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Roundup: Multivitamins & Heart Health; Best Time to Exercise; and Weight Lifting Fights ‘Heart Fat’

Many Supplements Not Beneficial for Heart Health, Review of Studies Says

An analysis by different collaborating institutions — including the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, West Virginia University and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota — indicates that popular supplements, including multivitamins, may not be beneficial to heart health.

The researchers found that taking multivitamins, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, folic acid, and iron did not significantly protect against cardiovascular health issues and early death. Many of these over-the-counter products are marketed as heart healthy. And more than half of U.S. adults report using dietary supplements.

In some cases, taking a combination or too many of these supplements could be harmful. For example, they found that people who took calcium and vitamin D supplements together could have a higher risk of experiencing a stroke. On the positive side, researchers found that that omega-3 fatty acids — commonly found in fish oil — reduced the risk of heart attacks and coronary heart disease. And folic acid also reduced the risk of stroke.

Primary care physicians and dietitians increasingly are cautioning patients not to rely on supplements, unless they are recommended or prescribed to them by a doctor. The nutrients marketed in many supplements are found naturally in a well-rounded, healthy diet.

The new research, published in Annals of Internal Medicine [1], looked at data from 277 randomized controlled trials that had involved almost 1 million participants overall. But the authors said there are limitations to their findings. They admitted “these findings are limited by suboptimal quality of the evidence.”

They conceded that because of the different methodologies used for the different studies, they “could not analyze interventions according to important subgroups, such as sex, body mass index [BMI], lipid values, blood pressure thresholds, diabetes, and history of [cardiovascular disease].”

Researchers also looked at dietery habits and found that eating less salt may reduce the risk of premature death in people with a normal blood pressure, although only with moderate certainty. In people with high blood pressure, however, low-salt diets reduced the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems — even though the diet had no significant effect on deaths overall.

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Best Time to Exercise Could Be in Morning, But Consistency at Any Time is Key

If you’re a morning person when it comes to exercise regularly, you may be more fit than those who hit the gym or go for a jog later in the day, a new study indicates.

But the researchers from Brown Alpert Medical School who conducted the study, published in the Obesity journal [5], stress that consistent exercise — at any time of day — was linked with higher physical activity levels.

Nonetheless, their aim was to determine the time of day to workout for the ideal weight loss. They questioned 375 adults who have maintained weight loss and who engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on a regular basis. They asked the participants to report the time of day they exercised and how frequently. The researchers found morning was the most common time mentioned.

Most signficiantly, researchers found that people who exercise consistently at the same time — whether it’s in the morning, afternoon or evening, see the best weight loss results and are more likely to stay physically fit.

“Future research is needed to clarify how the timing of physical activity relates to or may causally influence physical activity adoption versus maintenance,” the study concludes.

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Weight-Lifting may be Better for ‘Heart Fat’ Than Aerobic Exercise

Researchers found that a certain type of heart fat, pericardial adipose tissue, improved more in patients who performed regular weight lifting, compared to those who worked on increasing their endurance through aerobics.

The report published in JAMA Cardiology [9] also found that both forms of exercise, weights and cardio, resulted in the reduction of a second type of heart fat, epicardial adipose tissue, which has also been linked with heart disease.

Nonetheless, weighted exercises, such as lunges with dumbbells or body-weight push-ups, made the biggest impact by reducing more heart fat.

The weight-resistance training in the study was designed as a 45-minute interval — or “medium load, high-repetition, time-based training,” the study’s lead author, Regitse Hojgaard Christensen, M.D., a researcher at the Center for Physical Activity Research at the Copenhagen University Hospital, told Reuters.

Christensen and her fellow researchers recruited 32 adults who did not exercise regularly and were obese. However, the participants did not yet have heart disease, diabetes, or atrial fibrillation. The participants were divided into three groups over a three-month period. One group performed only aerobic exercise; another only weight training and the third group remained sedentary (the control group). Each person had an MRI scan of the heart done at the beginning of the study and at the end.

The study’s authors concluded that adding weight training to a regular cardio workout is the ideal way to avoid heart disease and associated risk factors. The weight-resistence program does not have to be elaborate, researcher said. It could include lifting dumbells, some lunges, sit-ups or pushups.

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