energy than other sedentary behaviour, such as reading, writing or driving.

Past studies have found that longer screen viewing time is associated with abnormal glucose metabolism, obesity and metabolic syndrome - a "constellation of chemical factors" associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

More than 2000 people in their 30s with no heart disease history and varying levels of cardiovascular fitness took part in the new study.

Researchers measured the speed at which heart rates returned to normal up to two minutes after peaking during eight minutes of exercise on a treadmill.

Participants were quizzed about factors, ranging from blood pressure levels and alcohol consumption to level of physical activity over the past month and the time devoted to watching TV and computer screens.

Researchers found that women who spent long periods in front of a screen had a slower heart rate recovery than men as well as unfavourable metabolic patterns.

Those who engaged in little or no exercise had the slowest heart rate recovery levels, according to the paper published in online journal Heart Asia.

Melbourne fitness trainer Donna Aston insisted it was all about balance. "I don't see a problem with relaxing after exercise. We all need to recuperate," the South Yarra trainer said. "Watching a little TV is fine, but if you are going to sit for hours on end in front of the screen, that's obviously not good for you."

With people spending more time sitting down, she said it was more important to get up and get physical.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"As far as I can see, the research showed only that unfit people watch a lot of TV. Causative inferences are speculative."

Wow. You would be a national treasure but for the fact that blogging is an international effort. And you are not a Bible thumper either, like we have to put up with in order to allow any clear thinking trend to continue in the USA.