Chocolate, considered by some to be the "food of the gods, " has been part of the human diet for at least 4, 000 years; its origin thought to be in the region surrounding the Amazon basin. Introduced to the Western world by Christopher Columbus after his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, chocolate is now enjoyed worldwide. Researchers estimate that the typical American consumes over 10 pounds of chocolate annually, with those living on the west coast eating the most. Wouldn't it be great if only chocolate were considered healthy? In fact, chocolate is a great source of myriad substances that scientists think might impart important health benefits. For instance, it contains compounds called "flavanols" that appear to play a variety of bodily roles including those related to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
People with a history of high cholesterol who come from higher income countries or countries with lower out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, as well as those from countries with high performing healthcare systems, defined using World Health Organization (WHO) indices, tend to have lower subsequent cholesterol rates, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. "We found that patients living in countries in the highest third of gross national income or WHO health system achievement and performance/efficiency indices had a significantly lower likelihood of having elevated total cholesterol levels than patients from countries falling in the lower two-thirds, " said Elizabeth A. Magnuson, Sc.D., lead author of the study and director of the Health Economics and Technology Assessment at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo.
Older patients taking a common cholesterol medication should be cautious of the impact on their kidney health. In a new study by Dr. Amit Garg, Scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), and colleagues, one in 10 new older fibrate users experienced a 50 per cent increase in their serum creatinine. Fibrates are a group of medications commonly used to treat high cholesterol. Recent evidence from clinical trials and case reports suggests fibrates can cause an increase to serum creatinine, an indicator of kidney health measured by a blood test, which indicates a loss of kidney health. After a number of similar experiences in their renal clinics, Dr. Garg and his colleagues felt these events merited further examination. In a large, "real practice" study, the team examined more than 20, 000 older Ontario residents with new prescriptions for fibrates.
A protein involved in cellular inflammation may increase the risk of plaque containing blood vessels associated with inflammatory gum disease, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology 2012 Scientific Sessions in Chicago. The protein, CD36, is found in blood cells, as well as many other cell types. Research has shown that CD36 may increase the harmful effects of "bad cholesterol, " or low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Investigators "knocked out, " or deleted, the gene responsible for CD36 production, then induced plaque in blood vessels by feeding mice a high fat diet. Some animals were also infected with the bacteria associated with gum disease. More fatty plaque accumulation occurred in the blood vessels of the animals that were infected with gum disease.
A Simon Fraser University researcher is among four scientists who argue that cholesterol may slow or stop cancer cell growth. They describe how cholesterol-binding proteins called ORPs may control cell growth in A Detour for Yeast Oxysterol Binding Proteins, a paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The scientists came to their conclusion while trying to understand how cholesterol moves around inside cells in the fat's journey to cell surfaces where it reinforces their outer membrane. "The assumption was that ORPs bind and transport cholesterol inside cells in a similar fashion to how lipoproteins bind and move around the fat outside cells through the blood stream, " explains Chris Beh. The SFU associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry co-authored this paper.