Will Coffee Raise Your Cholesterol?

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

People who rely on coffee for a pick-me-up may also see a boost in their cholesterol levels — especially if they sip an unfiltered variety, a new study suggests.

The researchers found that among more than 21,000 Norwegian adults, those who indulged in several cups of coffee a day generally had slightly higher cholesterol than non-drinkers. The extent of the difference, however, depended on brewing method.

People who drank the “least filtered” kinds of coffee — made with a French press, for example — showed the largest cholesterol effects: On average, those who drank six or more cups a day had total cholesterol levels that were eight to 12 points higher, versus non-drinkers.

Espresso lovers were next, followed by women who drank filtered drip coffee (with no cholesterol effects seen among their male counterparts).

The findings are in line with past studies suggesting that unfiltered coffee might have a particular effect on cholesterol levels, according to researcher Dr. Maja-Lisa Løchen.

Unfiltered brews include coffees that are boiled or made using a French press or “plunger.” Espresso also falls into that category, but it is relatively more filtered than the other varieties, said Løchen, a professor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

Brewing methods matter because coffee contains natural oils that can raise blood cholesterol. Researchers have long known that unfiltered coffees, by exposing the grounds to hot water for a prolonged time, contain more of those oils.

In fact, Løchen said, it was the Tromsø Study from Norway that first showed, in the 1980s, that “it’s all in the brewing.”

In those days, she noted, boiled coffee was the unfiltered variety of choice. But now espresso and plunger coffees are all the rage, so Løchen and her colleagues used more recent data from the Tromsø Study to look at the relationship between those brews and blood cholesterol.

“Norwegians love coffee,” Løchen said, “and Norway has the second highest coffee consumption in the world.”

The findings, published online in the journal Open Heart, are based on more than 21,000 adults aged 40 and up who reported on their coffee drinking habits, exercise levels and alcohol intake.

On average, study participants drank four to five cups of coffee a day. Those who indulged in boiled or French press coffee — six or more cups a day — showed the biggest cholesterol elevations, relative to non-drinkers, the findings showed.

Next came people who said they downed three to five cups of espresso a day. Their total cholesterol was roughly 4 to 6 mg/dL higher, versus people who did not drink espresso. Finally, women who drank at least six cups of filtered coffee each day had cholesterol levels that were 4 mg/dL higher, on average, versus women who never drank filtered coffee.

However, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the study had some caveats.

For one thing, there was no information on participants’ overall diet, said Connie Diekman, a food and nutrition consultant and former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Nor is it clear whether people regularly doused their coffee of choice with sugar and cream, Diekman pointed out.

So, she said, the question remains, was it the coffee, the cream or the foods people consumed with all those cups of coffee?

“Coffee, in and of itself, is likely a very small player in elevating cholesterol,” Diekman said. “So rather than worry about how coffee might be impacting cholesterol, look at your whole diet and establish other healthful life behaviors.”

Løchen also pointed to the bigger picture, noting that moderate coffee intake (up to five cups a day) has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and a longer life.

Angel Planells is a Seattle-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. He said that filtered or instant coffees might be the best choices for people watching their cholesterol. But again, overall diet and lifestyle are key.

If you really enjoy that latte or mocha, Planells said, there may be other ways to trim some “bad” fat from your diet — like cutting down on processed meat or fried foods.

That said, some people should be especially mindful about the caffeine in coffee, Planells said — including pregnant women and anyone with potential caffeine side effects, like trouble sleeping or the “jitters.”

Source: HealthDay

‘Good’ Cholesterol in Brain May Help Keep Alzheimer’s at Bay

Higher levels of “good” cholesterol in the fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord may help protect you from Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

“This study represents the first time that small HDL particles in the brain have been counted,” said study co-author Dr. Hussein Yassine. He is an associate professor of medicine and neurology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

For the study, Yassine and his colleagues analyzed concentrations of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) — often referred to as “good cholesterol” — in the cerebrospinal fluid of 180 healthy volunteers with an average age of nearly 77.

The study linked a higher number of small HDL particles in cerebrospinal fluid with two key indicators that they might protect against Alzheimer’s.

One indicator is better performance on tests of memory and thinking (or “cognitive”) skills. Of 141 participants who completed a series of these cognitive tests, those with higher levels of small HDL particles in their cerebrospinal fluid had better scores. And that was independent of age, sex, education or whether they carried the APOE4 gene, which boosts Alzheimer’s risk.

The link was even stronger among those who had no cognitive impairment, the findings showed.

The other indicator of a protective effect is that people with higher levels of small HDL particles also had higher levels of a peptide called amyloid beta 42 in their cerebrospinal fluid.

Even though the peptide contributes to Alzheimer’s disease when it misfolds and clumps onto neurons, a higher level of it circulating around the brain and spine has been linked to a lower risk for the disease, according to the report published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The results suggest that small HDL particles may point the way to treatments for early Alzheimer’s, long before mental decline occurs.

“They may be involved with the clearance and excretion of the peptides that form the amyloid plaques we see in Alzheimer’s disease, so we speculate that there could be a role for these small HDL particles in prevention,” Yassine said in a university news release.

Before the onset of mental impairment, these oils — or small HDL particles — are lubricating the system and keeping it healthy, he explained.

“You’ve got a time to intervene with exercise, drugs or whatever else to keep brain cells healthy,” Yassine said. “We still need to understand the mechanisms that promote the production of these particles, in order to make drugs that increase small HDL in the brain.”

Source: HealthDay

Blood Sugar, Cholesterol Issues in 30s Could Raise Alzheimer’s Risk

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Your 30s can be a magical time filled with career strides, vacations you can actually afford, love, marriage and even a growing family of your own.

It’s likely not the decade where you begin to fret about your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future. But maybe it should be.

This is the main takeaway from new research based on data from the multi-generational Framingham Heart Study.

Investigators found that folks who developed Alzheimer’s disease later in life were more likely to have had lower levels of high density (HDL) or “good” cholesterol and higher levels of dangerous blood fats called triglycerides as early as age 35 compared with folks who didn’t go on to develop dementia.

“High cholesterol and blood sugar and diabetes and heart disease are pretty well-established as risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, but most of the research linking the conditions has been done in people who are much older,” said study author Lindsay Farrer, chief of biomedical genetics at Boston University School of Medicine.

It turns out these patterns are detectable much earlier in life. “This has never been observed before,” he said.

The findings suggest that folks should start taking control of their health and lifestyle sooner, Farrer said.

This means scheduling annual well visits in your 30s. During these visits, your doctor will check cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and the results could give you a head’s up that it’s time to start prioritizing your health.

“Making changes, including getting more exercise and eating a healthier diet, may help lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” Farrer said.

“We know that there are other risks for Alzheimer’s disease, particularly genetic factors, that you can’t modify, and this makes those that you can even more important,” he added.

The researchers looked at data on close to 5,000 people who underwent thorough exams about every four years for most of their lives, including during three specific age periods: 35-50, 51-60 and 61-70.

During these visits, researchers assessed cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure, smoking and body mass index (BMI). Participants were followed for 38 years, on average, to see who showed signs of cognitive, or mental, decline.

From ages 35 to 50, an increase of 15 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) in triglycerides led to a 33% increase in Alzheimer’s disease risk. Also, Alzheimer’s disease risk increased by about 15% with every 15 points that blood sugar went up from ages 51 to 60, the study showed.

On the flip side, a 15 mg/dL increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol) at age 35 may lower Alzheimer’s risk by about 15%. Folks ages 51 to 60 who raised their HDL reduced this risk by nearly 18%, the study showed.

The findings were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Outside experts agree that your 30s are a critical time period in taking control of your health.

“This data is really important,” said Mary Sano, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

It makes sense that low HDL, high triglycerides and high blood sugar would increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, Sano noted.

“They affect vasculature and blood flow and increase inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, all of which can influence the development of dementia,” she explained.

The message is clear: Treat your treatable conditions, Sano said. “In addition to lifestyle changes, we have safe medications to help improve cholesterol profiles and lower blood sugar, and in addition to improving heart health and lowering diabetes risk, they may also help stave off cognitive decline.”

Good heart health equals good brain health, agreed Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Maintaining your cholesterol and glucose in young adulthood keeps your body less at risk for cardiovascular disease,” she said. “As many of the changes related to Alzheimer’s begin in young adulthood, one can never be too early in preventing brain and heart disease.”

Source: Healthday

Could Cholesterol Help Drive Alzheimer’s Disease?

Cholesterol made in the brain may spur development of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

Cholesterol made by cells called astrocytes is needed for controlling production of amyloid beta, a sticky protein that builds up in the brain and accumulates into the plaques that are the tell-tale sign of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers say these new findings may offer insight into how and why plaques form and may help explain why genes tied with cholesterol have been linked to increased Alzheimer’s risk.

“This study helps us to understand why genes linked to cholesterol are so important to the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said study co-author Dr. Heather Ferris, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

“Our data point to the importance of focusing on the production of cholesterol in astrocytes and the transport to neurons as a way to reduce amyloid beta and prevent plaques from ever being formed,” she said in a university news release.

Researchers found that astrocytes contribute to Alzheimer’s progression by making cholesterol and sending it to neurons. This cholesterol buildup increases amyloid beta production and, in turn, fuels plaque accumulation, according to the authors.

They found that blocking cholesterol production decreases amyloid beta production in mice. It’s too soon to say if this could happen in people and prevent plaque formation, they said.

“If we can find strategies to prevent astrocytes from over-producing cholesterol, we might make a real impact on the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” Ferris said.

“Once people start having memory problems from Alzheimer’s disease, countless neurons have already died,” she added. “We hope that targeting cholesterol can prevent that death from ever occurring in the first place.”

Source: HealthDay

Eating Walnuts Daily Lowered Bad Cholesterol and May Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Eating about ½ cup of walnuts every day for two years modestly lowered levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” and reduced the number of total LDL particles and small LDL particles in healthy, older adults, according to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.

Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid), which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health.

“Prior studies have shown that nuts in general, and walnuts in particular, are associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke. One of the reasons is that they lower LDL-cholesterol levels, and now we have another reason: they improve the quality of LDL particles,” said study co-author Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Lipid Clinic at the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona in Spain. “LDL particles come in various sizes. Research has shown that small, dense LDL particles are more often associated with atherosclerosis, the plaque or fatty deposits that build up in the arteries. Our study goes beyond LDL cholesterol levels to get a complete picture of all of the lipoproteins and the impact of eating walnuts daily on their potential to improve cardiovascular risk.”

In a sub-study of the Walnuts and Healthy Aging study, a large, two-year randomized controlled trial examining whether walnuts contribute to healthy aging, researchers evaluated if regular walnut consumption, regardless of a person’s diet or where they live, has beneficial effects on lipoproteins.

This study was conducted from May 2012 to May 2016 and involved 708 participants between the ages of 63 and 79 (68% women) who were healthy, independent-living adults residing in Barcelona, Spain, and Loma Linda, California.

Participants were randomly divided into two groups: active intervention and control. Those allocated to the intervention group added about a half cup of walnuts to their usual daily diet, while participants in the control group abstained from eating any walnuts. After two years, participants’ cholesterol levels were tested, and the concentration and size of lipoproteins were analyzed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This advanced test enables physicians to more accurately identify lipoprotein features known to relate to the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The two-year study had a 90% retention rate (632 participants completed the study). Complete lipoprotein analyses were available in 628.

Among key findings of all study participants:

  • At 2 years, participants in the walnut group had lower LDL cholesterol levels – by an average of 4.3 mg/dL, and total cholesterol was lowered by an average of 8.5 mg/dL.
  • Daily consumption of walnuts reduced the number of total LDL particles by 4.3% and small LDL particles by 6.1%. These changes in LDL particle concentration and composition are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Intermediate Density Lipoprotein (IDL) cholesterol also decreased. It is known that IDL cholesterol is a precursor to LDL and refers to a density between that of low-density and very-low-density lipoproteins. In the last decade, IDL cholesterol has emerged as a relevant lipid cardiovascular risk factor independent of LDL cholesterol.
  • LDL cholesterol changes among the walnut group differed by sex; in men, LDL cholesterol fell by 7.9% and in women by 2.6%.

“While this is not a tremendous decrease in LDL cholesterol, it’s important to note that at the start of the study all our participants were quite healthy, free of major non-communicable diseases. However, as expected in an elderly population, close to 50% of participants were being treated for both high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia. Thanks in part to statin treatment in 32%, the average cholesterol levels of all the people in our study were normal,” Ros said. “For individuals with high blood cholesterol levels, the LDL cholesterol reduction after a nut-enriched diet may be much greater.”

“Eating a handful of walnuts every day is a simple way to promote cardiovascular health. Many people are worried about unwanted weight gain when they include nuts in their diet,” Ros said. “Our study found that the healthy fats in walnuts did not cause participants to gain weight.”

The major limitation of this investigation is that both participants and researchers knew who was and was not eating walnuts. However, the study did involve two very different populations with distinct diets. “The outcomes were similar in both groups, so we can safely apply the results of this study to other populations,” Ros said. More research is also needed to clarify the different LDL results in men and women.

According to the American Heart Association, walnuts are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, the same heart-healthy fat found in oily fish. A serving size is a small handful or 1.5 ounces of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.

Source: American Heart Association