Diet and vitamins may prevent heart attack, stroke

Diet and vitamins may prevent heart attack, stroke

Recent studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables containing Vitamin C and beta carotene are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke, and that this may also be true for people who take large doses of Vitamin E.

These are the so-called antioxidant vitamins which combat “free radicals,” a volatile type of oxygen molecule that is everywhere and can damage DNA in the body’s cells.

Eating spinach, carrots and oranges appears to be especially beneficial. In a study of the diets of 87,245 female nurses, Harvard medical School’s Joann Manson found that women who ate at least five servings of carrots a week had a 68% lower stroke risk than women who ate carrots once a month or less. In another study, Dr. Dilip Pandey at the University of Texas in Houston found that men who ate plenty of foods containing vitamin C and beta carotene were 30% less likely to die of heart disease. The amount of vitamin C in one or two oranges and the beta carotene in one or two carrots was enough to have a protective effect, said Pandey.

While some researchers express reservations about the studies, pointing out that people who eat a lot of beta carotene may be more health conscious, most agree that the findings justify further study of the benefits of foods rich in vitamin C and beta carotene.

In a related development, analysis of the dietary questionnaires filled out by the 87,000 nurses showed a 40% lower rate of heart disease among women who took 419 international units (IUs) of vitamin E per day, compared to women who took an average of 6.4 IUs daily. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 30 IUs.

According to an article in The Washington Post which appeared May 20, 1993, “one of the research teams, led by Eric B. Rimm of Harvard, found that the amount of vitamin E intake from food alone had almost no impact. ‘At the higher levels of intake reached with supplementation, the association became significant,’ they said. Both teams found that taking the supplemental vitamin E did not appear to show beneficial effects until two years after those in the study began the larger doses.”

The Post also quoted Daniel Steinberg M.D, Ph.D. of the University of California at San Diego, who cautioned that it is too early to recommend widespread use of vitamin E. He said the safety of taking that much vitamin E for many years has not been established. However, according to an article on vitamin E in The Washington Post’s May 18 “Health Section,” “Vitamin E has no known toxic effects. Doctors only caution that in phenomenally high doses, about 100 times the RDA, it may increase blood clotting time and so could cause problems for patients already on blood-thinning medication. Most articles on the subject of vitamin supplements advise checking with your doctor before beginning to take large amounts of any vitamin, including vitamin E.

Officials of the AHA stress that scientific evidence does not suggest that consumption of anti-oxidant vitamins can replace or modify the goal of reducing blood pressure, lowering serum cholesterol and stopping cigarette smoking.

COPYRIGHT 1994 U.S. Government Printing Office

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning