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VITAMIN E LINK TO LOWER RISK OF HEART DISEASE REPORTED

Executive Summary

VITAMIN E LINK TO LOWER RISK OF HEART DISEASE REPORTED Nov. 17 during the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans. Women who took vitamin E supplements at some time during an eight- year period had only two-thirds the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those not taking the supplement, according to results of the Nurses' Health Study. The prospective study of a possible link between vitamin E supplementation and risk of coronary heart disease, conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, assessed the use of vitamin E by 87,245 women aged 34-59. The participants did not have heart disease or cancer as of 1980. "Overall, 17% were taking specific vitamin E supplements," an abstract of the study states. "During eight years of followup, 552 cases [of heart attack] were confirmed. After adjustment for age, smoking, obesity, exercise, and other CHD risk factors and multivitamin use, the relative risk among vitamin E supplement users was 0.64...compared with women not using them." Led by Meir Stampfer, MD, Harvard, the authors noted that "the apparent beneficial effect of supplements was limited to use for two or more years." Women who took vitamin E for more than two years had about half, or 54%, the risk of heart disease compared with the non-Vitamin E group. The Nurses' Health Study began in 1976 when questionnaires were mailed to 121,700 female registered nurses. Since then, the study has tracked the medical/health status of the participants via questionnaires every two years. Concluding that the data suggest that vitamin E reduces the risk of heart disease, the abstract states: "to address issues of self-selection and confounding, a trial would be useful." In a companion study, also conducted by Brigham's and Harvard, researchers assessed 45,720 male health care workers ranging in age from 40 to 75. They had no history of cardiovascular disease as of 1986. The Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that men who had taken vitamin E supplements for more than two years had a 26% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those not taking the vitamin. The results were adjusted for vitamin C, carotene and multivitamin intake as well as age, smoking, hypertension, diabetes and other CHD risk factors. Vitamin E users of less than two years were excluded. Eric Rimm, et al., concluded that "data from other prospective studies among separate populations or evidence from a clinical trial are needed to corroborate these results." In a Nov. 18 presentation before the AHA's 65th Scientific Sessions, James Dwyer, PhD, University of Southern California School of Medicine, reported that increased dietary calcium protects against development of hypertension in individuals who are under 40, not overweight and not daily drinkers. According to a press release announcing the findings, "each gram of calcium consumed per day lowered the risk of high blood pressure an average of 12% among 6,634 men and women in the study." Dietary calcium, rather than calcium supplements, affected the change. Average daily calcium intake is estimated at about one-half to one gram. Study participants, who had no history of anti-hypertension medication upon enrollment, were selected from among 12,200 persons aged 25-74 included in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I, a 1971-1984 epidemiologic study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers collected information about diet and drinking habits provided by the enrollees and then measured the incidence of hypertension and daily calcium intake 10 years later. "Statistical analysis was used to weigh the impact of calcium on the development of high blood pressure, as well as the influence of the other factors, such as age and weight," the press release states.
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