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(Anatomy) (Health) Circulatory System: Olive Oil

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2005 9:50 pm    Post subject: (Anatomy) (Health) Circulatory System: Olive Oil Reply with quote

Olive oil improves circulation, says study
By Anne Harding

NEW YORK: Certain micronutrients contained in olive oil and other foods could be responsible for the Mediterranean diet’s well known heart-healthy effects, Spanish researchers report.

These compounds, known as phenols, have been shown in laboratory studies to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood clot preventing powers, Dr Francisco Perez Jimenez of the Hospital Universitario Reina Sofia in Cordoba and colleagues write.

Their study is the first to show a benefit for phenol-rich olive oils on blood vessel function.

“The intake of food high in phenols compounds could improve cardiovascular health and protect the heart,” Jimenez told Reuters Health. “An example of these foods is virgin or extra virgin olive oil.”

Jimenez and his team compared the effect of consuming phenol-rich olive oil or olive oil with most of its phenol content removed in a group of 21 volunteers with high cholesterol.

The researchers measured the ability of the study participants’ blood vessels to respond to rapid changes in blood flow after they had consumed a relatively high-fat meal containing either type of olive oil. Blood vessels have been shown to function poorly after a high-fat meal.

Blood vessel response and function was improved for the first four hours after the high-phenol olive oil meal, the researchers found, but there was no difference in blood vessel function before and after volunteers ate the low-phenol olive oil meal.

The researchers also found increased levels of the blood vessel dilating molecule nitric oxide and reduced levels of oxidative stress after consumption of the high-phenol meal.

Consumers should reach for olive oils labelled “virgin” or “extra virgin,” which have the highest phenol content, Jimenez said.

He and his colleagues suggest that phenols’ antioxidant effects, as well as their ability to help the body use nitric oxide more effectively, could be responsible for their effects.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, November 15 2005.—Reuters

What are olives?

How does blood circulate?


What are the benefits of olive oil?

Does olive oil contain phenolic compounds and what are these compunds?


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 4:52 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 9:06 am    Post subject: Tomato extract may help lower blood pressure Reply with quote

Tomato extract may help lower blood pressure

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- A dietary supplement derived from tomatoes may help treat moderately elevated blood pressure, the results of a small study suggest.

Researchers in Israel found that a daily dose of tomato extract helped lower blood pressure among 31 men and women with mild hypertension. On average, their systolic pressure -- the top number in a blood-pressure reading -- dropped 10 points, while their diastolic pressure, or bottom number, dipped four points, both statistically significant differences.

The supplement, sold as Lyc-O-Mato, contains several plant compounds found in tomatoes. Among them is lycopene, an antioxidant that some studies suggest may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidants, such as lycopene and vitamins C and E, help neutralize oxygen free radicals -- molecules that are a natural byproduct of metabolism -- can damage body cells over time. This "oxidative stress" is thought to contribute to a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease.

The antioxidant effects of the tomato extract may explain its apparent benefit on blood pressure, according to the report in the American Heart Journal.

People who have mild high blood pressure or who have high-normal blood pressure would be the "ideal candidates" for treatment with the extract, said study co-author Dr. Esther Paran of the University of the Negev in Beer Sheva. It's these individuals, she noted, who are often advised to use lifestyle changes to rein in their blood pressure levels.

However, people who are already being treated for high blood pressure should talk with their doctors before trying tomato extract, Paran told Reuters Health. The study included adults ages 30 to 70 with stage 1 hypertension, defined as a systolic blood pressure between 140 and 159 mm Hg, and a diastolic pressure between 90 and 99 mm Hg. Blood pressure is considered normal when it is below 120/80; anything between that and 140/90 is considered "prehypertension."

Study participants spent 4 weeks taking a placebo, or inactive, capsule each day, after which they were given a tomato extract capsule every day for 8 weeks. Finally, they spent another 4 weeks on placebo capsules.

LycoRed-Natural Products Industries, the maker of Lyc-O-Mato, supplied the extract.

During the treatment period, the group's average systolic blood pressure fell from 144 to 134 mm Hg, while their diastolic pressure dipped from 87.4 to 83.4 mm Hg.

At the same time, blood samples showed that certain markers of oxidative stress had declined -- suggesting that the supplement's antioxidant activity was responsible for the blood pressure benefit, according to the researchers.

Eating a diet rich in tomato products and other antioxidant-containing fruits and vegetables is certainly a smart move, Paran said. But, she added, a person would need to down about four tomatoes to get the nutrients in one tomato extract capsule.

In addition, Paran said, lycopene and other antioxidant compounds in tomatoes are fat-soluble, so they are more readily absorbed when taken with the oil used in the capsule.

However, she and her colleagues note that larger and longer-term studies are still needed to determine where tomato extracts fit into high blood pressure management.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2006 8:50 am    Post subject: Caffeine Limits Blood Flow To Heart Muscle During Exercise Reply with quote

Source: American College of Cardiology
Date: 2006-01-14


Caffeine Limits Blood Flow To Heart Muscle During Exercise

In healthy volunteers, the equivalent of two cups of coffee reduced the body's ability to boost blood flow to the heart muscle in response to exercise, and the effect was stronger when the participants were in a chamber simulating high altitude, according to a new study in the Jan. 17, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"Whenever we do a physical exercise, myocardial blood flow has to increase in order to match the increased need of oxygen. We found that caffeine may adversely affect this mechanism. It partly blunts the needed increase in flow," said Philipp A. Kaufmann, M.D., F.A.C.C., from the University Hospital Zurich and Center for Integrative Human Physiology CIHP in Zurich,.

The researchers, including lead author Mehdi Namdar, M.D., F.A.C.C., studied 18 young, healthy people who were regular coffee drinkers. The participants did not drink any coffee for 36 hours prior to the study testing. In one part of the study, PET scans that showed blood flow in the hearts of 10 participants were performed before and immediately after they rode a stationary exercise bicycle. In the second part of the study, the same type of myocardial blood-flow measurements were done in 8 participants who were in a chamber simulating the thin air at about 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) altitude. The high-altitude test was designed to mimic the way coronary artery disease deprives the heart muscle of sufficient oxygen. In both groups, the testing procedure was repeated 50 minutes after each participant swallowed a tablet containing 200 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of two cups of coffee.

The caffeine dose did not affect blood flow within the heart muscle while the participants were at rest. However, the blood flow measurements taken immediately after exercise were significantly lower after the participants had taken caffeine tablets. The effect was pronounced in the group in the high-altitude chamber.

Blood flow normally increases in response to exercise, and the results indicate that caffeine reduces the body's ability to boost blood flow to the muscle of the heart on demand. The ratio of exercise blood flow to resting blood flow, called the myocardial flow reserve, was 22 percent lower in the group at normal air pressure after ingesting caffeine and 39 percent lower in the group in the high-altitude chamber. Dr. Kaufmann said that caffeine may block certain receptors in the walls of blood vessels, interfering with the normal process by which adenosine signals blood vessels to dilate in response to the demands of physical activity.

"Although these findings seem not to have a clinical importance in healthy volunteers, they may raise safety questions in patients with reduced coronary flow reserve, as seen in coronary artery disease, particularly before physical exercise and at high-altitude exposure," the researchers wrote.

Although caffeine is a stimulant, these results also indicate that coffee may not necessarily boost athletic performance.

"We now have good evidence that, at the level of myocardial blood flow, caffeine is not a useful stimulant. It may be a stimulant at the cerebral level in terms of being more awake and alert, which may subjectively give the feeling of having better physical performance. But I now would not recommend that any athlete drink caffeine before sports. It may not be a physical stimulant, and may even adversely affect physical performance," Dr. Kaufmann said. "It may not be as harmless as we thought before, particularly if you suffer from coronary artery disease or if you are in the mountains."

Dr. Kaufmann noted that this study was not designed to measure athletic performance.

Although the participants were all healthy, Dr. Kaufmann said that the results raise concerns about possible effects of caffeine in people with heart disease.

"Any advice would be based on results of healthy volunteers and would be a bit speculative; nevertheless, my advice would be: do not drink coffee before doing physical activities. We hope to be able to provide data soon on the situation of patients with coronary artery disease," he said.

The researchers noted that other studies of coffee and heart disease have produced mixed results.

Although this study included only 18 participants, the researchers said that the differences they saw were large enough for them to be confident that the effect of caffeine on heart muscle blood flow is real. They pointed out that longer studies of people with heart disease will be needed in order to understand whether the blood flow effects have important health consequences.

Thomas H. Schindler, M.D. from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, California, who was not connected with this study, said that if the results are confirmed, they could have important implications.

"In particular, this may play an important role in patients with obstructive coronary artery disease in the intermediate range between 50 percent and 85 percent narrowing of the epicardial luminal diameter. In this range of coronary artery disease-induced epicardial narrowing, the myocardial flow reserve (MFR) has been widely assumed to compensate for the epicardial narrowing and, thereby, to preserve the myocardial blood flow to the heart. A further reduction of the MFR, for example owing to caffeine intake, therefore could precipitate stress-induced myocardial ischemia, angina pectoris (reflecting an imbalance between myocardial oxygen supply and demand) or could also contribute to the manifestation of acute coronary syndromes. Consequently, as stated by Namdar et al., the current findings indeed raise safety questions in patients with already reduced MFR as seen in coronary artery disease, particularly before physical exercise and at high-altitude exposure," Dr. Schindler said.

Dr. Schindler said that further studies will be needed to answer the important questions raised by this study.

Dr. Kaufmann was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.


This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American College of Cardiology.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:28 pm    Post subject: Secret to Chocolate's Heart Benefits Found Reply with quote

Secret to Chocolate's Heart Benefits Found
By LiveScience Staff

posted: 19 January 2006
11:51 am ET

A new study reveals the chemical in chocolate that produces known heart-healthy benefits.

The research found that epicatechin, one of a group of chemicals known as flavanols, is directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of cardiovascular health.

The discovery was detailed in the Jan. 16 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Although previous studies strongly indicated that some flavanol-rich foods, such as wine, tea and cocoa can offer cardiovascular health benefits, we have been able to demonstrate a direct relationship between the intake of certain flavanols present in cocoa, their absorption into the circulation and their effects on cardiovascular function in humans," said biochemist Hagen Schroeter of the University of California, Davis.

The study relied on volunteers from the Kuna Indians, who live on the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. High blood pressure and other signs of cardiovascular disease are rare among the Kuna. And they are known to consume large amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa—three to four cups a day.

Previous studies found that Kuna who migrated to the suburbs of Panama City on the mainland drink only about four cups of cocoa per week and do not enjoy the same level of cardiovascular health.

The islanders have twice the level of urinary nitric oxide, a chemical associated with healthy flow of blood through the arteries. And those who drank cocoa with more flavanols had higher levels of nitric oxide.

Also, higher levels of epicatechin in the bloodstream were accompanied by improved blood flow. Lab tests showed that flavanols allow vascular tissue to relax.

Finally, tests showed that pure epicatechin consumed by people had much the same effect as flavanol-rich cocoa.

"The results of this study provide direct proof that epicatechin is, at least in part, responsible for the beneficial vascular effects that are observed after the consumption of certain flavanol-rich cocoas," Schroeter said.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2006 8:39 pm    Post subject: How nice, brown rice Reply with quote

American Chemical Society

How nice, brown rice: Study shows rice bran lowers blood pressure in rats
2 March 2006

Thousands of years ago, humans began scrubbing off and discarding the outer layer of long-grain rice, preferring the polished white kernel beneath. Now, for the first time, scientists in Japan have shown that this waste product of rice processing, called rice bran, significantly lowers blood pressure in rats whose hypertension resembles that of humans.
The team reports their findings in the March 8 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

A commonly prescribed class of drugs called ACE inhibitors dilates the arteries of hypertensive patients and thus decreases their risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. But the drugs can also carry side effects: chronic cough, allergic reactions, dizziness, even kidney problems.

What if some component of our diet could work in similar fashion, with few or no side effects? Researchers at Tohoku University and Japan’s National Research Institute of Brewing demonstrated that adding rice bran to the diets of hypertensive, stroke-prone rats lowered the animals’ systolic blood pressure by about 20 percent and, via the same mechanism, inhibited angiotensin-1 converting enzyme, or ACE.

“There’s much work being done on various bran fractions to nail down any health benefits,” says the journal’s editor, James Seiber, Ph.D., who is also director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Regional Research Center in Davis, Calif. “This particular paper caught my attention for two reasons: the potential of bringing a waste product like rice bran into beneficial use, and the way the group went about their study with good controlled experiments using an appropriate model.”

It’s still not clear whether simply eating more brown rice, which retains some of its bran, would reduce the risk of heart disease. However, previous research in humans, as well as animals with high cholesterol, does suggest that certain fractions of rice bran can lower levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol.

The Tohoku study adds antihypertensive activity to the picture, along with a host of other biochemical markers that track blood glucose (implicated in diabetes), lipid profile, kidney function and the harmful effects of free radicals.

For example, high levels of a marker called 8-OHdG indicate biological stress and genetic damage due to oxygen-based free radicals. The researchers found that rice bran, which contains various forms of the antioxidant Vitamin E, markedly lowered the rats’ levels of the peptide 8-OHdG.

“Oxidative stress plays an important role in the initiation and progression of cardiovascular diseases,” explained lead author Ardiansyah [editor note: name is correct as written, there is no first name], a Ph.D. candidate at the university’s School of Agricultural Science.

He added one more element to the research that is new: using enzymes to clip components of rice bran from its cell walls, rather than extracting a fraction with ethanol. “I think enzymatic treatment will be more suitable for applications if we’d like to use [rice bran as] functional food,” he said.

The researchers’ next step is to elucidate the mechanisms by which specific components of rice bran inhibit ACE and lower cholesterol.

The American Chemical Society - the world's largest scientific society - is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio

The online version of the research paper cited above was initially published Jan. 27 on the journal’s Web site. Journalists can arrange access to this site by sending an e-mail to or calling the contact person for this release.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 12:30 pm    Post subject: Brain chemical could pump up heart disease Reply with quote

Brain chemical could pump up heart disease

WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- For the first time, researchers have found that lower amounts of a mood-regulating chemical in the brain is associated with early signs of heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.

In research led by the University of Pittsburgh, people who had low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter and a regulator of mood, appetite and blood pressure, were more likely to develop early heart disease. The researchers focused on a person's level of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is the underlying process leading to heart disease.

"We haven't thought about the brain as central to a cause of heart disease. Now we might have to think more along those lines," said lead investigator Matthew Muldoon, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Muldoon will present his research Friday at the Annual Conference of the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver.

Muldoon and colleagues recruited 244 healthy volunteers between 30 and 55, all of whom showed no signs of heart disease.

The researchers used ultrasonography imaging to measure the degree of thickening of the carotid artery, a major artery in the neck.

To determine how much serotonin was in the brain, Muldoon injected the volunteers with a common anti-depressant drug, which spurs the pituitary gland to release more prolactin, a type of hormone. Since prolactin reflects the strength of serotonin in the brain, the researchers then analyzed how much prolactin entered the blood stream. Volunteers with more thickening of the arteries had the lowest prolactin response.

This connection adds weight to a theory called "correlated risk," that many risk factors for heart disease may fan out from one, singular trigger in the brain, said co-investigator Stephen Manuck, a professor of health psychology and behavioral medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Serotonin may be one of the key elements in coordinating major factors that lead to early heart disease," Manuck said.

Muldoon thought brain serotonin might be a prime candidate for testing the theory, since brain serotonin has been previously related to clustering of risk factors for other diseases. For instance, people with metabolic syndrome have a grouping of tendencies toward overweight, bad cholesterol, and diabetes. Testing serotonin and atherosclerosis was a next step in moving the idea along, Muldoon said.

The causes of heart disease are plentiful. Some are biological, such as diabetes and high blood pressure; some are psycho-social, such as depression or behavioral problems; and others relate to lifestyle choices, such as smoking. In large studies, people who have one of these risk factors are likely to experience others.

People have low serotonin for several reasons, Manuck said. Those affected by crime and poverty may emit less serotonin, as do people who smoke. There's also evidence genes play a role: some people have variants in their genes that changes serotonin levels in the brain.

Moreover, low serotonin is a symptom of depression, a disease growing by leaps and bounds in the United States.

Manuck pointed out that depression is a risk factor for heart disease, and "it may tie together in the current package."

A body of evidence also suggests people battling depression are more likely to die of cardiac diseases, and so Muldoon's research could mean there is something different about the basic biology of depressed people, said Bruce G. Pollock, a neuropsychiatry professor at University of Toronto and a contributor to the paper.

It could show "something in their head" is contributing to their development of metabolic syndrome, which leads to heart disease, Pollock said.

"It's not as simple as saying depressed people just aren't exercising or eating properly. This contributes to understanding their biology," he said.

So could this inspire a new strategy for treating heart disease? Not quite yet, Muldoon says, although "we may be on the road to a better understanding" of how to tackle it, he said.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:15 pm    Post subject: New Year's resolution No. 1: Prevent cancer, use olive oil. Reply with quote

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
11 December 2006

New Year's resolution No. 1: Prevent cancer, use olive oil.

Innovative research article in the FASEB Journal suggests olive oil has a significant impact on cancer rates
If you want to avoid developing cancer, then you might want to add eating more olive oil to your list of New Year's resolutions. In a study to be published in the January 2007 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists from five European countries describe how the anti-cancer effects of olive oil may account for the significant difference in cancer rates among Northern and Southern Europeans.

The authors drew this conclusion based on the outcomes of volunteers from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, and Spain, who consumed 25 milliliters (a little less than a quarter cup) of olive oil every day for three weeks. During this time, the researchers examined urine samples of the subjects for specific compounds known to be waste by-products of oxidative damage to cells, a precursor to cancer. At the beginning of the trial, the presence of these waste by-products was much higher in Northern European subjects than their Southern European counterparts. By the end of three weeks, however, the presence of this compound in Northern European subjects was substantially reduced.

"Determining the health benefits of any particular food is challenging because of it involves relatively large numbers of people over significant periods of time," said lead investigator Henrik E. Poulsen, M.D. of Rigshospitalet, Denmark. "In our study, we overcame these challenges by measuring how olive oil affected the oxidation of our genes, which is closely linked to development of disease. This approach allows us to determine if olive oil or any other food makes a difference. Our findings must be confirmed, but every piece of evidence so far points to olive oil being a healthy food. By the way, it also tastes great."

Another interesting finding in the study suggests that researchers are just beginning to unlock the mysteries of this ancient "health food." Specifically, the researchers found evidence that the phenols in olive oil are not the only compounds that reduced oxidative damage. Phenols are known antioxidant compounds that are present in a wide range of everyday foods, such as dark chocolate, red wine, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Despite reducing the level of phenols in the olive oil, the study's subjects still showed that they were receiving the same level of health benefits.

"Every New Year people make resolutions that involve eating less fat to improve their health," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This academically sound, practically useful study shows that what you eat is just as important as how much you eat. No wonder Plato taught wisdom in an olive grove called Academe."

The FASEB Journal ( is published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is consistently ranked among the top three biology journals worldwide by the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB comprises 21 nonprofit societies with more than 80,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB's mission is to enhance the ability of biomedical and life scientists to improve – through their research – the health, well-being, and productivity of all people. FASEB serves the interests of these scientists in those areas related to public policy, facilitates coalition activities among member societies, and disseminates information on biological research through scientific conferences and publications.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:48 am    Post subject: New potential health benefit of olive oil for peptic ulcer d Reply with quote

New potential health benefit of olive oil for peptic ulcer disease
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
12 February 2007

Already fabled for an array of health benefits, extra virgin olive oil — a centerpiece of the Mediterranean Diet — may have a new role in helping to prevent and treat Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infections, which cause millions of cases of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease each year, researchers in Spain report.

Manuel Brenes and colleagues cite past studies showing that green tea, cranberry juice and certain other natural foods inhibit the growth of H. pylori (which infects the stomach lining), leading researchers to recommend consumption of those foods. None of the numerous studies on olive oil, however, has tested its effects on H. pylori, they note in a study scheduled for the Feb. 21 issue of ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a biweekly publication.

Brenes and colleagues used laboratory experiments to demonstrate that under simulated conditions the healthful phenolic compounds in extra virgin olive oil remain stable in the acidic environment of the stomach for hours. In laboratory cultures, those substances had a strong antibacterial effect against eight strains of H. pylori, including antibiotic-resistant strains.

"These results open the possibility of considering extra virgin olive oil a chemoprotective agent for peptic ulcer or gastric cancer, but this bioactivity must be confirmed in vivo in the future," they conclude.

"In Vitro Activity of Olive Oil Polyphenolic against Helicobacter pylori"

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:38 am    Post subject: Why is the heart heart-shaped? Reply with quote

Public Library of Science
19 February 2007

Why is the heart heart-shaped?

How does the heart attain its characteristic shape? Shape may be sculpted by cell movement, cell division, or changes in cell size and shape, all of which can be influenced by the local environment. The heart appears as a simple tube early in development; later, the tube walls bulge outward to form the cardiac chambers.

In a new study published online in the open access journal PLoS Biology, Heidi Auman, Deborah Yelon, and colleagues found, by using transgenic zebrafish in which they can watch individual cardiac cells, that cells change size and shape, enlarging and elongating to form the bulges in the heart tube and eventually the chambers. Since the heart is beating as it develops, they asked whether cardiac function influences cell shape. Using zebrafish mutants with functional defects, they found that both blood flow and cardiac contractility influence cardiac cell shape. The researchers propose that a balance of the cell’s internal forces (through contractility) with external forces (such as blood flow) is necessary to create the cell shapes that generate chamber curvatures. Disruption of this balance may underlie the aberrations observed in some types of heart disease.

Citation: Auman HJ, Coleman H, Riley HE, Olale F, Tsai HJ, et al. (2007) Functional modulation of cardiac form through regionally confined cell shape changes. PLoS Biol 5(3): e53. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050053.


Deborah Yelon
Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine
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4th Floor, Lab 15
New York, NY 10016


All works published in PLoS Biology are open access. Everything is immediately available—to read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and otherwise use—without cost to anyone, anywhere, subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.
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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2007 8:45 am    Post subject: 8 plants from South Africa may hold potential for treating h Reply with quote

American Physiological Society
2 May 2007

8 plants from South Africa may hold potential for treating high blood pressure

'Wild garlic' plant shows promise
WASHINGTON – Medicinal plants are an integral part of African culture, one of the oldest and most diverse in the world. In South Africa, 21st century drug therapy is used side-by-side with traditional African medicines to heal the sick. While plants have been used in African medicine to treat fever, asthma, constipation, esophageal cancer and hypertension, scientific analyses of the purported benefits of many plants is still scant. A team of researchers has now examined the effectiveness of 16 plants growing in the country's Kwa-Zulu Natal region and concluded that eight plant extracts may hold value for treating high blood pressure (hypertension).

The study, entitled ACE Inhibitor Activity of Nutritive Plants in Kwa-Zulu Natal, was conducted by Irene Mackraj and S. Ramesar, both of the Department of Physiology and Physiological Chemistry; and H. Baijnath, Department of Biological and Conservation Sciences; University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa. Dr. Mackraj is presenting the team's findings at the 120th annual meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS;, being held as part of the Experimental Biology (EB '07) conference. More than 12,000 scientific researchers will attend the gathering being held April 28-May 2, 2007 at the Washington, DC Convention Center.

Background and Methodology

Hypertension is treated with medication, including drugs such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB). These drugs not only lower blood pressure but offer additional protection to the brain and heart. ACEI, in particular, provide beneficial properties to patients with type 1 diabetes.

In an effort to identify indigenous plants consumed by the local population in Kwa-Zulu Natal that hold potential antihypertensive properties, the researchers examined 16 plants to identify ACE inhibitor activity. The plants were:

Amaranthus dubius, a flowering plant also known as spleen amaranth

Amaranthus hybridus, commonly known as smooth pigweed or slim amaranth

Amaranthus spinosus, also known as spiny amaranth

Asystasia gangetica, an ornamental, ground cover known as Chinese violet. Also used in Nigerian folk medicine for the management of asthma.

Centella asiatica, a small herbaceous annual plant commonly referred to as Asiatic pennywort

Ceratotheca triloba, a tall annual plant that flowers in summer sometimes referred to as poppy sue

Chenopodium album, also called lamb's quarters, this is a weedy annual plant

Emex australis, commonly known as southern three corner jack

Galinsoga parviflora, commonly referred to as gallant soldier

Justicia flava, also known as yellow justicia and taken for coughs and treatment of fevers

Momordica balsamina, an African herbal traditional medicine also known as the balsam apple

Oxygonum sinuatum, an invasive weed with no common name

Physalis viscosa, known as starhair ground cherry

Senna occidentalis, a very leafy tropical shrub whose seeds have been used in coffee; called septic weed

Solanum nodiflorum, also known as white nightshade

Tulbaghia violacea, a bulbous plant with hairless leaves often referred to as society or wild garlic

Dried leaves from the plants were ground and used to prepare organic and acqueous extracts. Ten grams of ground plant material was suspended in either a methanol or distilled water solution for 48 hours. Each solution was subsequently filtered and the filtrate was left to air dry resulting in the specific test compound. ACE activity was determined using a flourimetric method with Hip-His-Leu as a substrate. The fluorescence of the o-phthaldialdehyde was measured to determine the effect of the plant on ACE activity.

Plasma ACE activity was determined using rat plasma. The IC50 of the conventional ACEI, captopril was determined to test the sensitivity of the assay. At least three separate determinations were conducted for each test compound. A tannin test was only conducted on those plant extracts that exhibited over 50 percent ACE inhibition in the initial analysis. The data was subjected to GraphPad Instat (GraphPad Software Inc, San Diego, CA, USA). All values were expressed as mean ± SEM. A probability where p<0.05 was considered significant.

Results: Eight of Sixteen Plants Showed ACEI

Eight of the 16 plants demonstrated ACE inhibition activity. The plants were then subjected to a gelatin salt block test for tannins to eliminate any false positive results. None of the plants tested positive for tannins, hence eliminating any false positive results.

Ultimately, the eight plants that showed significant ACEI activity in both extract forms were: Amaranthus dubius, Amaranthus hybridus, Asystasia gangetica, Galinsoga parviflora, Justicia flava, Oxygonum sinuatum, Physalis viscosa, and Tulbaghia violacea.

The Stand Out "Wild Garlic" (Tulbaghia violacea) Plant

Only one plant -- Tulbaghia violacea -- showed more than 50 percent inhibition in both extract preparations. These findings are in keeping with those of another group (1999). Further testing has revealed that the plant has promising hypotensive affects. The plant is commonly associated with onions and garlic and highly concentrated in Southern Africa. It is best known as "wild garlic."

Researchers have recorded (1962) that the plant was pounded into formulations and used by native South Africans to relieve stomach ailments, rheumatism and high fevers. Other researchers found (1966) that native South Africans rubbed the leaves of the plant on the head for sinus headaches and used plant infusions for colic and restlessness in young children. The most direct discovery is the 1993 finding that large doses of popular garlic preparations significantly decreased the diastolic blood pressure in human patients 5-14 hours after the dose with no significant side effects. In addition, wild and cultivated garlic preparations were shown to decrease systolic blood pressure in rats.


In this study Tulbaghia violacea has shown properties related to lowering blood pressure. Since the number of hypertensive individuals around the world is on the rise, it is worthwhile to pursue further studies involving this extract. Yesterday's folk remedies may one day be just what the 21st century doctor orders.

The American Physiological Society (APS) has been an integral part of the scientific discovery process since it was established in 1887. Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function to create health or disease.
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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2007 6:31 am    Post subject: Slowing the racing heart Reply with quote

University of Illinois at Chicago
11 May 2007

Slowing the racing heart

Scientists have discovered how we put the brakes on a racing heartbeat.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago explain in the May 11 issue of Circulation Research how an enzyme acts on the heart's pacemaker to slow the rapid beating of the heart's "fight-or-flight" reaction to adrenaline.

A single cell in the upper right chamber is responsible for setting the pace of the beating heart, triggering its neighbor cells to beat. In the human heart, one cell -- the pacemaker cell -- beats faster or slower to induce a rhythmic heartbeat that varies to increase or decrease the blood flow to the body as we eat, sleep or exercise.

"Disturbances of pacemaker control are common in heart diseases. When the heartbeat becomes non-rhythmic and chaotic, it can result in fatal arrhythmias and stroke," said R. John Solaro, UIC distinguished university professor and principal investigator of the study.

Current treatment of arrhythmia requires destruction of tissue surrounding a chaotic pacemaker, followed by insertion of a mechanical pacemaker that can regulate the heartbeat.

"Understanding the molecular regulation of the heart's pacemaker opens the possibility of less drastic treatment options, including drug interventions," said Solaro, who is also director of the center for cardiovascular research and head of physiology and biophysics at UIC.

Solaro worked with Yunbo Ke, UIC research assistant professor of physiology and biophysics and first author of the paper, and colleagues in England at Oxford and Manchester on characterizing and isolating the pacemaker cell.

The UIC researchers demonstrated that an enzyme called Pak 1, present in high concentrations in the heart, signals depression in the action of adrenaline and adrenaline-like chemicals on the pacemaker cell, playing an important role in slowing down the heart rate.

"The enzyme works through calcium and potassium channels that we know to be key players in the generation and regulation of the pacemaker activity," said Ke.

"Although adrenaline and other mechanisms that accelerate the heart rate have been well studied, mechanisms that might act as a brake are poorly understood," said Solaro.

"Identification of this previously unknown molecular mechanism for slowing the heartbeat may offer new avenues of diagnosis, drug design and treatment of many common heart diseases," said Solaro.

"Further, now that we know something of how this enzyme works in the pacemaker cell, we may discover it is involved in the regulation of other processes, particularly in the brain, where it is also highly expressed," added Ke.

Other contributors include Dr. Derek Tarrar, Thomas Collins, Stevan Rakovic, Paul Mattick and Michiko Yamasaki at Oxford; Dr. Ming Lei at the University of Manchester; and Mark Brodie at UIC.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:38 am    Post subject: Blood protein offers clues to heart attack in seemingly heal Reply with quote

American College of Cardiology
2 July 2007

Blood protein offers clues to heart attack in seemingly healthy people

Years in advance, high MPO levels signal increased risk
We’ve all wondered how a seemingly healthy person can actually be at high risk for heart disease or a heart attack. Now researchers have uncovered a new clue to this mystery. The culprit: myeloperoxidase (MPO), a protein secreted by white blood cells that both signals inflammation and releases a bleach-like substance that damages the cardiovascular system.

Although MPO is intended to kill harmful bacteria, it may instead inflame the body’s arteries and cripple protective substances in the blood, according to a study published in the July 10, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). As a result, long before conventional risk factors set off alarms, elevated MPO levels signal that harmful plaque has been building up.

“We were surprised to find that many years before a cardiovascular event actually occurs, MPO is increased,” said Matthijs Boekholdt, M.D., Ph.D., a resident in cardiology at Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. “This could open up completely new areas of research and diagnosis. As we learn more about these processes, we hope to be able to identify ‘vulnerable blood’ as a reliable tool for detecting vulnerable patients.”

Not only does MPO change low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol into a harmful oxidized form that can cause atherosclerosis, the “bleach” produced by MPO damages the arteries directly, causing cell death and erosion of the arterial lining, a process that can create unstable plaques. MPO also hampers the protective effects of high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reduces the availability of nitric oxide, a natural chemical that relaxes the blood vessels.

Earlier studies in patients with chest pain and heart disease have shown that elevated levels of MPO identify those at highest risk for a heart attack. “The novelty of the present study is that it is the first large-scale study to examine the relationship of MPO to cardiovascular risk in apparently healthy individuals,” Dr. Boekholdt said.

For the study Dr. Boekholdt and colleagues recruited healthy people living in Norfolk, United Kingdom, between 1993 and 1997, as part of a larger community-based research program known as the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). They took baseline blood samples from each participant and froze the samples for future analysis.

After an average of eight years, 1,138 EPIC-Norfolk participants had been admitted to the hospital or died from the effects of coronary artery disease (CAD), including heart attack. The researchers matched these patients with study participants who remained healthy throughout the follow-up period, selecting those of the same gender and similar ages and enrollment times.

The average blood levels of MPO were significantly higher in those who developed heart disease than in those who remained healthy. In fact, when MPO levels were divided into four groups, patients in the highest fourth were 1.49 times as likely as those in the lowest fourth to develop CAD or have a heart attack. When traditional risk factors—blood pressure, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, body mass index, smoking and diabetes—were taken into account, an MPO level in the highest fourth increased the risk of heart disease by 1.36 times.

Equally important, elevated MPO levels signaled increased risk even in those with acceptable levels of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol or C-reactive protein, a widely acknowledged marker of inflammation.

“MPO levels help to identify individuals at increased risk for CAD when traditional risk screening fails,” Dr. Boekholdt said.

The search for blood tests to help identify patients at risk for heart attack is a very important one, said Christopher Cannon, M.D., F.A.C.C., who did not participate in the study and is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. “One fascinating aspect of this study is that this marker of inflammation precedes by nearly a decade the development of clinical coronary disease,” he said. “This suggests MPO could be used to catch the disease in a very early stage and help in true prevention of CAD.

“Another interesting aspect of MPO is that it may be a marker for unstable plaque. Even more than the number or severity of coronary plaques, we want to know the risk of plaque rupture, and this evolving new marker may help in that regard. More study is needed, but among the hundreds of markers tested to date, MPO looks like a “keeper” that will one day become part of clinical care,” Dr. Cannon said.

Researchers are continuing to assess the value of MPO in different patient groups as well as in relation to other biomarkers, Dr. Boekholdt said. Key questions include whether, and under what circumstances, MPO should be added to the laboratory tests used to screen for cardiovascular disease, and whether blocking MPO could prevent cardiovascular disease.

The EPIC-Norfolk study is supported by program grants from the Medical Research Council UK and Cancer Research UK, with additional support from the European Union, Stroke Association, British Heart Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. Some of the measurements in this study were supported by Wyeth. One of the study’s authors, Stanley L. Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., is named as a co-inventor on pending patents filed by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation relating to the use of myeloperoxidase as a biomarker for cardiovascular disease.

The American College of Cardiology is leading the way to optimal cardiovascular care and disease prevention. The College is a 34,000-member nonprofit medical society and bestows the credential Fellow of the American College of Cardiology upon physicians who meet its stringent qualifications. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines, and is a staunch supporter of cardiovascular research. The ACC provides professional education and operates national registries for the measurement and improvement of quality care. More information about the association is available online at .

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) provides these news reports of clinical studies published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology as a service to physicians, the media, the public and other interested parties. However, statements or opinions expressed in these reports reflect the view of the author(s) and do not represent official policy of the ACC unless stated so.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:02 pm    Post subject: A Bite of Chocolate a Day May Keep Blood Pressure at Bay Reply with quote

A Bite of Chocolate a Day May Keep Blood Pressure at Bay
By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter

posted: 04 July 2007 12:43 pm ET

(HealthDay News) -- Chocolate lovers can rejoice again: More research has found that the antioxidants in dark chocolate can help slightly lower blood pressure.

But the good news comes with a caveat -- the chocolate portions have to be limited to 30 calories a day, which works out to slightly more than one Hershey's Kiss.

Such small amounts of the flavanol-rich cocoa found in dark chocolate "may be a promising behavioral approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure," the German researchers reported in their study.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:20 pm    Post subject: Sex to Earthquakes: What Causes Heart Attacks Reply with quote

Sex to Earthquakes: What Causes Heart Attacks
By Robin Lloyd, LiveScience Senior Editor

posted: 13 July 2007 11:24 am ET

Anger really can trigger a heart attack. But then, so can getting sick, being too hot, being too cold, air pollution, lack of sleep, grief, overeating, natural disasters, exercise and sex.

In fact, simply waking up is the worst thing you can do if you're trying to avoid a heart attack.

Heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests seem to come out of the blue, but actually most occur upon rising in the morning, according to the July 2007 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:30 pm    Post subject: Your Heart Shrinks With Age Reply with quote

Your Heart Shrinks With Age
By Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 05 November 2007 10:39 am ET

Every year that you age, your heart shrinks and its ability to pump blood through your body decreases by up to 5 percent, a new study finds.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed MRIs (magnetic resonance images) of the structure and pumping function of the hearts of 5,004 men and women between the ages of 45 and 84 to look for minute changes. The patients were of various ethnic backgrounds and had no existing symptoms of heart disease.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 8:42 am    Post subject: Characterization of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oils Using H- Reply with quote

“Characterization of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oils Using H-NMR Spectroscopy”
Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 1998, 46, 3947-3951

Stephanee Synnott, Georgetown University
15 December 2007

Olive oil is a fruit oil obtained from the olive, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and polyphenols and is therefore often considered a healthy oil when most commonly used for cooking. (1) It is obtained by physical operations such as milling, pressing, centrifugation, and filtration.
In the world market, there is a growing interest for extra virgin olive oils due to their sensory and nutritional quality. Councils have been organized to implement international regulations to establish analytical criteria to define olive oil genuineness and quality grade. Quality grade classifies how the oil is extracted from the oil fruit and treated through processing. These quality grade classifications are extra virgin, virgin, lampante, refined and pure to name a few. One of the councils that promotes olive oil is the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) whose primary purpose is to track production, define quality standards, and monitor authenticity. IOOC is an intergovernmental organization based in Madrid, Spain, with 23 member states (United States not being one of them). More than 85% of the world's olives are grown in IOOC member nations. (1)
The composition of extra virgin olive oils is the result of complex interactions among olive variety, environmental conditions, fruit ripening and extraction technology. Recently, questions have been introduced if olive oil can be classified based on geographical origin using analytical parameters. But because of the complex interaction, careful definition of the origin based on chemical composition needs to be taken into account.
There have been attempts in the past to define olive oil by means of multivariate analysis of chemical parameters. One example of this was the research of Forina and Tiscornia (1982) whom used the principal component analysis (PCA) of fatty acid composition to be the first to classify Italian olive oils from different regions. These classifications of fatty acids have also been used to classify olive oils with respect to regions and variety in Spain and Greece.
H- and C-NMR have been already applied in the analysis of virgin olive oil to evaluate virgin olive oil quality. However, no data are present in the literature about the use of high-resolution NMR spectroscopy applied to geographical characterization of virgin olive oil. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is a physical phenomenon that examines the quantum mechanical magnetic properties of an atom's nucleus. (2) Every nucleus has a magnetic property. The nuclei are aligned with an applied magnetic field and then are perturbed by an alternating electric field called a pulse. The resulting response to the perturbing magnetic field is determined NMR spectroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging. A graph with peaks is produced that allows scientists to learn more about the characteristics, contents and structure of the compound being studies. Hydrogen-1 and carbon-13 are the two most commonly measured nuclei. NMR can also be used on a variety of other isotopes, proteins, and compounds in liquid or solid state phases. High-resolution NMR allows there to be a closer examine of the peaks. The peaks may normally look like one, but with high-resolution NMR, it can reveal that one peak is actually a cluster and therefore allow there to be a more accurate description of the compound. The amount of splitting tells the number of hydrogens attached to the carbon atom or atoms next door to the one being examined. (3)
The aim of the experiment was to evaluate the possible contribution of high-field proton NMR to the geographical characterization of virgin olive oil. A 600-MHz H-NMR was used to recorded the spectra on 55 extra virgin olive oil samples from four Italian regions. Quantitative data of selected resonances were analyzed by multivariate statistical analysis; essentially certain peaks were selected (like sterols, n-alkanals, trans-2-alkenals, and other volatile compounds) and then were analyzed using mathematical analysis to concluded if proton NMR could characterize virgin olive oil based on authenticity of its geographical origin.
Sampling was based on place, date, variety, ripening degree, and extraction system. Four Italian regions: Campania, Lazio, Sicilia, and Umbria, were used for the 55 samples that were extracted between October 1994 and January 1995. Italian regions were selected on the basis of their latitude variation; two center regions, a couthern region, and the island of Sicily. Samples labeled A1-A12 were produced in the Lazio region (Province of Roma, Sabina), B1-B15 in the Campania region (Province of Salerno, Colline Salernitane and Cilento), C1-C15 in Umbria, and D1-D12 in Sicily (Modica). Two Spanish samples were also analyzed to use as a control and allow comparison from a different origin. The varieties used were typical known varieties, but also included a new experimental variety (FS-17) produced from breeding of Frantoio. Ripening degree was evaluated on the basis of the percent of green, aging, and over-ripen olives. Oil samples were classified in three ripening classes: unripe (U), normal ripe (N), and over-ripe (O). Extra virgin olive oils were extracted within 24 hours after olive harvesting. Three phases of centrifugation or traditional pressing were used as extraction systems.
Oils were placed into 5-mm NMR tubes and dissolved in chloroform and DMSO. One-dimensional spectra were recorded on a Bruker AMX600 instrument operating at 600 MHz. NMR data was analyzed using the S-plus statistical system. The purpose of the analysis were to select the most important frequency bands to determine if it could be distinguished each oil from the different area, and to classify oils with respect to the selected frequency band. Therefore the frequency should correlate to the region and the oil. Frequency bands were selected according to the method described by Mardia et al (1979). Oils were able to be clustered together based on the Manhattan metric.
Among >30 resonances considered, only 10 variables resulted in significant discrimination between virgin olive oil of different geographical origin. It was determined that of the resonances selected, the degree of ripening or the way the oil was extracted showed no significant variability. A cluster analysis was then performed using the intensity of peaks 1-10 to reveal natural grouping of oil samples.
A reliable classification can be observed with four groups corresponding to the four geographical regions examined suggesting that intensity patterns from H-NMR might be useful in determining compositional similarities linked to virgin olive oil origin. There were a few samples that did not follow the general clustering by region. Samples C2, C5, C8, C11 and C12 did not fall under the cluster for Umbria region; however these samples were the FS-17 variety, a new experimental variety produced by breeding, which cannot be considered a typical geographical variety. Among typical varieties, 96% of samples are correctly classified with the exception of samples C1 and B16.
The two Spanish samples were also studied, and the NMR profiles were found to be significantly different from those of the 55 Italian samples studied. Thus, the sampling made in this experiment offers a suitable model to be expanded in future studies. It is difficult to distinguish the effect of the variety from the effect of the environment, thus reason for further study. To confirm the usefulness and limits of proton NMR in the authentication of extra virgin olive oil, an extension of the sampling to different Italian regions and Mediterranean countries is needed.

What are the regions of Italy?

How is olive oil produced?

What is the International Olive Oil Council?

How is olive oil classified?

What does the United States use to regulate olive oil?

What is principal component analysis (PCA)?

What is the Manhattan metric?

What are the health benefits of olive oil?

What are some popular recipes that use olive oil?

Other then cooking, what can olive oil be used for?
(1) “Olive Oil” Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 12 December 2007.
(2) “Nuclear magnetic resonance” Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 10 December 2007
(3) “High Resolution NMR Spectra” Understanding Chemistry. 13 December 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2008 8:41 am    Post subject: Depression and anxiety can double chances of heart ailments Reply with quote

University of Montreal
18 January 2008

Depression and anxiety can double chances of heart ailments

Results of study published in January edition of Archives of General Psychiatry
Montreal, January 18, 2008 – Matters of the mind can affect matters of the heart. A new study by McGill University and Université de Montréal researchers has found that major anxiety and/or depression, can double a coronary artery disease patient’s chances of repeated heart ailments. This is one of the first studies to focus on patients with stable coronary artery disease – not those who were hospitalized for events such as a heart attack.

“We found that both major depression and generalized anxiety disorder were more common in cardiac patients than in the general community,” said principal investigator Nancy Frasure-Smith, a professor at McGill’s Department of Psychiatry and a researcher at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and Montreal Heart Institute. “On average, cardiac patients without these disorders had about a 13 percent chance of a repeated cardiac event over two years, compared to 26 percent of those with either major depression or anxiety.”

Dr. Frasure-Smith coauthored the study from the January edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry with François Lespérance, a Université de Montréal psychiatry professor and head of the CHUM’s Department of Psychiatry. “This is the first study to demonstrate that anxiety and depression can have a strong impact on people with stable coronary artery disease,” said Lespérance.

The research team interviewed 804 people, patients with stable coronary artery disease who were still monitored by a physician, yet had been discharged from hospital two months prior. Frasure-Smith and Lespérance found 27 percent of interview subjects were affected by depression and 41 percent showed signs of anxiety. Major depressive disorder was diagnosed in roughly 7 percent of patients while about 5 percent had generalized anxiety disorder.

“Now that we know that anxiety and major depression are both markers of increased cardiac risk, it is imperative that these patients receive the best treatment for both their cardiac and psychiatric conditions,” concurred Frasure-Smith and Lespérance, “since both disorders may respond to antidepressants.”


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A full copy of the study can be consulted at the Archives of General Psychiatry ( ).
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Molecular Spectroscopy Paper
Akil Joseph

1Raman Spectroscopic Analysis of Biochemical changes in Individual Triglycerides Rich Lipoprotein in the Pre – and Postprandial State.
The is a reviewed article from J. W. Chan,D. Motton,J. C. Rutledge, N. L. Keim, and T. Huser
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the Western world. These are diseases that are associated with the cardiovascular system which involves the heart and connected blood vessels of the body. Of these atherosclerosis is the leading killer. Lipoproteins (Lps) found in the body are implicated in the onset of this serious disease. To find better drugs, treatments, and prevention, accurate data gathering of these Lps is absolutely necessary. However getting data on Lps is a daunting challenge as there are many types found in the blood and they are of complex composition. Most methods use indiscriminate bulk sampling (millions of particles) and get only averages of the content of these particles which is sometimes statistically inadequate. In their search for better data gathering, Laser Tweezers Raman Spectroscopy (LTRS) was used in the analysis of these Lps particles. LTRS is a new innovation in spectroscopic techniques which will be invaluable in the future in the biological sciences. It involves the combination of a laser that can trap small particles and a Raman spectroscophotometer that can read the unique signature of a molecule which allows Lps to be studied individually.
LTRS is actually two instruments in one, the laser tweezers and Raman spectroscope. Laser Tweezers is a procedure discovered by Steven Chu and Arthur Askin which earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. A single laser beam is focused on on a particle nanometers in diameter, which also trap it and move it using optical forces. The laser is of very low intensity that does not damage the particle.
Raman is also a non invasive procedure. It involves sending a laser beam at the sample and analyzing the light that is scattered from it. The scattered light provides information on the structure of molecule. Molecules have a unique structure that reflects or scatters the light differently. This phenomenon was discovered by Sir C. V. Raman which earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1930. Light can be considered as a stream of particles called photons. If you think of these particles like balls, then how they bounce off an object can give information about the nature of the object shape and even its motion. Molecules have unique shapes and parts that move at particular frequency. The light beam itself moves at a particular frequency and this frequency is directly proportional to its energy. If a photon encounters a part of the molecule that moves, the scattered photon light may increase or decrease by that particular frequency of the moving part. Since every part of the molecule has a different motion then by looking at the scattered light you can determine the structure or at least compare the information to previous information of what parts are present in the molecules. In other words Raman spectra could be used as a signature or “fingerprint “of the molecule.
Lipoproteins (Lps) are tiny particles in the blood that transport fats and cholesterol throughout the body. The Lps structure could be thought of as simple particle with a thin layer of phospholipids (similar to what covers cells) and protein with various molecules inside such as the fatty acids and cholesterols. The particles penetrate the walls of the arteries where they get trapped; this is associated with onset of atherosclerosis. There are enzymes on the surface of the blood vessel that breakdown these particles but they change with the pre and postprandial states. Lps are placed into classes according to their size and content. The different classes of Lps starting from the smallest to largest in diameter are high density lipoproteins (HDL), low density lipoproteins (LDL), very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), and chylomicrons. VLDL are the triglycerides rich Lps and are of much interest, they specifically are implicated in the onset of atherosclerosis.
Fatty acids are found in Lps which makes up most of the fat molecules (called triglycerides) found in the body, and they also give the fats their physical properties. Fatty acids are made of long chains of Carbon (C) and Hydrogen (H) attached to the carbons. There are different types of fatty acids, saturated, mono saturated, and poly unsaturated. If you imagine the chain of carbons to be like a train with each coach attached to each other by one tether (single bond) sometimes the Cs could be attach to each other by two tethers (double bond). Usually a Carbon is attached to two other Cs, one ahead of it and one behind it like a train, while the Hs stick out at the side. In the saturated fatty acid chain all the Cs are single bonded to other Cs and Hs, while the unsaturated fatty acid chain has one (mono) or more (poly) double bonds where each C has one less H. The double bond in the carbon chain moves differently from the single bond. Since there is no double on the saturated fatty acid chain then the presence of the of a double bond in the Raman Spectra can be use to tell how much unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids are present in a sample.
The experiment was performed on all overweight candidates of body mass index (BMI) 27 -29 between the ages of 27 -35 years. The candidates were placed on a controlled diet to meet their individual needs; this was done of the course of 3 days before the first blood samples were taken. Samples of blood were taken after a 12 hour overnight fast. In the postprandial studies the blood was taken after 3 and 8 hours of consumption of mixed meals of 30% fats, 15% protein and 55% carbohydrates. One group was given a meal where the fat content had a ratio of polyunsaturated/saturated fat of 0.2 (low glycemic) and the other with a ratio of 0.1 (high glycemic).

Blood samples were treated to remove the Lps. Using laser trapping the Lps were sorted by microscopy by comparing them to polystyrene beads of known sizes. Raman spectra (the “fingerprint”) of pure cis-9-octadecenoic acid (oleic acid), hexadecanoic acid (palmitic acid), and octadecanoic acid (stearic acid) oil were taken. Stearic acid and palmitic acid are standard saturated fatty acids while oleic acid is standard unsaturated fatty acids, all of which are found in triglycerides. They were analyzed at room temperature and at a higher temperature of 70 °C. Once each Lp was sorted to determine which class they belonged, their Raman spectra was taken and compared to above standards to find their content.
The results of this experiment showed that the after 3 hours the Lps of the low glycemic subjects had low saturated fatty acids compared to the high glycemic subjects. After the 8 hours the content of the Lps of both groups were relatively the same. This is done by comparing the number of particles to the polyunsaturated/saturated fatty acid ratio of their content which was determined by their Raman spectra. This gave a statistical distribution of the results. It would seem immediately after the meal that the Lps are transporting fatty acids found in the meal while after 8 hours the body has processed the fats and the Lps content contained the byproducts of those processes.
From these experiments it can be said the technique LTRS can be very useful as it is more specific than doing a bulk study like other experiments done in the past. It also gives a more accurate picture of what is happening in the body when it comes to fat metabolism.
Question can be further answered on this topic.
What are optical tweezers?
What is a laser?
What is spectroscopy?
Facts and figures on cardiovascular diseases

What is Raman spectroscopy?
What are lipoproteins?

How fats work; saturated vs. unsaturated fats
How light works?
What is metabolism?
What is BMI?

1 Chan J. W., Keim N. L., Huser T., Motton D., Rutledge J.C., Anal. Chem. 2005, 77, 5870-5876
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