Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fruit Juice Helps our Hearts; Fights Arterial Plaque Even Better Than Fruit Itself

by Dr. Don Rose

Based on an article by Jon Barron on his Health Blog


Have a hankering to hear how to help your heart stay healthy? How about some fruit juice! We always knew it tasted great, but now comes new proof it is good for us, too. Of course, for optimum heart health, fruit juice plus fitness activities plus a fine diet will help even more, but the research study discussed below shows that we now have even more reason to drink grape juice and apple juice instead of sodas. In short, this is grape news for everyone, from California to Apple-ate-ya. Okay, enough puns, just read the story below for all the juicy details. --Don Rose



Researchers from Universite Montpellier in France recently discovered that grapes and apples may prevent plaque from coating arterial walls when consumed with fatty, high-cholesterol foods. The researchers also found that apple and grape juices have a more powerful anti-plaque effect than the fruits themselves.

Research Study

The study followed several groups of hamsters -- one fed a normal diet, while the others enjoyed high-fat diets plus either fruit, water, or juice. The amount of fruit consumed by the little rodents was the human equivalent of three apples or bunches of grapes a day; the amount of juice was the equivalent of about four glasses. The hamsters in the purple grape juice group fared the best, with the lowest level of atherosclerosis, followed by those eating purple grapes. The apple-juice and apple-eating hamsters scored third and fourth, respectively. All the fruit- and juice-eating hamsters had lower cholesterol, less oxidative stress, and less fat accumulation in their aortas than the hamsters who consumed no fruit or juice.

The researchers assume that the cardiac benefits of fruit probably derive from phenolic compounds -- powerful antioxidants found in grapes and apples. Although grapes and apples contain the same amount of phenols in fruit form, grape juice has two-and-a-half times the amount that apple juice does. Earlier studies have found significant differences in phenol content from one fruit juice to another, with blueberry juice the leader of the pack, and apple, grape, pomegranate juices containing far more than the ever-popular orange, pineapple, and grapefruit juices.

According to the Universite Montpellier research team, the findings suggest that the amount of phenols contained in a food have a direct effect on its antioxidant properties. The results, they write, "provide encouragement that fruit and fruit juices may have a significant clinical and public health relevance."

Fruit vs. Fruit Juices

But that's only part of the story. A primary reason juices outperform fresh fruits in delivering antioxidants has to do with the way juice concentrates the nutrients. You get more bioactive punch for the mouthful from juice because you don't have to eat all that fiber. Also, the body can utilize the nutrients more readily since it doesn't have to separate nutrients from the fiber, minimizing the amount of energy consumed in digestion and freeing up that energy for healing. Thirdly, not all phenols are the same. Some, like EGCG in green tea, resveratrol in grapes, and curcumin in the spice turmeric, stand out. And then, of course, in addition to phenols, fruit juices contain other antioxidants such as Vitamin C, as well as minerals, living enzymes, and an assortment of phytochemicals.

Fresh Juice vs. Commercial Bottled Juice

Before you decide to implement the good news by washing down your beefsteak and fries with a glass of Welch's, here's something to consider. There's a world of difference between commercial bottled juice and freshly made juice. Within minutes of juicing, many of the nutrients and enzymes start to break down, rendering the benefits far less potent. By the time bottled juice gets to your mouth, particularly if it's been processed, it's a shadow of its original self. Also, while fruit juices provide many benefits, they contain a lot of sugar, so many people recommend emphasizing vegetable juices instead. In fact, a good juicer is probably the single best investment you can make in your health.


If you don't already own a juicer, look for a machine that's great at extraction, but also easy to use and clean. Some powerful juicers are so difficult to clean that they may end up going unused. Note that you can spend stratospheric amounts on a juicer such as a Norwalk, or pick a perfectly acceptable L'equip for about $130. The Jack LaLanne Power Juicer is another choice (you may have seen its ubiquitous infomercials on TV).

In terms of extraction, some people like the twin magnetic gear system used in juicers like the Green Star. But the Green Star has a big footprint on the counter and takes a bit of effort to clean -- although it's not as difficult as the Norwalk. Some say it is best for fasts, or when juicing heavily for several days in a row -- just clean it at the end of each day. If you're doing a lot of juicing during any given day, the Green Star is the way to go.

If you're new to juicing, consider the L'equip Mini Model 110.5 pulp ejector juicer. It may not have the best extraction method, but it does a decent job. Also, relative to most high-end juicers, it's quick to use and clean. With this Model, it's not that hard to make a quick glass of fresh squeezed juice -- the main thing many folks want from a juicer.

Closing Thoughts

Juicing is a great way to improve one’s health, but it is not recommended to make your juice and then eat junk food to round out your meals like the hamsters did. Although juice may moderate some of the harmful effects of high-fat, high-glycemic diets, it provides far more benefit when used as part of a healthy diet routine. In fact, there are many advocates of juice fasting because it gives the body a chance to detoxify and rebuild.

Also, while the information above shows that a good way to keep “heart healthy” is to drink more fruit juices, one never knows when one’s heart might malfunction, for any number of reasons. It can happen to anyone, at any age, even if you’ve lowered your risk for heart problems via good diet and exercise. If you sense the onset of a heart attack or irregular rhythms, call 911. If you are not near a phone, cannot get to a phone or cannot punch in the numbers, you can still get immediate help if you are a member of Life Alert; simply press your Life Alert help button to get in touch with live dispatchers within seconds, 24/7. They can send medical assistance to you, which will arrive in a matter of minutes. Life Alert members who are not home can also use a special one-button 911 cell phone (an optional Life Alert feature). If you don’t currently have Life Alert, see below for links to information on this valuable service.


The article above is covered by a Creative Commons License. The information provided is, to the best of our knowledge, reliable and accurate. However, while Life Alert always strives to provide true, precise and consistent information, we cannot guarantee 100 percent accuracy. Readers are encouraged to review the original article, and use any resource links provided to gather more information before drawing conclusions and making decisions.

Dr. Don Rose writes books, papers and articles on computers, the Internet, AI, science and technology, and issues related to seniors.

For more information about Life Alert and its many services for seniors and younger adults nationwide, please visit the following websites:

Thursday, July 03, 2008


This slice of Fourth of July virility news is from the excellent email service sent out by Levine Breaking News (

A slice of cool, fresh watermelon is a juicy way to top off a Fourth of July cookout and one that researchers say has effects similar to Viagra - but don't necessarily expect it to keep the fireworks all night long. Watermelons contain an ingredient called citrulline that can trigger production of a compound that helps relax the body's blood vessels, similar to what happens when a man takes Viagra, said scientists in Texas, one of the nation's top producers of the seedless variety.

Email sponsored by Life Alert,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


A recent New York Times article, available in their website's Research section, discusses findings that suggest the brains of older people may in some cases only appear to be working subpar, when in fact these seemingly forgetful brains are actually acting wiser:

Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful. “It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”

So what does this mean for those with older minds?

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan ... said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom. “These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is" ... “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

Friday, May 02, 2008


A press release from HealthDay News states that May is the month to get a handle on asthma, a common breathing disease. If you have asthma, or think you might, free asthma screenings are scheduled to be held at 250 locations across the United States as part of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology sponsors the annual event; for 2008 the emphasis is on helping those already diagnosed with asthma to get it under control as best they can.

In recent months, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) put out new guidelines highlighting the importance of asthma control, including daily monitoring and proper medication use to treat symptoms and prevent severe attacks from occurring. This came in light of research showing that many people with asthma are suffering more than they need to from the disease. Allergist John Winder, chairman of the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program, said "government guidelines emphasize that undiagnosed or inadequately treated asthma worsens the severity of the disease" while "the screening program gives patients who are still having breathing problems a chance to meet with an allergist, discuss their symptoms and learn how to feel better."

More than 22 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, have asthma -- a chronic inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Asthma attacks, which claim nearly 4,000 lives a year, are often triggered by allergens -- these include pollen, dust, animal dander, certain drugs and food additives -- lung infections, or even physical exertion. While the disease's exact cause remains unknown, many treatments are available to keep it in check.

"An asthma 'attack' isn't the only sign of trouble. A cough that bothers you at night, shortness of breath, colds that go to your chest -- these can all be symptoms of asthma. But few people recognize them or that they are a sign of under-treated disease," Winder said. "No one with asthma should have to suffer. Anyone who is experiencing breathing problems or making compromises to live with their condition should attend a free screening and find out how to take control."

The screenings will be overseen by allergists (who are asthma specialists), in coordination with local doctors and allied health professionals. During a screening, participants will answer several questions about their breathing issues, take a lung function test that involves blowing into a tube, and meet with an allergist to determine whether a more thorough exam and diagnosis is needed. The program has screened more than 108,000 people over the years, and more than half of those were referred for further diagnosis.

A list of free asthma screening locations and dates, online versions of the breathing questionnaires, and more information on treating and controlling asthma are on the ACAAI Web site at Also, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more information about controlling and treating asthma.

Attribution: -- Kevin McKeever.
SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, May 1, 2008.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The blog Penguin Food has a fun article about "Three bad foods that are really good" (love that title). Here is what they say about dark chocolate:

"Eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day could be good for you... A study has found that a regular 2oz dose can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke - without any weight gain."

Most of the post's dark-chocolate-good-news seems to be from a Daily Mail article, which says, among other things, that "Blood pressure lowered in this way could reduce the risk of death from a stroke by 8 per cent and from coronary artery disease by 5 per cent, the University of Cologne scientists found. It would also reduce risk of death generally by 4 per cent. A daily diet of a little chocolate had the same effect as more complicated diets designed to lower blood pressure, according to the authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 'Although the magnitude of the blood pressure reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy,' they said. 'Adoption of small amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa into the habitual diet is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to, and therefore may be a promising behavioural approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure.'

The Penguin Blog post continues with some tongue-in-cheeky observations:

Of course 'they' try to spoil the fun and emphasise that we can only eat a little bit of chocolate, and besides, fruit and vegetables are better for you - but they forget the little point that fruit and vegetables dont taste as nice as chocolate. Chocolate makes you feel better. If you feel better - you are more relaxed, and therefore your heart is more relaxed and beats more comfortably. You could eat more fruit, but your added miserability will increase the pressure on your heart anyway."

To read the full blog post (you want to know what their OTHER TWO "bad/good" foods are, right?), go to: (the post seems to be authored by a bloke named Graham, the man behind the Penguin Food blog, and this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Well, not really a course, but an overview of useful information, from the government website

What does high cholesterol have to do with heart disease?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of the body. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and cause blood clots. Cholesterol can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting the blood it needs. This can cause a heart attack.

There are two types of cholesterol:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called the "bad" type of cholesterol because it can clog the arteries that carry blood to your heart. For LDL, lower numbers are better.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as "good" cholesterol because it takes the bad cholesterol out of your blood and keeps it from building up in your arteries. For HDL, higher numbers are better.

All women age 20 and older should have their blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked at least once every 5 years.

What do my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers mean?

Total cholesterol level - Lower is better. Less than 200 mg/dL is best.

Total Cholesterol Level / Category
Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200 - 239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above High

LDL (bad) cholesterol - Lower is better. Less than 100 mg/dL is best.

LDL Cholesterol Level / Category
Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100-129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very high

HDL (good) cholesterol - Higher is better. More than 60 mg/dL is best.

Triglyceride levels - Lower is better. Less than 150mg/dL is best.

How can I lower my cholesterol?

You can lower your cholesterol by taking these steps:

Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your total cholesterol and LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to see if you are at a healthy weight. If not, try making small changes like eating an apple instead of potato chips, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the entrance to your office, the grocery store, or the mall. (But be sure to park in a safe, well-lit spot.)

Eat better. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

Eat more:

Fish, poultry (chicken, turkey -- breast meat or drumstick is best), and lean meats (round, sirloin, loin). Broil, bake, roast, or poach foods. Remove the fat and skin before eating.
Skim (fat-free) or low-fat (1%) milk and cheeses, and low-fat or nonfat yogurt
Fruits and vegetables (try for 5 a day)
Cereals, breads, rice, and pasta made from whole grains (such as "whole-wheat" or "whole-grain" bread and pasta, rye bread, brown rice, and oatmeal)

Eat less:
Organ meats (liver, kidney, brains).
Egg yolks.
Fats (butter, lard) and oils.
Packaged and processed foods.

There are two diets that may help lower your cholesterol:

Heart Healthy Diet

Therapeutic Lifestyles Changes (TLC) Diet

Get moving. Exercise can help lower LDL ("bad cholesterol") and raise HDL ("good cholesterol"). Exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Take your medicine. If your doctor has prescribed medicine to lower your cholesterol, take it exactly as you have been told to.

For more FAQs and facts, see the Frequently Asked Questions page at:

Monday, April 28, 2008


A 2003 book by Rowan Jacobsen entitled "Chocolate Unwrapped: The Surprising Health Benefitsof America's Favorite Passion" discusses how chocolate, a treat many were taught causes a host of bad things to happen to our bodies (namely our fat cells and teeth) , may actually be beneficial to our health. Here are highlights of the book description, from its Amazon webpage:

...recent studies [have] revealed ...that [c]hocolate protects you from heart disease... improves cholesterol levels... [and] may even help prevent some cancers. ...Evidence is piling up that chocolate has a list of health benefits few foods can match. We’re all familiar with antioxidants, the compounds found in fruits, vegetables, red wine, and tea that prevent heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. What we don’t hear is that chocolate has the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food on the planet — ten times that of spinach, five times that of blueberries, and four times that of green tea.

Chocolate Unwrapped explains the science behind chocolate’s health benefits, then goes on to dispel the myths swirling around chocolate. Chocolate does not cause acne, allergies, migraines, or hyperactivity. Chocolate has much less caffeine than most people think. And tannins in chocolate actually help prevent cavities, making chocolate better for teeth than other sweets. Though there is no proof for chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac ... chocolate has clear effects on the brain and mood. Chocolate contains anandamide, a substance that activates the same receptors in the brain as marijuana, as well as other chemicals that causes feelings of excitement and well-being, explaining the natural craving many people feel for it.

Chocolate Unwrapped not only explains the positive physical and psychological effects of chocolate, but goes on to explore the colorful history, botany, and chemistry of chocolate, so you’ll understand what to look for and what to avoid. A recipe section provides a multitude of healthy ways to eat chocolate, from flourless chocolate cake to Mexican mole, and a comprehensive list of resources tells you where to find the best-quality chocolates in the world.

Here are a few expert comments from the book's inside flap:

"I do recommend a piece of good-quality dark chocolate as a healthy snack . . . it is a source of polyphenols, the same type of antioxidants found in red wine, and the fat it contains is stearic acid, which doesn’t affect cholesterol levels. The latest good news for chocolate lovers comes from a study indicating that flavonoids in chocolate are good for your heart. These compounds reduce the stickiness of platelets, cells that play an important role in blood clotting. By eating a 1.5-ounce milk chocolate bar, you get the same amount of these protective compounds as in a 5-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon." Andrew Weil, M.D.

"Nitric oxide plays such an important role in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and, in turn, cardiovascular health. If our research results continue to support a link between consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa and nitric oxide synthesis, there could be significant implications for public health." Norman Hollenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

"Chocolate contains large amounts of the same beneficial plant chemicals that now have burnished the reputation of tea. In fact, just one ounce of chocolate has about as much of these plant chemicals as a cup of brewed black tea. One large, ongoing study of the benefits of exercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation live longer than those who eat none." University of California-Berkeley Wellness Letter

"We already know that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables results in an increase of antioxidants in our blood. We believe chocolate consumption may have the same effect. We forget that chocolate is derived from cocoa beans—the fruit of the cacao tree—a fruit that is a rich source of these potentially beneficial substances." Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

"Eating chocolate can have significant influences on mood, generally leading to an increase in pleasant feelings and a reduction in tension." Peter Rogers, Ph.D., Institute of Food Research