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Lifeline with Christine Hronec

Dec 2, 2021

Alcohol identified as the sole trigger for more episodes of arterial fibrillation

AFib, short for arterial fibrillation, is the most common form of an irregular heartbeat. Individuals diagnosed with AFib often experience an irregular heartbeat accompanied by shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. Even worse, AFib puts patients at a significantly higher risk of further cardiac episodes such as a heart attack or stroke. Now, new research is pointing the scientific finger solely at alcohol as a major trigger when it comes to AFib episodes.

Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco tested a number of factors thought to bring on bouts of AFib, including lack of sleep, alcohol, caffeine, overall diet, and sleeping on your left side (where the heart sits). Ultimately, though, the study finds alcohol is the only factor with a consistent link to more AFib episodes.

Most doctors and AFib patients believe drinking lots of coffee or staying up all night will lead to more bouts of heart arrhythmia, so these findings are quite notable. Interestingly, even though the vast majority of study participants expected factors like sleep and diet to influence their condition, only those placed in the intervention self-monitoring group experienced less arrhythmia than the other participants placed in a comparison group that was not actively self-monitoring.

“This suggests that those personalized assessments revealed actionable results,” says lead study author Gregory Marcus, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UCSF, in a university release. “Although caffeine was the most commonly selected trigger for testing, we found no evidence of a near-term relationship between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation. In contrast, alcohol consumption most consistently exhibited heightened risks of atrial fibrillation.”


Cutting 250 calories each day is better for obese older adults than exercise alone

Counting calories is not only good for helping with weight loss, it may help older adults improve their heart health too, a new study finds. Researchers with the American Heart Association say obese seniors who cut out just 250 calories a day and do some moderate exercise enjoy better heart function than older adults who just focus on exercising.

Surprisingly, the findings also reveal that obese adults who cut their calorie count even further don’t experience any added health gains from dieting. Patients on the less strict diet who also exercised four times a week displayed the greatest improvements in their weight and aortic stiffness after five months. Aortic stiffness measures vascular health and is a key predictor of cardiovascular disease.

“This is the first study to assess the effects of aerobic exercise training with and without reducing calories on aortic stiffness, which was measured via cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) to obtain detailed images of the aorta,” says lead author Tina E. Brinkley, Ph.D., an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Sticht Center for Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention at Wake Forest School of Medicine, in a media release.

“We sought to determine whether adding caloric restriction for weight loss would lead to greater improvements in vascular health compared to aerobic exercise alone in older adults with obesity.”

Modest lifestyle changes with big results
Study authors examined 160 obese adults with a sedentary lifestyle between 65 and 79 years-old. The team notes their volunteers were predominantly female (74%) and white (73%). Researchers split those seniors into three groups for 20 weeks, one focusing on exercise and enjoying a regular diet, one doing moderate exercise and cutting out 250 calories a day, and one group exercising and cutting out 600 calories.

Scientists measured the function of the aorta using MRI scans. These tests revealed each person’s aortic arch pulse wave velocity (PWV), which is the speed at which blood moves through a patient’s aorta. The tests also gauged the ability of the aorta to expand and contract, which doctors call distensibility.


Intermittent fasting is ‘nothing special’ for weight loss

Intermittent fasting approaches to weight loss such as alternate day fasting or the ‘5:2’ diet have exploded in popularity in recent years. Now, a new study is challenging intermittent fasting’s claim as the most effective weight loss avenue. Researchers from the University of Bath report that at the end of the dieting day there’s “nothing special” about the restrictive diet.

You’ve probably seen miraculous body transformations attributed to fasting on social media, or perhaps noticed a celebrity or two endorsing some variety of intermittent fasting. On the scientific side of things, however, research supporting intermittent fasting as a cut above all other traditional diets is lacking.

Consequently, the team at UB set up a randomized control trial with 36 volunteers separated into three experimental groups:

• Group 1 fasted on alternate days, with researchers asking them to eat 50 percent more than usual on eating days.
• Group 2 reduced calories across all meals every day by 25 percent. This group represented more traditional dieting strategies.
• Group 3 fasted on alternating days like group 1, but ate a full 100 percent more food than usual on eating days.
• Ultimately, both groups 1 and 3 ended up losing less weight than participants in group 2. This held up even when calorie intake was virtually identical across groups.

“Many people believe that diets based on fasting are especially effective for weight loss or that these diets have particular metabolic health benefits even if you don’t lose weight,” says research leader Professor James Betts, director of Bath’s Centre for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism, in a university release. “But intermittent fasting is no magic bullet and the findings of our experiment suggest that there is nothing special about fasting when compared with more traditional, standard diets people might follow.”

Some fasting plans don’t seem to work at all
At the start of the experiment, all participants reported consuming a typical diet of around 2,000-2,500 calories per day on average. Then, over the three-week course of the study, groups 1 and 2 reduced their caloric intake down to 1,500-2,000 calories daily. The third group maintained the same energy levels by eating their usual amount of calories consumed in two days in the span of just one 24-hour period.

Moving on to weight loss, the traditional dieting group lost roughly 4.2 pounds over the three-week observation period. Moreover, body scans among this group showed nearly all the lost weight had been body fat content.

Meanwhile, group 1 lost nearly as much body weight (3.5 pounds), but only about half of that weight loss was due to reduced body fat. Researchers say the rest weight loss actually comes from lost muscle mass. Finally, group 3 barely lost any weight at all.


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About Christine Hronec
Christine Hronec ( ) is an award-winning chemist and three-time champion fitness competitor, nutrition, and exercise expert. Since founding her company Gauge Life in 2013, Christine has helped approximately 40,000 women transform their bodies and switch to a body-positive self-image. Her YouTube channel has over 25 million views. Christine has received awards from the American Chemical Society and was published in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Christine was part of the team that created Time magazine’s “Invention of the Year” for her work in the biotech field.