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Science Beat

Black Rice May Prevent Atherosclerotic Plaque
The high rice intake in China may help explain the country's low heart disease rate, say researchers studying black rice, once only permitted to royalty but now available in U.S. natural foods stores.

Results of a recent animal study conducted by Min Xia of Sun Yet-sen University in Guagzhou, China, indicate that black rice has strong preventive effects against atherosclerotic disease or coronary heart disease. In the study, 45 ApoE-deficient mice (a variety used to study arteriosclerosis) were fed regular chow or chow mixed with the outer covering of either black rice or regular rice for 16 weeks.

Both regular and black rice reduced atherosclerotic plaque, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, atherosclerotic immune factors and inflammation. Black rice supple-mentation, however, reduced these factors twice as effectively as regular rice supplementation. According to researchers, the pigment in black rice is a strong antioxidant that prevents LDL oxidation.

—Journal of Nutrition,
March 2003;133(3):744-51

Perimenopausal Women Surveyed on Herb Use
Two-thirds of perimenopausal women who shop in health food stores use herbs for symptom relief, according to a study by Catherine Fogel, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Fogel surveyed 40 women ages 40 through 65 at a health foods store, collecting information about demographics, hormone replacement therapy, perimenopausal symptoms and herb use.

Half of the women surveyed had tried HRT and found it relieved symptoms. More than two-thirds used herbs for symptoms. The most commonly used herbs and their reported symptom relief efficacy were ginseng (89 percent), black cohosh (60 percent), dong quai (60 percent), evening primrose (57 percent) and St. John's wort (46 percent).

The strongest factors influencing herbal use were the desire to avoid HRT, medical provider advice and a belief that herbs are safer than conventional medicine. About half of the women reported their medical provider had never asked about their use of herbal therapy.

—American Journal of Obstetric,
Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, March/April 2003; 32(2):181-9

Vitamin-Mineral Combo Fights Infections in Diabetics
Vitamin and mineral supplementation prevented Type 2 diabetics from developing infections in a study conducted by Thomas Barringer, M.D., of the North Carolina School of Medicine at Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte.

In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 130 people over age 45 were randomly assigned to take either a comprehensive, one-a-day multivitamin/mineral supplement or placebo for one year.

Participants tracked influenza as well as upper and lower respiratory tract, gastrointestinal and bladder infections. Among nondiabetics, there was only a small difference in infection incidences between those taking the complete supplement or placebo. There was a dramatic difference, however, among the 51 Type 2 diabetics: 93 percent of those taking placebo had infections, compared to only 17 percent taking the supplement.

Diabetics often suffer micronutrient deficiencies and have an increased need for some nutrients. Barringer concludes, "If our results are confirmed in a larger trial, the widespread implementation of this preventive measure could have a substantial economic impact and ease the burden of suffering in our society."

Marilyn Sterling, R.D., is an industry consultant and a freelance health writer in Trinidad, Calif.

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