Statins, calories and omega-3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree random research reports for Monday

1. Statin users gorging on junk food

Statins drugs are everywhere.  They’re prescribed to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  Some doctors reportedly think they should be added to the water supply.  Major ugh!  Although they can lower LDL, they come with a giant laundry list of unpleasant (or worse) side effects, such as:

  • muscle pain, from mild to severe
  • liver damage
  • digestive disturbances
  • increased blood sugar
  • rashes and flushing

Now there’s another potential side effect: junky high calorie diet.  A new analysis of food consumption data shows that current statin users are now eating more fat and calories than 10 years ago.  Almost 10% more calories and almost 15% more fat.  Both of which totally defeat the purpose of the statins.

Why?  The researchers speculate that people may be getting complacent.  They think the drug will fix their cholesterol, so why bother making an effort.  Doctors are supposed to inform patients that they must follow a lower fat diet while on statins, but in fact patients may get the message that statins allow them to eat whatever they want.

2. Low calorie restaurant menus cause high calorie choices?

Here’s another unanticipated consequence of a do-gooder intentions.  Consumer research shows that restaurant customers may use low calorie menu categories to help them quickly sort through the choices on a menu.  In that they quickly dismiss the “healthy” items altogether, because they expect those foods to taste bad, or not be filling.  A study found that, when low calorie foods were grouped together on a menu, customers ignored them.

Restaurants have been experimenting with ways to help customers make healthier choices for decades.  Little “healthy” icons haven’t worked, and now it seems grouping menu selections together in some “healthy food” ghetto won’t work either.  Back to the drawing boards.  How about just sell good tasting food in modest portions, and let consumers decide.

3. Do omega-3 fats affect cognitive decline?

Short answer appears to be “yes”.  This study was somewhat lacking, in that omega-3 status was assessed by dietary questionnaires, not by measuring actual blood levels of EPA and DHA.  At the start, 900 people were tested for cognitive status and memory.  They filled out diet questionnaires and were categorized according to omega-3 intake, which was mostly from canned tuna.  Only about 1/4 of the subjects even met the minimum intake recommendations.  The subjects were tested for cognitive function 2 years later, and cognitive decline was more pronounced in subjects with lower (inadequate) omega-3 intake.

How to do this study correctly:

  • longer time period
  • measure omega-3 blood levels, don’t just ask about food
  • perhaps use supplements
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