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Friday, January 2, 2009

What are Omega-3 Eggs ?

[Extracted from WiseGEEK]

Omega-3 eggs are eggs that are produced by hens fed a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to take into the body since the body doesn't produce them. They are thought to be crucial for overall good health and are said to help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to lessen the risk of blood clots that could dangerously block arteries that connect to the heart.

Omega-3 eggs have three to six times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids than regular eggs. Yet, a serving of two Omega-3 enriched eggs still has less than half of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in a 3 ounce (85 g) portion of salmon. However, many people don't care for fish, or choose not to eat it, so by eating Omega-3 eggs, they do get some Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Also, some people are allergic to fish and fish oils and cannot get Omega-3 fatty acids into their bodies by ingesting these foods. Some liquid Omega-3 egg products do contain fish oil to increase the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in the product.

The type of Omega-3 fatty acid found in omega-3 eggs is Alpha Linolenic Acid. Alpha Linolenic Acid is found in flax seeds and it ends up in the egg yolks. You cannot get the benefits of Omega-3 eggs unless you eat the egg yolks. Nuts and some oils such as Canola, Soybean and Olive also contain Alpha Linolenic Acid. Eicosapentaenoic Acid is the type of Omega-3 fatty Acid found in fish.

Omega-3 eggs have become a popular product. This type of egg has greatly revived the egg industry since egg consumption became much lower after the American Heart Association (AMA) had found that eggs were high in cholesterol. Since Omega-3 eggs are designed to help lower cholesterol, it gave a healthier new option for egg lovers.

What is Trans Fat ?

[Extracted from MayoClinic.Com]

Trans fat raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Find out more about trans fat and how to avoid it.

When it comes to fat, trans fat is considered by some doctors to be the worst of them all because of its double-barreled impact on your cholesterol levels. Unlike other fats, trans fat — also called trans fatty acids — both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol.

A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level significantly increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women. Learn more about trans fat and how to avoid it.

What is trans fat ?
Trans fat comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are more solid than oil, making them less likely to spoil. Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel.

Initially, trans fats were thought to be a healthy alternative to animal fats because they're unsaturated and come primarily from plant oils. However, in 1990 scientists made a startling discovery: Trans fats appeared to both increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol. More studies over the years confirmed this.

Trans fat in your food
Commercial baked goods — such as crackers, cookies and cakes — and many fried foods such as doughnuts and french fries — contain trans fats. Shortenings and some margarines also are high in trans fat.

Trans fat used to be more common, but in recent years food manufacturers have used it less. Since January 2006, manufacturers in the United States have been required to list trans fat content on nutrition labels. Manufacturers in other countries have taken similar steps. As a result, some companies have changed their manufacturing process to use little or no trans fat.

In the United States, the labeling requirement has a caveat. Trans fat that amounts to less than 0.5 grams per serving can be listed as 0 grams trans fat on the food label. Though that's a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could exceed recommended limits.

Reading food labels
How do you know whether food contains trans fat? Look for the words "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil. That's another term for trans fat. The word "shortening" is also a clue: Shortening contains some trans fat.

It sounds counterintuitive, but "fully" hydrogenated oil doesn't contain trans fat. Unlike partially hydrogenated oil, the process used to make fully hydrogenated oil doesn't result in trans fatty acids. However, if the label says just "hydrogenated" vegetable oil, that usually means the oil contains trans fat.

Although small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, it's the trans fats in processed foods that seem to be more harmful.

Trans fat and cholesterol
Doctors worry about trans fat because of its unhealthy effect on your cholesterol levels — increasing your LDL and decreasing your HDL cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol :

* Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or "bad," cholesterol transports cholesterol throughout your body. LDL cholesterol, when elevated, builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
* High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or "good," cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

A high LDL cholesterol level is a major risk factor for heart disease. If your LDL is too high, over time, it can cause atherosclerosis, a dangerous accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of your arteries. These deposits — called plaques — can reduce blood flow through your arteries. If the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries) are affected, you may have chest pain and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.

If plaques tear or rupture, a blood clot may form — blocking the flow of blood or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream. If blood flow to part of your heart stops, you'll have a heart attack. If blood flow to part of your brain stops, a stroke occurs.

Cholesterol levels are expressed as milligrams per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL :

LDL targets
160 mg/dL is considered a high LDL.
130 mg/dL and lower is a good target for most healthy people.
100 mg/dL is the target if you have other risk factors for heart disease.
70 mg/dL is the target if you already have heart disease.

HDL targets
With HDL cholesterol, higher is better. HDL helps remove excess cholesterol from your body. Higher levels of HDL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

40 to 50 mg/dL is normal for healthy men.
50 to 60 mg/dL is normal for healthy women.
40 mg/dL and lower for men or women is considered risky, and the lower the value, the greater the risk.

Other effects of trans fat
Doctors are most concerned about the effect of trans fat on cholesterol. However, trans fat has also been shown to have some other harmful effects:

* Increases triglycerides. Triglycerides are another type of fat found in your blood. A high triglyceride level may contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) or thickening of the artery walls — which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

* Increases Lp(a) lipoprotein. Lp(a) is a type of LDL cholesterol found in varying levels in your blood, depending on your genetic makeup. It's unclear how high levels of Lp(a) — independent of other cholesterol levels — increases your risk of heart disease. More research is needed.

* Causes more inflammation. Trans fat may increase inflammation, which is a process by which your body responds to injury. It's thought that inflammation plays a key role in the formation of fatty blockages in heart blood vessels. Trans fat appears to damage the cells lining blood vessels, leading to inflammation.

Avoiding trans fat
The good news is trans fat is showing up less in food, especially food on grocery store shelves. If you eat out a lot, however, be aware that many restaurants continue to use trans fat. Trans fat is often a part of the oil restaurants use to fry food. A large serving of french fries at some restaurants can contain 5 grams or more of trans fat.

Some restaurants put nutritional information on their menus, but most aren't required to list trans fat content. But, things may be changing. New York City recently banned trans fat from being used in restaurants.

How much trans fat you can consume without any negative impact on your cholesterol level is debatable. However, there's no question you should limit trans fat, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the American Heart Association (AHA).

In the United States, food nutrition labels don't list a Percent Daily Value for trans fat because it's unknown what an appropriate level of trans fat is, other than it should be low. The AHA recommends that no more than 1 percent of your total daily calories be trans fat. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, that works out to 2 grams of trans fat or less.

What should you eat ?
Don't think a trans fat-free food is automatically good for you. Food manufacturers have begun substituting other ingredients for trans fat. However, some of these ingredients, such as tropical oils — coconut, palm kernel and palm oils — contain a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol. A healthy diet includes some fat, but there's a limit.

In a heart-healthy diet, 30 percent or less of your total daily calories can come from fat — but saturated fat should account for less than 7 percent of your total daily calories. Monounsaturated fat — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — is a healthier option. Nuts, fish and other foods containing unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are other good choices.

Gout (Podagra, or Uric Acid)

[Extracted from]
Reviewed by Dr Badal Pal, Consultant Rheumatologist

What is gout ?

Gout, otherwise known as podagra or uric acid arthropathy is a rheumatic complaint, that usually attacks a single joint at a time. The disease has a preference for the big toe of middle-aged men - it swells, turns red and becomes sore. The soreness is such that just walking through a room can cause severe pain. It is more common in men than women by a factor of 10 to 1.

What is the cause of gout ?

The disease is caused by the deposition of sodium urate (uric acid) crystals in the joints. Uric acid is a by-product of the body's metabolism. Normally the uric acid is removed when urinating, but among patients with a predisposition for gout, the uric acid accumulates in the blood. Among some of these patients, the concentration in the blood is so high that the uric acid 'overflows' and settles in the joints and possibly in the skin.

How do you get gout ?
The are two kinds of gout :

1) Primary hyperuricaemia and gout
Hyperuricaemia means an increased level of uric acid in the blood. It is usually caused by an hereditary abnormality in the system that changes the nucleic acid into uric acid. In this case the body is incapable of excreting uric acid fast enough even during normal circumstances.

2) Secondary hyperuricaemia and gout
Is caused by another disease or because of consumption of certain medicines (eg diuretic preparations, which increase the output of urine, and acetylsalicylic acid derivatives including aspirin). In these cases, the problem is that the body produces such large quantities of uric acid that the kidneys cannot keep up.

What are the signs of gout ?

Prior to the onset of symptoms of gout, there is usually a latent period of several years in which the concentration of uric acid in the blood has gradually increased. This condition is called asymptomatic hyperuricaemia.

Some 95 per cent of the people with this condition never develop gout.

The first gout attack is often at night. Typically, the afflicted person wakes up in the middle of the night with extreme pain near the joint of the big toe (if the pain is in the knee it is called gonagra). The joint is swollen and may turn a shining purple. Even the smallest stimuli produce severe pain, for instance a blanket on the toe. The first attack usually subsides after about a week. About 10 per cent of the victims will never again experience gout whereas others will experience more frequent and longer lasting attacks if they are not treated. If it is not treated, repeated cases of gout over several years can produce permanent damage in the joint.

If no preventive treatment is undertaken, over time, sodium urate will collect under the skin. In this case the crystals are seen as small bumps near the joints or on the outer side of the ear called tophi. Occasionally they rupture or ooze out yellowish chalky materials.

Who is at most risk ?
Gout attacks are brought on by several factors including :

* overconsumption of alcohol, especially beer.

* some foods with a high content of protein and purines, such as liver, kidneys, sardines, and anchovies.

* being overweight.

* haemorrhages in the gastrointestinal canal.

* bodily trauma with extensive tissue destruction.

* major surgery.

* conditions in which there is a high rate of cell turnover, eg leukaemia, lymphoma, psoriasis.

Good advice

* Cut down on alcohol consumption.

* Avoid food that you know can cause attacks.

* Watch your weight.

The uric acid crystals can be secreted in the urinary system as calculi (stones). Therefore you have to drink plenty of water, preferably 10 to 12 glasses a day, in order to wash out the urinary system and prevent any stones from developing.

How does the doctor diagnose gout ?

The diagnosis is usually made from the way the patient presents the symptoms, plus the clinical picture.

In order to rule out other rheumatic complaints, the doctor will usually take a blood sample to measure the concentration of uric acid. He may also undertake an X-ray examination and an examination of the synovial fluid (found within joints), where uric crystals will be visible by using special equipment.

Future prospects

About 60 per cent of the people who experience a gout attack will have a similar or more severe attack within the next year.

The disease can become complicated with calculi (stones) in the urinary system.

With modern treatment it has become much easier to relieve gout.

How is gout treated ?
Treatment is concentrated on three areas :

a) during the actual attack the most important thing is to soothe the pain with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ordinary analgesics like paracetamol will not relieve the pain, and aspirin must not be used). Colchicine is used to relieve the pain in people who cannot take NSAIDs.

b) once the attack has passed, you are offered preventive treatment, usually with allopurinol, which will reduce the level of uric acid in the blood. The preventive treatment can - if it is used during an active attack of gout - actually aggravate an attack, because it causes a large quantity of uric acid to be released at the same time.

c) finally it is important to change your lifestyle, as described above.

The goals of the treatment are to remove the pain and the swelling, prevent further episodes, prevent and treat tophi and to stop the production of stones in the urinary system.

[Based on a text by Dr Flemming Andersen]