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Heart Health Hampered by Vitamin C Supplements, Study Shows

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In a second study, she and her colleagues evaluated the effect of fruit and vegetable intake and again report a positive finding. "People who ate three or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day had a 29% lower risk of stroke and a 27% less risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke," she says. Those findings were based on 19 years of follow-up of a national sample of 11,000 people, she says.

Another, much smaller, study demonstrated that overweight men and women who switched to a diet that replaces refined grains with whole grains were able to reduce several components of blood that are associated with heart attacks. The special diet reduced what are called inflammatory markers and some factors that are known to cause clotting in the blood, says Mark A. Pereira, PhD, instructor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Pereira tells WebMD that the whole-grain diet also had an unexpected effect: It caused a moderate weight loss over the six-week study. "If a longer-term trial of the diet could demonstrate continued weight loss, the positive benefits might be even greater," he says.

Pereira says the study suggests that even moderate changes in diet could produce big public health benefits. "For example, to switch to a whole-grain cereal or to make that peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain rather than white bread would be enough to really impact heart health," he says. As a word of advice, Pereira says shoppers should select truly whole-grain breads, "where the whole grain is the first or second item on the label," he says.

Vital Information:

  • A California researcher reports that men who took 500 mg of vitamin C had a rate of thickening of the artery walls that was 2.5 times greater than men who did not get the supplement. The acceleration of arterial thickening was five times as fast in smokers who took vitamin C.
  • An observer says the results are surprising, since they conflict with a Finnish study that seemed to demonstrate a protective benefit of vitamin C and vitamin E against arterial thickening. Both the researcher and outside expert say more study is needed.
  • Other studies point to possible benefits of beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in preventing heart disease and stroke.
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