Keeping our hearts heathy has never been so important, with cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death around the world. This week’s Nutrition News looks at the latest findings that might help us further understand how to keep our hearts healthy.

Find out more here.

Avocados could support heart health

Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide, as a result, research into heart health and nutritional support is ongoing in abundance. A recent study, reported by Medical News Today has suggested that eating one or more avocados per week is associated with 16% fewer cardiovascular events over a 30-year period.

It is recommended that we substitute saturated fatty acid (SFA) and trans-fats intake with monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats for better heart health. As avocados are rich in MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats, this study further supports this focus on so-called “good fats” for better health. Speaking of the findings, cardiologist, Bhanu Gupta, MD, who was not associated with the study said, “The […] results are significant and strengthen previous findings of avocados’ association with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease [as well as] reducing heart outcomes such as fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction”.

While avocados are a nutrient dense food, it is worth noting that those who consumed a diet higher in avocados also consumed more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, and dairy products, so were leading a healthier diet generally. It is also important to note that while there was a positive association between avocado intake and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, there was an increased risk of stroke when replacing plant oils with avocado.

Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin E is an important fat-soluble vitamin that contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress, amongst other processes within the body. Being deficient in vitamin E can result in a number of issues. This Insider article highlights some of the symptoms of vitamin E deficiency to help us keep track of our levels.

One side effect of the oxidative stress associated with vitamin E deficiency is weakened muscles. It can also lead to reduced coordination as a result of Purkinje neurons breaking down in the brain, likewise, vision and eye health can be affected as a lack of vitamin E can result in weakened light receptors in the retina. It is also thought to weaken the immune system as vitamin E supports the growth of T cells, which help ward off infections. In some more rare cases, vitamin E deficiency can manifest itself as numbness and tingling through peripheral neuropathy, which happens because a lack of vitamin E can damage nerve fibres, preventing them from transmitting signals correctly.

Thankfully, as a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that the body can store it, vitamin E deficiency is not common but certain conditions can cause issues in absorbing fat and therefore vitamin E. Such conditions include Cystic Fibrosis and Crohn’s Disease.

If vitamin E deficiency is suspected, it is important to see a healthcare practitioner who can assess your levels and recommend an appropriate course of action.

Healthy plant-based diets associated with lower diabetes risk

Researchers from the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA have found that plant-based diets could specifically lessen the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The research, which was discussed by Science Daily, involved an analysis of the blood plasma samples of over 10,000 participants. The participants were asked to complete food frequency questionnaires and then were separated into three plant-based groups based on their answers, an overall Plant-based Diet Index (PDI), a healthy Plant-based Diet Index (hPDI), and an Unhealthy Plant-Based Diet Index (uPDI).

The researchers were able to find an association between the participants who followed an unhealthy plant-based diet and the likelihood of them developing type 2 diabetes when compared to other participants in the study.

Speaking of the findings, the study’s authors said, “Our findings support the beneficial role of healthy plant-based diets in diabetes prevention and provide new insights for future investigation…our findings regarding the intermediate metabolites are at the moment intriguing but further studies are needed to confirm their causal role in the associations of plant-based diets and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.