Today’s Headlines: Heart Failure, Chocolate and the Body Clock

Gut microbes may play a role in heart failure. We’ve heard a lot lately about how the bacteria in and on our bodies can affect our health, but it looks like these microscopic passengers are responsible for a wider variety of disease than we thought. “In a new study, a team of researchers found that high-fat, high-cholesterol foods put some people at higher risk of developing heart failure because of the microbes in their body that are part of the digestive process. People with these microbes may also be at risk for more severe consequences from heart failure, including death. Since people have different levels of these microbes and the products they release into blood, a simple blood test may be able to tell us who’s at greater risk.” The researchers still say that maintaining a healthy diet is the best way to avoid heart disease, but their research brings us one step closer to understanding exactly how diet influences our health and figuring out who needs special attention. (Fox)

Chocolate may help with your memory. A key component of many delicious desserts, dark chocolate is also rich in healthful antioxidants and flavanols that can help stave off a variety of diseases. New research is showing it may also help with memory. “After three months of consuming a special cocoa concoction, someone with the typical memory of a 60-year-old improved their memory to that of a 30- or 40-year-old, the researchers reported.” But they point out you shouldn’t run out and buy that chocolate bar just yet. “Flavanols are found in many types of foods, including tea leaves, fruits and vegetables, as well as raw cocoa. However, the manner in which most consumer chocolate products are produced renders them flavanol-free. The study therefore relied on a process developed by the food company Mars Inc. that could specifically preserve and isolate the flavanol in powder form, before being mixed into either water or milk for consumption.” The research shows that what we eat may have an important effect on how our brain works, but more research is needed to understand exactly how this occurs. (CBS)

The internal body clock drives many cellular processes. Most of us notice our body clock only when dragging ourselves out of bed after a late night or when making an international flight. Now new research is showing that our internal body clock determines more than just when we go to bed and wake up. “Researchers investigated the impact of the time of day on the way DNA functions in experiments on mice. Every two hours they looked at samples from the kidney, liver, lung, adrenal gland, aorta, brainstem, cerebellum, brown fat, white fat, heart, hypothalamus, lung and skeletal muscle. They showed that 43% of genes, sections of DNA, involved in protein manufacture altered their activity throughout the day. Two major windows of activity were observed in the study – dawn and dusk.” The research builds on observations that certain drugs work better at certain times of the day. “Heart disease, for example, is driven by artery-clogging cholesterol, which is mostly made in the liver at night. Taking statins in the evening makes them more effective.” The findings of the research could help doctors better understand when certain medications may be most effective as treatment for certain conditions. (BBC)