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Diet, Habits or Genetics

Most heart conditions can be linked to the lifestyle choices people make. There also appears to be genetic predispositions toward CVD. However, it is debatable how many purported genetic factors are actually due to lifestyle and dietary habits passed down through families5,6. Poor choices passed down through families include smoking and second-hand smoking; high meat and saturated fat diets; sedentary behavior; heightened stress; and drug/alcohol consumption. While the goal of preventive therapy is to reduce these behaviors, a range of nutraceutical strategies are increasingly being confirmed by research to stimulate a reversing of their effects.

It has become clear that diets high in saturated fats and fried foods tend to reduce vasodilation and LDL particle size, and increase oxidized LDL, which may lead to increases in triacylglycerol-rich lipoproteins. Foods high in saturated fats include animal meats, eggs and butter7,8. But dairy foods can also supply various vascular benefits9. Some dairy groups such as milk, cheese and yogurt, especially skim versions, contain less saturated fat. A 2002 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 51 healthy adults showed that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from dairy showed significant improvement in VLDL-cholesterol and triacylglycerol-rich lipoprotein levels10.

Another natural extract from dairy has blood pressure reduction benefits. This is the lacto tripeptide sequence isoleucine-proline-proline (or IPP). Derived from cultured milk and aged cheeses, this tripeptide sequence is extracted using enzymatic hydrolysis. DSM Nutritional Products, Parsippany, NJ, has perfected the extraction process, resulting in a product called TensGuard. “DSM’s TensGuard is the highest potency lacto tripeptide commercially available to help maintain healthy blood pressure,” said Peter Willis, DSM’s senior marketing manager.

Coconut oil, historically considered a harmful saturated fat, contains medium chain fatty acids. More recently, medium chain fatty acids have been shown in human studies to lower lipoprotein-A concentrations in the blood, in addition to having fibrinolytic (plaque and clot reduction) effects11. In recent years, research on trans-fat consumption has concluded that oils having undergone commercial refining, hydrogenation or partial-hydrogenation, or lengthy frying, may contain high levels of trans-fats. These trans-fatty acids lead to oxidation of LDL, inflammation and subsequent plaque build-up12,13,14.