Spice Up Your Life

SAN DIEGO — The food that inspires wariness and tears is on course for inspiring even more wonder. Scientists reported this week the latest evidence that chili peppers are a heart-healthy food with potential to protect against the number one cause of death in the developed world.

The report was part of the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, being held in San Diego this week.

The study focused on capsaicin and its fiery-hot relatives, a piquant family of substances termed “capsaicinoids.” The component that gives cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros and other chili peppers their heat, capsaicin already has an established role in medicine in rub-on-the-skin creams to treat arthritis and certain forms of pain.

Past research suggested that spicing food with chilies can lower blood pressure in people with that condition, reduce blood cholesterol and decrease the tendency for dangerous blood clots to form.

“Our research has reinforced and expanded knowledge about how these substances in chilies work in improving heart health,” said Zhen-Yu Chen, Ph.D., who presented the study. “We now have a clearer and more detailed portrait of their innermost effects on genes and other mechanisms that influence cholesterol and the health of blood vessels. It is among the first research to provide that information.”

The team found, for instance, that capsaicin and a close chemical relative, boost heart health in two ways. They lower cholesterol levels by reducing accumulation of cholesterol in the body and increasing its breakdown and excretion in the feces. That’s number two for those of you in Rio Linda.

They also block action of a gene that makes arteries contract, restricting the flow of blood to the heart and other organs. This blocking action allows more flow through blood vessels.

“We concluded that capsaicinoids were beneficial in improving a range of factors related to heart and blood vessel health,” said Chen, a professor of food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to an excess. A good diet is a matter of balance. And remember, chilies are no substitute for the prescription medications proven to be beneficial. They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant.”

Chen and his colleagues used hamsters for the study. They gave the hamsters high-cholesterol diets, divided them into groups, and supplemented each group’s food with either no capsaicinoids (the control group) or various amounts of capsaicinoids. The scientists then analyzed the effects.

In addition to reducing total cholesterol levels in the blood, capsaicinoids reduced levels of the so-called “bad” cholesterol (which deposits into blood vessels), but did not affect levels of so-called “good” cholesterol. The team found indications that capsaicinoids may reduce the size of deposits that already have formed in blood vessels, narrowing arteries in ways that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Capsaicinoids also blocked the activity of a gene that produces cyclooxygenase-2, a substance that makes the muscles around blood vessels constrict. By blocking it, muscles can relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow.

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the US Congress. With more than 164,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, DC, and Columbus, Ohio.

The People Fear Obama

From: USNews.com:

Source: The Synovate eNation Internet poll was conducted December 29-January 2 among a national sample of 1,000 households by global market research firm Synovate.

[Editorial Comment: As you read the poll results, keep this in mind. Anyone who knows polling, understands that results of “Households” or “Americans” or “Adults”, are always drastically skewed to the left. It is not until you get results from equal numbers of “Very Likely Voters” that things are portrayed more equitably. If the results of a general poll are this bad, you can bet the house, they are really a lot worse.]

When it comes to how Americans view President Obama going into the new year, there appears to be very little spirit of Auld Lang Syne. Instead, according to the new Washington Whispers poll, many voters aren’t forgetting what they dislike about Obama and want him out of office.

In our New Year’s poll, when asked what news event they fear most about 2012, Americans by a margin of two-to-one said Obama’s reelection. Only 16 percent said they fear the Democrat won’t win a second term, while 33 percent said they fear four more years.

Next to Obama’s reelection, 31 percent of Americans said they feared higher taxes, which may be proof that the president’s focus on the payroll tax cut has hit pay dirt.

The poll, however, held out some hope for Obama. Some 38 percent of younger Americans, 18-24, said their biggest fear was higher taxes. Just 28 percent of those same voters said they feared Obama winning in November.

But in results backed up by other polls, older Americans and those earning $75,000 or more are especially worried about the president getting a second term, according to the poll done by Synovate eNation.

Nearly half of Americans 65 and older said Obama’s reelection was their top fear, 39 percent of those making $75,000 or more agreed.

As we enter the presidential election year of 2012, what potential news event do you fear the most?

President Obama wins reelection 33%

Taxes will increase 31%

Iran will get a nuclear weapon 16%

Obama will lose reelection 16%

North Korea will attack South Korea 4%