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Vitamin-rich blood may prevent angina.

Vitamin-rich blood may prevent angina

High blood levels of certain nutrients, especially vitamin E, may lower the risk of angina, a type of chest pain that often precedes a heart attack. This new finding, though based on an all-male study sample, adds to growing evidence suggesting that certain "antioxidant" nutrients may prevent blood vessel damage that can cause heart disease.

Harvard University researchers discovered last year that men who took beta carotene -- a vitamin A precursor -- suffered half as many heart attacks and strokes as men who took placebo pills during a six-year study (SN: 11/17/90, p.308). Many researchers believe beta carotene and vitamins E and C act as potent antioxidants in the bloodstream, thus blocking the formation of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Scientific evidence suggests that oxidized LDL represents the worst form of cholesterol, damaging artery walls and triggering the buildup of fatty deposits that can reduce blood flow to the heart and eventually cause a heart attack.

A report in the Jan. 5 LANCET adds another piece to the vitamin and heart disease puzzle.

Rudolph A. Riemersma and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, working with K. Fred Gey at the University of Berne in Switzerland, studied 110 men with previously undiagnosed chest pain and 394 health men who reported no heart disease symptoms. The researchers took blood samples from all participants and analyzed the clear, plasma portion for carotene (primarily beta carotene) and vitamins E and C. Their statistical analysis revealed that men with higher-than-average plasma levels of these nutrients -- particularly vitamin E -- were less likely to experience chest pain than were men with lower-than-average plasma concentrations of the nutrients.

Riemersma recommends that people eat more fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamin-E-rich cereals, nuts and vegetable oils. Noting that middle-aged men in Scotland typically eat very few fruits and vegetables, he suggests that vitamin-poor diets may help explain why Scotland has one of the world's highest rates of heart disease.

It remains unclear whether a vitamin-rich diet can actually lower the incidence of heart disease in Scotland or elsewhere, cautions Lawrence J. Machlin, a vitamin researcher at Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., in Nutley, N.J. Nevertheless, he says, this study and others like it offer compelling evidence for the theory that antioxidant nutrients, and especially vitamin E, may offer some protection against heart disease.
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Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 12, 1991
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