Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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August 02, 2003

Supplements do cut risk of heart attack - say Swedish researchers

Under the title "Multivitamins may reduce heart attack risk, new study" the Journal of Nutrition reports that those Swedes who regularly consume a multivitamin supplement seem to be better protected against heart attacks than others who do not supplement their diet.

"This inverse association was not modified by such healthy lifestyle habits as consumption of fruits and vegetables, intake of dietary fibre, smoking habits and level of physical activity, although never smoking appeared to outweigh the association in women," said the researchers.

30/07/03 - People who take low dose multivitamin supplements may be less likely to have a heart attack, say Swedish researchers.

There has been much debate about whether antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, can protect the heart from cardiovascular disease, with several studies failing to support the use of vitamins. But results from the Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program (SHEEP) showed that in a Swedish population, both men and women who took multivitamins had a significantly lower risk of myocardial infarction than those who did not take supplements, irrespective of their diets.

The team from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied a population of 45 - 70 year-olds living in Sweden, where consumption of fruits and vegetables is relatively low and foods are not fortified with folic acid. Almost 1300 people (910 men, 386 women), who experienced a first heart attack, were matched to 1685 controls (1143 men, 542 women) by sex, age and hospital catchment area.

Among controls, 57 per cent of the women and 35 per cent of the men used dietary supplements; corresponding figures for the heart attack cases were 42 and 27 per cent respectively, reported researchers in this month's Journal of Nutrition. About 80 per cent of supplements were multivitamin preparations.

After adjustment for major cardiovascular risk factors, the risk of heart attack for men who took supplements was 21 per cent lower than for those who did not use multivitamins. For women, the risk was reduced even further, by a third.

"This inverse association was not modified by such healthy lifestyle habits as consumption of fruits and vegetables, intake of dietary fibre, smoking habits and level of physical activity, although never smoking appeared to outweigh the association in women," said the researchers.

This observation appears to rule out the theory that vitamins found in fruit and vegetables are more effective than taking supplements.

Source: Journal of Nutrition 133:2650-2654, August 2003

Related story:

Science - Reuters

Hate Your Hair? Blame Your Mother's Diet
Fri Aug 1,12:36 PM ET

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a study that shows more than ever you are what you eat, U.S. scientists said on Friday they had changed the coat colors of baby mice simply by altering their mothers' diets.

The study shows that common nutrients can influence which genes turn on and off in a developing fetus, and help explain some of the factors that decide which genes "express" and which remain silent.

Writing in Friday's issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology, the scientists at Duke University Medical Center said they changed the color of baby mouse fur by feeding pregnant mice four supplements -- vitamin B12, folic acid, choline and betaine.

Mice given the four supplements gave birth to babies predominantly with brown coats. Pregnant mice not fed the supplements gave birth mostly to babies with yellow coats.

Careful study showed the extra nutrients turned down expression of a gene called Agouti, which affects fur color.

"We have long known that maternal nutrition profoundly impacts disease susceptibility in their offspring, but we never understood the cause-and-effect link," said Randy Jirtle, a professor of radiation oncology at Duke who directed the study.

"For the first time ever, we have shown precisely how nutritional supplementation to the mother can permanently alter gene expression in her offspring without altering the genes themselves," he said in a statement.

The findings have not been shown in humans, but the researchers said there is much support for the idea that nutrition can affect gene expression in people.

Several studies have shown, for instance, that women who eat a poor diet while pregnant have children who grow up with a tendency to diabetes and heart disease.


This study could help explain that. The Agouti gene not only affects coat color, but also metabolic factors involved in diabetes and heart disease.

Mice with overactive Agouti genes tend to be obese and susceptible to diabetes because the protein controlled by the gene affects one brain signal involved in appetite.

"Diet, nutritional supplements and other seemingly innocuous compounds can alter the development in utero to such an extent that it changes the offspring's characteristics for life, and potentially that of future generations," said researcher Rob Waterland, who worked on the study.

Nutrition is likely to be one of the "environmental factors" that decides which genes turn on and which stay silent.

Everyone inherits two copies of each gene -- one from each parent. For most functions, only one gene expresses while the other is silent.

This idea, first explained by 19th century genetic pioneer Gregor Mendel with his experiments on green and yellow peas, can explain why two brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed child -- who may be expressing a grandparents' gene that was silent in the parent.

"Our study demonstrates how early environmental factors can alter gene expression without mutating the gene itself," said Waterland said.

Related information from a recent e-alert

Want to boost the effectiveness of one of the most critical vitamins in your diet?

In last week's e-Alert "Icing the Pizza" (7/30/03), HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., gave us a mini-seminar on the different types of vitamin E. He mentioned in passing that the effect of vitamin E is enhanced with an additional supplement of the mineral selenium. So what would be the ideal daily dosage of these two supplements for the optimal combined effect?

Here are Dr. Spreen's guidelines for vitamin E and selenium intake:

"The 'standard' is usually 400 iu (international units) of vitamin E and 200 mcg (micrograms) of selenium for general antioxidant protection. In athletes or in the presence of heart disease I'd take people higher than that. You can get too much selenium, and I'd always stay under 1,000 mcg (personally I never went above 400 mcg).

"Vitamin E is so non-toxic that the dose is difficult to determine. Heart disease patients can go up to 2,400 iu or higher (though technically 'iu' only exists relative to the alpha form, not the other forms).

"Finally, those starting out with vitamin E should begin with small amounts and work up. Occasionally the nutrient can be so stimulating to the heart muscle that there can be a transient increase in blood pressure, so your health care practitioner should monitor."

My thanks to Dr. Spreen for rounding out our mini-seminar on Vitamin E.

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Saturday August 2 2003
updated on Tuesday December 21 2010

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