Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Fried food heart risk 'a myth'

This study is a step forward into reality but the claim that it applies only to foods cooked in vegetable oils is only an assumption. They have no evidence for it.

And any mention of the Mediterranean diet always amuses me. I think of all the nonagenarians tottering around Australia who have lived almost all of their lives eating various forms of red meat fried in dripping (rendered down beef fat). That does not count as evidence, apparently

It is a "myth" that regularly eating fried foods causes heart attacks, researchers have found, as long as you use olive oil or sunflower oil. They say there is mounting research that it is the type of oil used, and whether or not it has been used before, that really matters.

The latest study, published in the British Medical Journal, found no association between the frequency of fried food consumption in Spain - where olive and sunflower oils are mostly used - and the incidence of serious heart disease.

However, the British Heart Foundation warned Britons not to "reach for the frying pan" yet, pointing out that the Mediterranean diet as a whole was healthier than ours.

Spanish researchers followed more than 40,000 people, two-thirds of whom were women, from the mid 1990s to 2004.

At the outset they asked them how often they ate fried foods, either at home or while out. They then looked to see whether eating fried foods regularly increased the likelihood of falling ill from having coronary heart disease, such as a heart attack or angina requiring surgery.

Dividing participants into four groups, from lowest fried food intake to highest, they found no significant difference in heart disease.

There were 606 incidents linked to heart disease in total, but they were split relatively evenly between the four groups.

The authors concluded: "In a Mediterranean country where olive and sunflower oils are the most commonly used fats for frying, and where large amounts of fried foods are consumed both at and away from home, no association was observed between fried food consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease or death."

Commenting on the findings in the BMJ, Professor Michael Leitzmann of the University of Regensburg in Germany said two other studies - one from Costa Rica and another by an international team - had also failed to find strong evidence of a link. He said: "Taken together, the myth that frying food is generally bad for the heart is not supported by available evidence.

"However, this does not mean that frequent meals of fish and chips will have no health consequences."

Fried food did contain more calories, he said, while it had also been linked to high blood pressure and obesity.

The authors of the Spanish study noted that the findings could only really be extrapolated to other Mediterranean countries with similar diets, whose people tended to fry 'fresh' with olive and sunflower oil.

Fried foods from modern American-style takeaways were different, they argued, because these tended to have been cooked in re-used oils, higher in transfats. In addition, such takeaways tended to contain much more salt, known to increase blood pressure and heart disease risk.

However, more and more people in Britain are now frying with olive oil or sunflower oil. Britain now consumes around 28 million litres of olive oil a year - double that sold a decade ago.

Half British households now use it regularly in some way, although not necessarily for frying, compared to a third 10 years ago.

Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Before we all reach for the frying pan it's important to remember that this was a study of a Mediterranean diet, rather than British fish and chips.

"Our diet in the UK will differ from Spain, so we cannot say that this result would be the same for us too.

"Participants in this study used unsaturated fats such as olive and sunflower oil to fry their food.

"We currently recommend swapping saturated fats like butter, lard or palm oil for unsaturated fats as a way of keeping your cholesterol down and this study gives further cause to make that switch.

"Regardless of the cooking methods used, consuming foods with high fat content means a high calorie intake. This can lead to weight gain and obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

"A well-balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and veg and only a small amount of high fat foods, is best for a healthy heart."


Active brain may ward of Alzheimer's

This is still all correlational but it may be a straw in the wind

A LIFETIME of daily intellectual stimulation could help prevent the formation of plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Although previous research has suggested that engaging in mentally demanding activities - such as reading, writing and playing games - may help stave off the disease, a new study identifies the biological target at play.

The study, led by researchers at the University of California, says the discovery could guide future research into effective prevention strategies.

"Rather than simply providing resistance to Alzheimer's, brain-stimulating activities may affect a primary pathological process in the disease," said principal investigator Dr William Jagust of UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

"This suggests that cognitive therapies could have significant disease-modifying treatment benefits if applied early enough, before symptoms appear," he said.

In the first study of its kind, researchers used brain scans to examine the amount of beta amyloid deposits in the brains of healthy seniors with no signs of dementia.

Beta amyloid - the protein fibres folded into tangled plaques that accumulate in the brain - is the top suspect in the pathology of Alzheimer's disease.

But the buildup of amyloid can also be influenced by genes and aging.

People who reported doing daily brainy activities from age six onward had very low levels of amyloid plaque - on par with an average person in their early 20s. Those who never or rarely engaged in these activities had higher plaque levels.

"This is the first time cognitive activity level has been related to amyloid buildup in the brain," said study scientist Susan Landau of the Neuroscience Institute.

Amyloid is believed to start accumulating many years before symptoms appear - so by the time patients have memory problems, there is little that can be done. Scientists hope to intervene sooner, so it's important to identify whether lifestyle factors might help.

The study was published in the January 23 issue of the Archives of Neurology.


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