Testosterone Lowers Male Heart Disease Risk

In the last couple of years, studies looking at the correlation between testosterone levels and heart disease in men have yielded mixed results.  However, if you look more closely at the data, most of the reports showing negative associations with testosterone failed to factor in other independent risk factors that can lead to heart disease.  The negative studies also used inaccurate laboratory methods and reference ranges to reach their conclusions, inflating the risks of testosterone.

A late 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) demonstrated that men who had the highest levels of testosterone had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events.  Men with increasing levels of testosterone also had a decreased prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and body fat mass.  One of the main reasons for testosterone’s beneficial effect on heart disease is it’s ability to boost HDL levels, and allow the liver to metabolize excess cholesterol more efficiently.  Testosterone also helps to dilate blood vessels and strengthen the muscles of the heart, further lowering the risk of hypertension, heart attacks, and heart failure.

So, with the link between testosterone and cardiovascular risk becoming more clear, why isn’t testosterone being tested routinely in men over the age of 50?  One of the main arguments has been the concern about inducing prostate cancer in men who are using supplemental testosterone.  However, contrary to popular belief, this fear has no basis.  In fact, in his book Testosterone For Life, Dr. Abraham Morgentaler demonstrated that men with low testosterone levels have an increased percentage of prostate cancer-positive biopsies.

Another factor interfering with more routine testing of testosterone levels is the belief that statin drugs are a cure-all for heart disease.  By only lowering cholesterol and ignoring the benefits of testosterone, as well as ignoring the effects of estrogen, insulin, and other hormones, it’s no wonder that heart attacks and strokes continue to be the leading causes of death in this country!  The fact is, if you’re a male over the age of 50, or you already have a history of heart disease, your doctor is doing you a gross disservice by not including testosterone as part of a routine screening for cardiovascular disease risk.

If you have low testosterone levels, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to supplement with testosterone injections or cream.  Your doctor should also look at other hormone levels to determine whether low testosterone levels are related to weight gain, insulin resistance, or lack of exercise, vs. a true deficiency.  Then, the appropriate underlying cause can be addressed, rather than just assuming that supplemental testosterone will correct everything.  Just as cholesterol is an important underlying clue when it comes to heart disease, looking at testosterone can be just as valuable, but we should never assume that one treatment is the answer for everything!

Don’t Skip Your Breakfast!

Prior research suggests that breakfast eaters may be healthier than people who skip breakfast, and now a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a nutritious breakfast may be especially good for your heart. Specifically, the recent study shows that regular breakfast eaters may reduce risk factors linked to heart disease.

Breakfast eaters reduce heart disease risk factors

While prior research has shown that skipping breakfast may lower a person’s energy level and increase the risk of weight gain, less is known about the effects of skipping breakfast on other body organs and functions.

In this study, 2,184 participants, 9 to 15 years old, initially filled out a questionnaire about diet and physical activity and stated whether they usually ate breakfast before school or not. Twenty years later, one third of the original participants filled out a meal frequency questionnaire, had their waist size measured, and had blood levels of triglycerides, total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and fasting insulin (insulin levels after no food has been eaten overnight) checked. Participants were then classified into four groups:

• skipped breakfast in neither childhood nor adulthood,

• skipped breakfast only in childhood,

• skipped breakfast only in adulthood, or

• skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood.

Results showed that people who skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood had a larger waist size and total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared with people who ate breakfast in both childhood and adulthood. They also had higher fasting insulin levels, which indicates they have insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

Breakfast skippers also tended to be single, have a lower education level, and were more likely to smoke, watch TV, get less physical activity, and have a less healthy diet compared with breakfast eaters.

The authors comment, “Skipping breakfast was associated with a larger waist circumference, cardiometabolic risk factors, poorer diet quality, and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.” They add that promoting the benefits of eating breakfast may be an important public health message.

M
ore reasons to be a breakfast eater

There are many good reasons to eat breakfast, and prior research has shown that compared with breakfast skippers, breakfast eaters tend to have:

Better habits. People who eat breakfast tend to have healthier diets and get more physical activity.

A more nutritious diet. Breakfast eaters tend to eat less daily fat and cholesterol and more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

A healthier weight. Some studies suggest that breakfast eaters have a lower weight compared with breakfast skippers.

Artificial Sweeteners=Real Trouble

Most of my patients know that I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners, but people often have      a hard time cutting them out of their diet. Hopefully this evidence (excerpted from   mercola.com) will be enough of a motivator!

Why Artificial Sweeteners Can be Detrimental to Your Waistline

The belief that eating artificially sweetened foods and drinking artificially sweetened beverages will help you to lose weight is a carefully orchestrated deception. So if you are still opting for sugar-free choices for this reason, you are being sorely misled.

For years now studies have shown that consuming artificial sweeteners breaks the connection between a sweet sensation and a high-calorie food, thereby changing your body’s ability to regulate intake naturally.

In one study by psychologists at Purdue University’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center, rats that ate yogurt sweetened with an artificial sweetener consumed more calories (and didn’t make up for it by cutting back later), gained more weight, and put on more body fat than rats that ate yogurt sweetened with sugar.

Other studies, too, have shown that eating artificial sweeteners might hinder your body’s ability to estimate calorie intake, thus boosting your inclination to overindulge. Your body and your brain simply do not have the same biological response to artificial sweeteners that they do to regular sugar, and this can pose some serious problems.

Your Brain Can Tell the Difference

You may have convinced yourself that your favorite artificial sweetener tastes the same as sugar, but rest assured your brain is not being fooled.

In one brain-scan study by neuroscientist Paul Smeets, volunteers were given two version of a beverage, one sweetened with sugar, the other with a blend of artificial sweeteners. The brain scans showed that the artificially sweetened beverage failed to activate an area of the brain called the caudate nucleus, which is an area associated with rewards.

A separate study by psychiatrist Guido Frank at the University of Colorado in Denver also looked into your brain’s response to sugar versus artificial sweeteners. Women given a taste of the two said they could not consciously determine a difference. However, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of their brain responses showed differences indeed.

As in the previously mentioned study, the sugar activated the reward areas of your brain more strongly than the artificial sweetener, suggesting that the latter may not make you feel satisfied the way sugar would.

This is not an endorsement to indulge in sugar; rather it’s a major clue that your body is not being fooled by artificial sweeteners.

Blueberries and Insulin

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition (August 19, 2010) showed that subjects who consumed blueberries twice/day for 6 weeks had an improvement in insulin sensitivity. The participants were all obese and insulin-resistant, but not diabetic.

Blueberries have long been considered a “super-food” because of their high antioxidant and fiber content, and are often recommended for diabetic or insulin-resistant patients due to their negligible affect on blood sugar (as opposed to other fruits). However, the fact that they are now proven to actually reverse insulin-resistance makes it even more important for doctors to emphasize that all patients who are pre-diabetic and/or obese consume blueberries on a daily basis.