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Vitamins good for some older women/bad for others

A simple blood test could determine whether older women with diabetes would benefit from--or be harmed by--vitamin doses designed to protect their ailing hearts, according to researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

The test screens for genetic variations in a blood protein called haptoglobin. Diabetic, post-menopausal women who carry two copies of the variation known as haptoglobin-2 increase their risk of atherosclerosis, or narrowed arteries, if they take doses of the antioxidant vitamins C and E, Dr. Andrew P. Levy of the Faculty of Medicine says.

In contrast, diabetic women who carry two copies of haptoglobin-1 seem to have a decreased rate of atherosclerosis when they take the vitamins, Levy and colleagues found. Their research appears in the April 2004 issue of Diabetes Care.

"This study says that you can find subgroups of people who actually might benefit and subgroups which will actually be harmed by antioxidant vitamins, so it is important to know which haptoglobin type you are," Levy says.

Although there is a commercial test for haptoglobin type, the test is not widely used, according to Levy.

The new research may help clear up some of the controversy surrounding the use of antioxidant vitamins in patients with heart disease. Some previous studies suggest that antioxidant doses can prevent the progress of atherosclerosis, while the majority of studies have shown there is no benefit from taking antioxidants. Other studies suggest that the vitamins can actually speed up the course of heart disease by interfering with blood cholesterol levels and the effect of cholesterol lowering drugs.

Levy and colleagues examined the effects of antioxidants in 299 post-menopausal women with at least partial blockage in one coronary artery. Women in the study were randomly assigned to take either 400 IU of vitamin E and 500 milligrams of vitamin C twice a day or placebo pills.

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Contact: Kevin Hattori
kevin@ats.org
212-407-6319
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
26-Mar-2004


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