Functionality against cardiovascular diseases

A new guest post on food security from Ioannis Zabetakis, Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry, Lab. of Food Chemistry, Dept. of Chemistry, Univ. of Athens, Athens, Greece. Zabetakis also blogs here.

In order to evaluate the functionality of food components or chemical compounds against the development of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs), we need to study the mechanism of how these compounds can inhibit or delay the onset of CVDs.

It is widely accepted today that inflammation is linked to CVDs and the key trigger molecule there is the so called Platelet Activating Factor (PAF). PAF is the most potent inflammatory lipid mediator, a well-recognized agonist of platelet aggregation that plays a crucial role in atherosclerosis [1].

The inflammation game

In our quest to inhibit CVDs, any compound that has anti-inflammatory properties is a good candidate. The anti-inflammatory properties of L-carnitine have been known since the 90’s [2]. Therefore, it is not surprising that L-carnitine was found to be associated with a 27% reduction in all-cause mortality, a 65% reduction in Ventricular arrhythmias (Vas), and a 40% reduction in anginal symptoms in patients experiencing an acute myocardial infarction [3].

Omega-3 PUFAs

In a recent perspective article [4], an update on the current on-going trials to assess the activities of omega3 supplementation has been presented.

There are 3 studies under way:

1. Risk and Prevention Study: Evaluation of the Efficacy of n-3 PUFA in Subjects at High Cardiovascular Risk

2. ASCEND: A Study of Cardiovascular Events iN Diabetes and

3. Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL)

The authors conclude that “omega-3 fattyacids are not statistically significantly associated with major cardiovascular outcomes across various patient populations. Their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease remains elusive. Until the upcoming randomized evidence provide some clear answers, non-dietary omega-3 supplementation should be reserved to specific populations such as statin-intolerant patients” [4].

Novel supplements/novel drugs

Today, there is a global race to identify new compounds or further clinically assess compounds that have been associated with CVDs. This is a race involving mega-players in food, medicinal and neutraceutical industies but probably the secret in this race might lie in a phrase of Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Our quest for the magic pill against CVDs could be in developing functional food or isolating from food those food components with proven cardioprotective activities…

Further reading

1.  Fats and food security, the lipid link

2. The effect of L-carnitine on platelet activating factor concentration in the immature rat model of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury

3. L-Carnitine in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

4. Current evidence and future perspectives of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for the prevention of cardiovascular disease