Top cardiologist gives verdict on chocolate, coffee and wine

As editor of the European Heart Journal for more than a decade, Prof Thomas Lüscher led a team that sifted through 3,200 manuscripts from scientists and doctors every year. Only a fraction – those deemed “truly novel” and backed up with “solid data” – would be selected for publication.

After stepping down from his role in charge of the world’s top cardiovascular medicine journal, Lüscher has given his verdict on one of the most frequently asked heart health research questions: are wine, chocolate and coffee good or bad for you?

…Lüscher, a consultant cardiologist and director of research, education and development at the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, says the answer is “more complex than a simple yes or no”…Lüscher also cautions that the evidence should be considered “seriously”, given the large numbers of people worldwide that regularly enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. There are pros and cons to each of them, he suggests, and these can differ depending on how often and how much of each is consumed, as well as by whom.

“Are wine, chocolate, coffee forbidden joys? Well, wine is truly a joy but at best neutral when consumed in moderation. Chocolate is a joy for our CV [cardiovascular] system, if consumed in dark, bitter form. And coffee? It wakes us up, less so if you drink it regularly, and at that dose of up to four cups a day, might even be protective.”

RTFA. Keep on searching and reading if you think you need to. If you’re like me, you’ve already addressed this question a number of times. My experience has the analysis definitely coming down on the side of coffee and chocolate. Wine, not so much or often.

Over time – and I’ve already used up a whole bunch of that – I find I rarely consume anything alcoholic anymore. No special reason. Tastes change. My wife’s coffee is a delight. Strong and dark, I have four cups in the morning – consistently. I think of it as a minimum; but, rarely exceed that number. Dark, unsweetened chocolate is part of my nutrition set, weekly, if not, daily.

Texas coed rams cop car while taking topless selfie

The dog has brains enough NOT to take selfies while driving

❝ Police say a 19-year-old Texas A&M University student who rear-ended a squad car told an officer she was taking a topless selfie.

Miranda Kay Rader posted $200 bond after she was charged with drunken driving and possessing alcohol as a minor.

❝ A police report says an officer was checking a reported disturbance when he heard brakes squeal and an SUV slam into the patrol car behind him. Rader told the officer she was taking a topless selfie of herself to Snapchat to her boyfriend.

Police say an open bottle of wine was in her console cup holder.

Hopefully, her major is not Public Safety.

Yet another study finds Mediterranean diet cuts heart disease

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

The findings, published on The New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site…were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet’s effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

The diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk.

“Really impressive,” said Rachel Johnson…a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “And the really important thing — the coolest thing — is that they used very meaningful endpoints. They did not look at risk factors like cholesterol of hypertension or weight. They looked at heart attacks and strokes and death. At the end of the day, that is what really matters.”

Until now, evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease was weak, based mostly on studies showing that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease — a pattern that could have been attributed to factors other than diet…

Heart disease experts said the study was a triumph because it showed that a diet was powerful in reducing heart disease risk, and it did so using the most rigorous methods. Scientists randomly assigned 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one.

Low-fat diets have not been shown in any rigorous way to be helpful, and they are also very hard for patients to maintain — a reality borne out in the new study, said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

“Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent,” he said. “And you can actually enjoy life.”

Bravo! I often joke that between my Scottish heritage and Italian heritage I’m lucky I learned to cook from the Italian side. That’s always been a joke about flavors – and sort of about health, too.

Actually, my Scottish/Canadian kin are pretty healthy; but, their diet – with the exception of olive oil is pretty similar to the Mediterranean diet because they are fisherfolk and farmers, island dwellers who don’t rely much on processed industrial food. My immediate family, we ate Italian/Mediterranean from birth. Good olive oil is ambrosia as far as I’m concerned. And growing up workingclass on the New England coast, subsistence fishing was natural to my life.

No doubt there will be beaucoup follow-on studies. If for no other reason than folks with a vested interest in other diets will try to counter the results of this study. But, it ain’t anything new to me, to most folks with sufficient Mediterranean heritage to have it guide their upbringing about diet.

Cripes — even Pat Robertson backs legalizing Marijuana

Of the many roles Pat Robertson has assumed over his five-decade-long career as an evangelical leader — including presidential candidate and provocative voice of the right wing — his newest guise may perhaps surprise his followers the most: marijuana legalization advocate.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs…

“I love him, man, I really do,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former law enforcement officials who oppose the drug war. “He’s singing my song.”

For his part, Mr. Robertson said that he “absolutely” supported the ballot measures, though he would not campaign for them. “I’m not a crusader,” he said…

“Pat Robertson still has an audience of millions of people, and they respect what he has to say,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for more liberal drug laws. “And he’s not backtracking. He’s doubling down…”

While Mr. Robertson said his earlier hints at support for legalization had led to him being “assailed by those who thought that it was terrible that I had forsaken the straight and narrow,” he added that he was not worried about criticism this time around.

“I just want to be on the right side,” he said. “And I think on this one, I’m on the right side.”

Cripes. I tend to be amazed when common sense about law, decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana just like every other similar mood-altering substances – like beer and wine – sinks in through the ponderous filter paper that is biblical rote. But, I ain’t in any hurry to reject someone with the clout of Pat Robertson taking a stand on the side of ordinary Americans – and the angels.

Winemaker hopes to encourage reading with bottled literature

Nowadays when people spend more and more time exploring the depths of cyber space or just watching TV, every effort counts to bring them back to the traditional pleasure of reading.

A leading Italian book store chain Feltrinelli and wine-makers Santa Margherita from northern Italy decided six years ago to join forces to promote reading in their own way. They set up a short story contest for amateur writers on a subject related to wine, where the three winners have their works published on the back of wine bottles…

This year, the winners will see their short stories published in the form of tiny booklets attached to the back of Santa Margherita’s 700,000 bestselling bottles which are about to go on sale in Italy, Santa Margherita’s Ettore Nicoletto said.

People read very little in Italy…If we manage to stimulate reading with this contest, with these easy but very moving short stories, we can be satisfied because we helped to promote reading among common people who buy bottles of wine for their dinner,” he said.

Just under 47 percent of Italians read at least one book not related to their work or studies in a year, according to a survey conducted by Italy’s statistics agency ISTAT in 2010.

Even if the figure is up from some 45 percent in 2009, it still means that more than half of Italians do not manage to read even one book a year which is not imposed by their work or study duties…

The contest’s popularity has grown over the years with about 800-1,000 short stories written in Italian sent to a special dedicated website a year, Nicoletto said.

Yup. Let’s launch it in the United States – with something better than the crappy beer most people drink. After all there is a difference between drinking to get sozzled – and savoring an alcoholic beverage with body, sophistication and character.

Drinking wine helps stop sunburn

Ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun are the leading environmental cause of skin complaints, premature ageing, sun burn and even skin cancer. But in another nod towards the healthy mediteranean diet, Spanish scientists found substances in the grapes protect cells from the damage…

The University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council looked at the chemical reaction in the skin when hit by UV rays from the sun. They found that flavonoids in the grapes can stop the chemical reaction that causes cells to die and therefore skin damage…

Marta Cascante, a biochemist at the University of Barcelona and director of the research project, said it proves grapes could help protect the skin from sun burn and even skin cancer. She said the research could help to develop skin creams and other products to protect skin from sun damage.

“This study supports the idea of using these products to protect the skin from cell damage and death caused by solar radiation, as well as increasing our understanding of the mechanism by which they act”, she said.

The study also adds to the popular image of the healthy and tanned population of the mediteranean.

Previous research has put the low cancer rates and good health down to tomatoes, olive oil and even red wine.

I would add garlic and love.

For the ancient mariner, olives ruled!

Tree-ripened olives in Cyprus

A huge quantity of olive stones on an ancient shipwreck more than 2,000 years old has provided valuable insight into the diet of sailors in the ancient world, say researchers in Cyprus.

The shipwreck, dating from around 400 B.C. and laden mainly with wine amphorae from the Aegean island of Chios and other north Aegean islands, was discovered deep under the sea off Cyprus’s southern coast.

Excavation on the site, which started in November 2007, has determined that the ship was a merchant vessel of the late classical period.

“An interesting piece of evidence that gives us information on the conditions under which the sailors of antiquity lived, are the large numbers of olive pips that were found during excavation, since these pips must have been part of the crew’s food supply,” Cyprus’s antiquities department said in a news release…

Olives and olive oil are a staple of the Mediterranean diet and their consumption over hundreds of years has been well documented.

Italian archaeologists discovered that some of the world’s oldest perfumes, made in Cyprus, were olive oil based. The commodity was also used to fire copper furnaces.

The center, the root and source of so much that is healthy about a Mediterranean diet.

Olive oil, olives.

Bishop condemns wine made by monks for causing violent crime

Keeping Lanarkshire stoked

A bishop has condemned Buckfast, the fortified wine made by monks and regarded by some as the scourge of Scotland. The Right Rev Bob Gillies, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Scottish Episcopal Church, accused the Devon-based Benedictine monks of betraying Christian values.

Bishop Gillies is the first senior clergyman to criticise the monks of Buckfast Abbey, who have always claimed they are not responsible for the antisocial behaviour that results from the widespread abuse of their product…

He added: “The monks at Buckfast are in a Benedictine monastery, which is founded upon the rule of St Benedict. Benedict urged his monks to live a simple life following a rule that leads them into closer discipleship with the Lord.

“St Benedict, I would have thought, would have been very, very unhappy with what his monks are doing nowadays.”

Investigation reveals that the drink, known colloquially as Buckie, has been mentioned in 5,000 crime reports by Strathclyde Police in the past three years. Almost one in ten of those crimes was violent, according to figures obtained by the BBC under freedom of information legislation. During that period the Buckfast bottle was used as a weapon 114 times and police said the figures suggested there is an association between Buckfast and violence…

Jim Wilson, of J Chandler & Co, claims the Benedictine monks are not to blame for the effects of Buckfast on the outside world, saying: “Why should they accept responsibility? They’re not up there pouring their Buckfast down somebody’s throat. People take it by choice because they like it, because it’s a good product.”

Not the soundest reasoning in the world. But, surely it would suffice for pretty much anyone in the booze business.

I also don’t see anyone standing in the way of prohibition candidates for public office in Scotland.