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    Heart Health Hampered by Vitamin C Supplements, Study Shows

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    Dwyer and Pearson say the study lends credence to the AHA position, which recommends "across the board that vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not be substituted for a healthy, balanced diet."

    In other studies of the link between nutrition and heart disease and stroke presented at the meeting here, Lydia A. Bazzano, BS, an MD/PhD candidate at Tulane University in New Orleans, found that those who ate beans four or more times a week "had a 19% lower incidence of heart disease compared to those who ate fewer servings of beans." She tells WebMD, "We don't know what type of beans, since we just measured dried beans and peas and we don't know how large the servings should be, but frequency does appear to offer protection."

    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.

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