Thursday, April 14, 2011

Could a fry-up followed by doughnuts be good for the heart?

Mouse study only so far -- but Eskimos eat a lot of fat and have a low rate of heart disease

It sounds like the recipe for a heart attack. But a fry-up followed by a plate of doughnuts could actually be good for the heart. Research suggests that the odd greasy treat somehow boosts the heart muscle, reducing the amount of damage done when a heart attack occurs.

Those with a taste for junk food will be glad to know that it is thought that fried foods, like chips, bacon and doughnuts, provide the best protection.

Unfortunately, doctors stress that the research is still preliminary – and it is far too early to swap muesli topped with blueberries for a traditional English breakfast.

The U.S. researchers fed mice on a lard-based or normal diets for periods of 24 hours to six weeks and then looked at how they fared when they had a heart attack. Given the link between fatty food and heart disease, you might expect the lard-fed mice to have done the worst. Instead, those fed the fatty food for up to two weeks actually had the mildest heart attacks.

Most strikingly, those who were on the lard diet for just a day suffered heart attacks that were 70 per cent smaller than those in the animals given normal food, the annual Experimental Biology conference heard. University of Cincinnati researcher Lauren Haar said: 'This shows that acute, or short-term, high-fat feeding in animal models does preserve cardiac function.'

It is unclear how short bursts of fat help the heart but it may be through boosting the amount of energy available to the heart muscle, aiding the healing process.

Miss Haar said: 'This could mean great things for patient care if we can find the mechanisms that come into play to cause this cardioprotection. 'This may also show that, while it is important to eat right, not all bad foods should be avoided all of the time. 'This could change the way we view nutrition and dietary recommendations.'

Possibilities include people who have had heart attacks being given the green light to eat the occasional fatty treat.

Co-researcher Jack Rubinstein, a heart disease expert, said: 'Right now, after you have had a heart attack, they say to have a low-fat diet but we think that may be a little too draconian.'

However, he warned that fatty foods' reputation for clogging arteries and causing heart attacks in the first place mean it is too early for people to start indulging.

Dr Rubinstein said: 'We still don’t know how it plays out in a balance between bad effects on the arteries that give blood to the heart versus the beneficial effects that we think happen on the heart muscle itself. `'People should continue to follow their doctors' advice.'


The fish dilemma: Good for mothers, bad for babies

But the "good for mothers" part is based on a "sample" (of unknown representativess) of only 26 women. And the report seems to be a conference paper only. So not much of substance there

Eating fish during pregnancy could cut a woman's odds of developing post-natal depression. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, which are particularly abundant in oily fish such as salmon, protect against the baby blues. Stocks built up during pregnancy appear to give a woman's mental health a boost months later.

Post-natal depression affects up to 13 per cent of new mothers – and lasts more than a year in severe cases, even with counselling and medication.

However, too much oily fish in pregnancy can be bad for the baby’s development, so experts say it is important that mothers-to-be strike a balance when trying to boost their levels of omega-3.

For the study, 26 women took a fish oil capsule, containing 300mg of the omega-3 fat DHA, five times a week from around the 24th week of pregnancy. Another 26 took a placebo pill containing corn oil.

After their babies were born, those who had taken the omega-3 scored better on a questionnaire designed to spot symptoms of post-natal depression. For example, they were less likely to say they suffered from anxiety or a loss of self-worth, the annual Experimental Biology conference heard.

University of Connecticut researcher Dr Michelle Price Judge said: 'DHA consumption during pregnancy – at levels that are reasonably obtained from foods – has the potential to decrease symptoms of [post-natal] depression.'

She added that while some women may prefer the thought of supplements, eating fish is the more nutritious option. But concerns that the fish that are rich in omega-3 also contain higher levels of toxic pollutants such as mercury mean that the Department of Health advises pregnant women to ration their intake. Oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout, should not be eaten more than twice a week.


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