Glass of red wine or one drink may help heart health, more may do harm: study

TORONTO – Red wine has been touted as beneficial for cardiovascular health, but new research suggests that while one glass of that favourite Merlot or Shiraz may indeed be heart healthy, two or more could actually do more harm than good over time.

Furthermore, those good and bad effects on the heart and blood vessels aren’t restricted just to red wine, but also apply to any kind of alcoholic drink, says principal investigator Dr. John Floras, director of cardiology research at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto.

Several large population studies have suggested light or moderate alcohol drinking has a protective effect on the heart; red wine, which contains antioxidant polyphenols, is thought to have particular benefits.

These studies found lower rates of heart disease, despite high-fat diets, among some European populations that regularly consume red wine. Widely known as the “French paradox,” the phenomenon has created huge interest in how the libation might stave off cardiovascular disease.

In the Toronto study, Floras said tests on volunteers showed that drinking a single glass of red wine or an amount of ethanol (pure alcohol) equal to that found in a beer or a serving of spirits did indeed have potentially helpful effects on the heart and blood vessels.

“One standard drink of both the red wine and the alcohol causes the blood vessels to dilate (widen), which could be considered a good thing,” he said. “It would make it easier for blood to flow through the vessels and reduce the work of the heart.”

“But what happened after two drinks is the nervous system got turned on. And when the nervous system got turned on, that led to an increase in the impulses going to the blood vessels, which acted as a brake on further blood vessel dilation.”

Floras said after two drinks, subjects’ heart rates rose and their hearts began pumping more blood than necessary.

“So it suggests that there may be a physiological underpinning to this relationship in populations where one drink a day seems to be more beneficial than two drinks a day. And it may be that over time, revving up the nervous system, increasing the heart rate, increasing the pumping action of the heart may be part of the reason heavy drinking has been shown to have adverse effects.”

Dr. George Fodor, head of research for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s Minto Prevention and Rehabilitation Centre, said the findings provide a solid challenge to “the nonsensical statement that the French have low levels of heart disease because they drink red wine.”

“The bottom line is if there is any benefit in alcohol, the range is very narrow,” Fodor said Tuesday from Ottawa, commenting on the research. “So this study, I think, is a warning against trying to justify the drinking of alcohol for alleged health benefits.”

Toronto cardiologist Beth Abramson, a spokeswoman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said that although the study looked at only a small number of subjects, it is important because it gives insights into how the heart, blood vessels and body react when exposed to alcohol.

“This is another piece of evidence – and it’s done very elegantly – that suggests that just because a small amount of alcohol may be beneficial, more of it can actually be harmful,” said Abramson, who was not involved in the study.

“Although it is enticing to think that alcohol would be a quick fix … it actually isn’t.”

To conduct the study, published in the February issue of the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology, researchers enrolled 13 healthy, non-smoking adults who were not heavy drinkers or total abstainers.

Participants attended three separate morning sessions, two weeks apart, during which “standard” drinks of red wine, ethanol or water were randomly administered. A 120-millilitre glass of wine and a 44-millilitre shot of spirits is considered a standard drink. The study used a moderately priced pinot noir with a high polyphenol content.

While agreeing the study is small, Floras said it is unique because it compares three different drinks – water, ethanol and red wine – in the same individuals on separate occasions, looking at different doses.

And because his lab contains a variety of testing methods, the researchers were able to simultaneously measure heart rate, blood pressure, blood vessel diameter and electrical impulses sent from the brain to the heart and the rest of the circulatory system.

“It would appear that following two or more drinks, the alcohol seems to turn on systems that do stress the circulation,” he said.

“And our concern is if these stressful actions are repeated on a daily basis in individuals who have high alcohol consumption, they ultimately may be at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke or high blood pressure because of this potential mechanism.”


Hazardous Levels of Mercury in Sushi


Recent laboratory tests in New York found so much mercury in tuna sushi that two or three pieces a week at some restaurants could be a health hazard.

Eight out of the 44 pieces of sushi purchased by the New York Times for testing had mercury levels so high that the FDA could take legal action to remove the fish from the market.

Although all the samples were obtained in New York City, experts believe similar results would also be observed elsewhere.

While the FDA and EPA have warned children and pregnant women against consumption of canned tuna, fresh tuna was not included in the advisory. However, the tuna sushi in The New York Times sample contained far more mercury than is typically found in canned tuna.

The scientists who performed the analysis said they were “frankly surprised” by the results, and that they had run the tests several times to make sure there was no mistake.

With Saccharin’s Weight-Control Benefits in Question, What Steps Can You Take?

Is too much saccharin — like the sweeteners used in diet soda — a bad thing for weight loss? A study released over the weekend links consumption of artificial sweeteners to weight gain. Read more about it and what you can do to limit your intake.

Click here for a press release from the American Psychological Association, which summarizes the latest Purdue University study on saccharin.

Click here to read the full study.

What steps should you take to cut back on your saccharin intake? Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a nutritionist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, offers the following suggestions below. Click here for his full opinion article on

Keep the soda and soft drinks to one daily. Have water or seltzer at other times.

Hold the sweetener packets to one or two in your drinks.

Add more water to powdered drink mixes than is called for. Gradually add more until you get used to a half-strength mix (this is more economical as well).

Sweets are occasional treats, so once or twice a week is occasional. Much more than that and it’s a lifestyle, not a treat.

Try watery fruits for a sweet fix. Grapes and melons are even a great beverage substitute because they make you feel as if you’re both drinking and eating.

Click here to read about a July 2007 study in the journal Circulation. which links soda — even diet soda — to an increase in other risk factors for heart disease. The researchers of the study reported that “those who said they drank a soda or more per day had a 31 percent greater chance of becoming obese, a 30 percent increased risk for gaining inches around the waist, a 25 percent chance of developing high blood sugar levels and a 32 percent greater chance of developing lower “good” cholesterol levels.”

Dietitian and nutrition writer Janet Helm reminds us that “A Calorie Is a Calorie” and cutting calories may be as effective in weight loss as a combination of exercising and dieting.

How many excess calories should you be consuming as sugar? Fill in your information here to find out what you should be eating and what you might want to cut back on.

Prostate cancer deaths tied to obesity

Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer are twice as likely as healthy weight men to die from the disease, new research shows.

The heavier a man is at time of diagnosis the greater his risk of death, according to a study published in Monday’s issue of the journal, Cancer.

After five years, the death rate for normal weight men from locally advanced prostate cancer was 6.5 per cent, compared with 13 per cent for overweight and obese men.

And, it’s not known whether losing weight after a diagnosis of prostate cancer makes a difference in survival.

“To the best of our knowledge this is the first large study using prospective data to evaluate the relationship between obesity and mortality in men treated for locally advanced prostate cancer,” the team reports.

About one-third of Canadian men are obese, and an estimated 22,300 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Whether excess weight has anything to do with the risk of developing prostate cancer in the first place is controversial, says Dr. Matthew Smith, director of genitourinary medical oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston.

Some data suggest obesity is a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer. Other data show that fat men who are treated with radiation or surgery for early stage disease have a greater risk of having a rising PSA, or prostate specific antigen test — a sign the disease is coming back.

“But the relationship between PSA recurrence and death from prostate cancer is relatively weak,” Smith says. “The real question that matters is, OK, you’re diagnosed with the disease. Does your body mass index predict your risk of dying from cancer? And that’s what we tried to address.”

His team reached back into the database of a previously published trial involving 788 men who were followed for more than eight years. All had locally advanced prostate cancer, where the disease hasn’t spread to distant organs but is considered high-risk. All received radiation; half got hormone therapy as well.

The study doesn’t unravel the link between obesity and poor prognosis, but there are many possible explanations why such an association could occur. For example, obese men might be less likely to be screened for prostate cancer and therefore diagnosed with more advanced disease, and once diagnosed have a worse outcome. It’s possible that screening and treatments may also be less effective in obese men.

Black Tea, Green Tea Good for Diabetes

WebMD medical News

Both black tea and green tea are good for diabetes, a rat study shows. They also prevent diabetic animals from developing cataracts.

The findings appear in the May 4 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

“Black and green tea represent a potentially inexpensive, nontoxic, and, in fact, pleasurable [blood-sugar-lowering] agent,” the researchers write. “Tea may be a simple, inexpensive means of preventing or retarding human diabetes and the ensuing complications.”

In the study, the researchers gave green and black teas to diabetic rats for three months.

They found both kinds of tea inhibited diabetic cataracts. The teas also had a blood-sugar-lowering effect.

To get the same dose of tea given to the rats, a 143-pound person would have to drink 4.5 8-ounce cups of tea every day.

The researchers recommend that tea — black and green — should be studied for an antidiabetes effect in humans.

Diet, Lifestyle Changes Cut Some Infertility Risk

FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) — Women who followed at least five certain lifestyle and diet behaviors were about 80 percent less likely to have infertility from ovulatory disorders than women who followed none of the behaviors, a Harvard study concludes.

The analysis of 17,544 married women participating in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II found those with the highest fertility scores: ate less trans fat and sugar from carbohydrates; consumed more protein from vegetables than from animals; ate more fiber and iron; took more multivitamins; had a lower body mass index (BMI); exercised for longer periods of time each day; and consumed more high-fat diary products and less low-fat diary products.

The relationship between these behaviors and reduced risk of infertility was similar for women regardless of age and whether they’d been pregnant in the past, said the Harvard School of Public Health authors of the study, which was published in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“We analyzed what happens if you follow one, two, three, four, or more different factors. What we found was that, as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken. In fact, we found a sixfold difference in ovulatory infertility risk between women following five or more low-risk dietary and lifestyle habits and those following none,” lead author Jorge Chavarro, a research fellow in the school’s department of nutrition, said in a prepared statement.

“The key message of this paper is that making the right dietary choices and including the right amount of physical activity in your daily life may make a large difference in your probability of becoming fertile if you are experiencing problems with ovulation,” senior author Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition, added.

According to the researchers, infertility affects one in six couples, in the U.S. and Europe and ovulatory problems have been identified in up to 30 percent of those cases.

Consumers ignore cancer risks of eating red meat

By Emily Dugan and Charlotte Browne

Published: 02 November 2007


“There’s nothing like a bacon sarnie with brown sauce,” says 36-year-old Nicola Doran as she waits in the queue at JBS butchers in east London.

Ms Doran’s sentiments have been echoed across the country by meat enthusiasts who are turning a blind eye to the latest announcement from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which states that bacon is such a cancer risk it should be avoided entirely.

The mother-of-two said: “It wouldn’t put me off eating pork or bacon. I’m Irish, and people in Ireland were born and bred on pork; it’s their number one meat and it never did them any harm.”

It is business as usual in the Tower Hamlets butchers, providers of meat to the east London community for the past 30 years. John Gaynor, manager of JBS, is convinced that shoppers will not take the latest scare over the relationship between meat consumption and cancer seriously.

“People have been eating pork for donkey’s years,” he said, standing behind a display of gammon, pork chops and ribs. “Cancer will either get you or it won’t. People wouldn’t eat anything if they listened to the news all the time.”

Despite the WCRF warning on the dangers of processed meat, butchers and meat-lovers have remained optimistic. The study, which used analysis from 7,000 cancer studies from around the world, said that food such as salami, ham and bacon was such a risk factor for bowel cancer that it should be cut completely from our diets.

Lynn Church, a 46-year-old artist who has been going to JBS butchers for years, said that cutting out bacon completely seemed excessive. “You should have everything in moderation. Some of the things the media say might put me off but basically everything’s OK in moderation.”

The WCRF study also suggested a link between red-meat consumption and bowel cancer, and recommended that people should cut back their intake to 500g a week.

Chris Lamb, the Meat and Livestock Commission’s consumer marketing manager, said that people in the meat industry were not overly concerned by the news. “We don’t think it will be a problem,” he said. “The report recommends that people eat an average of 500g of cooked red meat a week, which is actually what the average consumer is doing already.”

Mr Lamb said that similar recent concerns over the healthiness of meat had so far not affected trade. “Over the past couple of years there have been other reports saying similar things, but we can’t identify any reduction in meat consumption – in fact it has been up recently. We’d be very surprised if there was a reaction from consumers. People are intelligent: they’ll just say ‘sod it’ and get on with it.”

He questioned the science of the link, saying that while meat consumption had fallen, colo-rectal cancer rates have risen. “If you go back 50 years, when chicken was still a luxury, people used to eat red meat two or even three times a day. But bacon consumption has gone down 30 per cent since 1970, yet colo-rectal cancer rates are up by 10 per cent.”

He added: “There’s obviously an incongruity between these figures and the extreme message from the WCRF. If you look around the world you would expect there to be a direct relationship between the amount of meat eaten and the instances of colorectal cancers, but there simply is not.”