Tag Archives: hypertension

The Scoop on Two Popular Weight Loss Supplements

Dr. Oz has really been promoting weight loss supplements on his show recently. His motivation seems to be a good one: if Americans shed some pounds it may have a big impact on our health as a nation since obesity can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, gallstones, and arthritis. Occasionally, it seems like Dr. Oz is exaggerating the usefulness of certain supplement, but two of his weight loss suggestions do seem worth taking a look at.

Green coffee bean extract is starting to gain a lot of anecdotal support for assisting weight loss, and has one small favorable study. The active component in green coffee is called chlorogenic acid, and while it is highest in green coffee beans, it is also found in other foods including apples, blueberries, and prunes. It is present in roasted coffee, but another compound produced when coffee is roasted partially inhibit the activity of chlorogenic acid. The initial small study done on green coffee bean extract showed that participants lost between 13 to 20 pounds over 12 weeks.  Another study demonstrated that green coffee bean extract slightly lowered blood pressure, whereas coffee tends to temporarily increase blood pressure because of its higher caffeine content.

Another popular weight loss supplement is African mango. In a study were participants took African mango or placebo 30 minutes before lunch and dinner, those on African mango reduced their calorie intake by 12% compared to those getting the placebo. This correlated to a 6% loss in body fat, while the placebo group only saw a 2% loss in body fat. African Mango is thought to mostly work as an appetite reducer by being a fiber source, but emerging evidence might indicate other fat burning mechanisms. Because of its fiber content, African mango is also gaining support for improving cholesterol and blood sugar. For both African mango and green coffee bean extract, larger follow-up studies are needed to confirm the initial finding, but in the meantime, these seem like safe options to try along with a weight loss program that includes improved diet and increased exercise.

Hawthorn Loves Your Heart

In our fast-paced culture, we often want fast acting health solutions, but these often don’t increase our vibrancy in the long haul. On the other hand, tonic herbs work slowly by nourishing particular organs and improving their function over time. When it comes to the heart, hawthorn places such a role. It has many different actions on the heart, and while none of them are particularly strong, these actions support each other in a synergist manner to improve the functioning of the heart with long-term use. First, it nourishes the heart. By improving the flow of blood through the coronary arteries that feed the heart, hawthorn improves the delivery of nutrient to the cardiac cells. Hawthorn also contains proanthocyanidins, red-pigmented compounds that help maintain a healthy heart and arteries, by enhancing the connective tissue structure of their linings. As a calming herb, hawthorn also nourishes the heart on an emotional level. Hawthorn is especially chosen for heart issues that are connected to heartbreak in any way.

In addition to these nourishing qualities, hawthorn gently acts to help prevent some of the most worrisome heart conditions. Hawthorn mildly reduces blood pressure, partially by increasing the dilation of blood vessels. Hawthorn also slightly reduces cholesterol and may help prevent atherosclerosis. It can also be useful for people with poor circulation and low blood pressure. This is because hawthorn can slightly improve the strength of the heart’s contractions. Multiple clinical trials have even shown that hawthorn can help ease some of the symptoms of congestive heart failure. Finally, hawthorn supports the normal rhythm of the heart. Since it does all of the actions in a gentle way, hawthorn alone is often not sufficient for serious heart issues, but because of its multiple, mutually supporting actions and nourishing qualities, hawthorn can be an important contributor to cardiovascular wellness.

Heart Healthy Hibiscus

Since February is Heart Health Month, I want to continue raising awareness about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, particularly those that are clustered together in metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a complex of symptoms that can be the precursor of diabetes or heart disease. It is defined as the presence of three or more of the following markers: high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, and increased abdominal girth. The high levels of insulin seen in metabolic syndrome appear to increase the progression of atherosclerosis, the deposition of high cholesterol plaques on the artery walls. Many people who have this constellation of issues don’t realize that they are interrelated and can be addressed together to some extent.

Hibiscus is a delicious tasting beverage tea that seems to be uniquely suited for people with metabolic syndrome. One study with diabetic patients, showed that two cups of hibiscus tea daily helped lower triglycerides and total cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol. These finding were supported by a second study, which also showed a reduction in blood sugar levels in participants with metabolic syndrome. It is hypothesized that hibiscus helps improve insulin resistance, which is an underlying aspect of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Finally, hibiscus has been show to slightly lower blood pressure. I like hibiscus tea sweetened with stevia and served over ice. And its beautiful red color can make it a great addition to a Valentine’s Day gift for any one whose heart you love.