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A heavy meal may quadruple the risk of a heart attack. In a study of nearly 2,000 heart attack victims, 158 reported eating a heavy meal within 26 hours--and 25 had eaten a big meal within two hours--of their attacks.

Why? A big meal might temporarily raise blood pressure, which could rupture the cholesterol-filled plaque in an artery wall. That could trigger a blood clot that blocks a coronary artery. A big meal may also raise insulin levels, which could make coronary arteries less relaxed.

What to do: Don't eat as if there's no tomorrow ... or there may not be one.

Circulation 102 (Suppl.): II-612, 2000.


Vitamin D deficiency is common in older women living at home, says a study of roughly 1,000 women aged 65 and older who had some difficulty with walking, lifting, household tasks, or other aspects of daily living. Six percent of those with mild disability--and 13 percent of those with greater disability--were deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can raise the risk of bone loss and hip fractures.

What to do: Women (and men) older than 70 should get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day from milk (which supplies 100 IU per cup) or a supplement. People aged 51 to 70 should get 400 IU a day, the amount in most multivitamins. A calcium supplement like Viactiv contains 100 IU per piece.

Amer. J. Clin. Nutr. 72:1529, 2000.


High doses of vitamins increased plaque in the arteries of people who took the vitamins starting 30 days before--and continuing for six months after--they had an angioplasty for clogged coronary arteries. The patients were given 700 IU of vitamin E, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 30,000 IU of betacarotene twice a day.

What to do: Until more studies are done, angioplasty patients should not take high doses of antioxidant vitamins.

Canadian J. Cardiol. 16 (Suppl. F): 232F, 2000.


The risk of severe depression was twice as high among disabled women aged 65 and older with vitamin B-12 deficiency than among those without deficiency. The women lived at home, but had at least some difficulty with mobility, exercise, self-care, or other abilities.

What to do: To play it safe, anyone--men or women--aged 50 or older should get 25 micrograms a day of vitamin B-12 from a supplement or a fortified food. (A serving of most breakfast cereals contains six micrograms.)

Amer. J. Psych. 157: 715, 2000.


In Colombia, a country with high rates of stomach cancer, precancerous stomach lesions were more likely to disappear in people who were given beta-carotene (50,000 IU a day), vitamin C (2,000 mg a day), or antibiotics to treat a Helicobacter pylori infection if they had one.

What to do: It's not clear if the results apply to Americans, who consume more beta-carotene and vitamin C from fruits and vegetables and have a lower risk of stomach cancer than the residents of Colombia (and most other developing countries). However, H. pylori infections, which cause inflammation of the stomach, are common in the U.S., and should be treated with antibiotics.

J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 92: 1868, 1881, 2000.


Mild to moderate high blood pressure seems to slow thinking skills in older people. In a study of roughly 200 men and women, those with moderately high blood pressure--averaging 164 over 89--did worse on tests of memory and reaction time than those with normal blood pressure. The results "suggest that treating high blood pressure may prevent dementia," says researcher Gary Ford of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom.

What to do: Get your blood pressure checked regularly. Since it rises with age, you can't assume that normal pressure will stay that way. And if your pressure is above normal, make sure it gets lowered--with diet or, if necessary, drugs--regardless of your age.

Hypertension 36: 1079, 2000.
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Title Annotation:research results
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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