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Supplement Perspectives

Reevaluating the Building Blocks of Cardiovascular Health (Part I)

As the invincibility of youth gives way to the reality of aging, one key issue on the mind of any man or woman entering their middle aged years is cardiovascular health. Everyone understands the importance of eating nutritious foods. This impacts your weight, your energy level and, ultimately, your cardiovascular health. However, in this day and age of processed foods, what are we REALLY putting into our bodies?

According to WebMD.com, Americans spend $20 billion dollars annually on herbs and supplements. And heart health supplements top the list. They range from fish oil to flaxseed oil to artichoke to garlic extracts. Is there any evidence that these really work? Can they really lower LDL cholesterol or triglycerides – or raise HDL cholesterol? Which supplements should you consider taking for heart health?

Well, in a nutshell, certain supplements really do promote cardiovascular health – and have been clinically validated. There are several great supplements for heart health.

My three favorites are:

CoQ10 (Ubiquinol): CoQ10 is one of those encompassing dietary supplements with both general health benefits (e.g., anti-aging, antioxidant) as well as specific health applications (e.g., cardiovascular, diabetes, etc). It is a fundamental component in energy production, immune response and protection against damage by free radicals. 

CoQ10 is part of the mitochondrial electron transport system and is synthesized in all cells. It is essential to the body’s production of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This holds special importance for the heart, which is loaded with mitochondria and has the body’s highest concentration of CoQ10 because of the significant demands made upon it.

However, aging reduces access to CoQ10.  Although it can be obtained from the diet (mainly from fatty fish, organ meats, and whole grains) as well as synthesized in small amounts, both of these routes decline with age. The body’s declining capacity to extract and assimilate CoQ10 in later years plays a role in the development of various cardiovascular conditions.

“Ubiquinol” is the reduced form of CoQ10 and the most highly absorbed. It is directly used in human metabolism as a lipid-soluble antioxidant. While standard CoQ10 (ubiquinone) supplements can be converted into ubiquinol in the body, this conversion can be less efficient in some individuals, based on age, genetics, blood sugar status or level of oxidative stress.

“Co-Q10 supplementation is especially essential for those who are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) since statins interfere with the biosynthesis of CoQ10,” says Dr. Paz Eilat, M.D., an internist based in Torrance, CA. “CoQ10 has an extremely low bioavailability in the body. It is important to obtain CoQ10 products that are made with the biologically active ubiquinol form and/or products with a refined delivery system(s) to enhance bioavailability.”

Fish Oil: The mainstream media has been reporting on the benefits of fish oil for years. Studies have shown that the Omega3s found in fish oil helps prevent and fight heart disease, as well as cancer, depression, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, ulcers, diabetes, hyperactivity and other diseases. Omega-3s can be found in flaxseed, walnuts, and a few other foods. However, the most beneficial form of Omega-3, containing two fatty acids – EPA and DHA – can be found only in fish. Be aware to take fish oil products from companies that follow strict procedures to eliminate environmental contaminants to assure the highest purity of its fish oil supplements.

Green Tea: Green tea contains polyphenols as bioflavoid and catechin compounds. Among those catechins, about half are EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). EGCG have very strong antioxidant properties, which are about 200 times more potent than Vitamin E. Studies indicate that green tea impacts cardiovascular health, including lowering total serum cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL, as well as increasing HDL.

Check in Friday for Part 2: “Frequently Used Supplements Bad for the Heart?” 

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