Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Briefs

B Vitamins Improve Outcome After Angioplasty
Angioplasty is a common procedure for unclogging atherosclerotic heart arteries. Now the Swiss Heart Study finds angioplasty patients fare better if they take a simple B-vitamin supplement after the procedure. Guido Schnyder, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego, gave 272 postangioplasty patients a daily B-vitamin mix of 1 mg folic acid, 400 mg B12 and 10 mg B6 for six months. Another 281 patients were randomly assigned to take a placebo. During the year following angioplasty, 16 percent of those given the placebo but only 10 percent of those taking B-vitamins required repeat angioplasty of the same artery. B-vitamin supplementation also reduced the risk of dying from or suffering a heart attack or reclogging the repaired artery by a third, from 23 percent to 15 percent. Patients' blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking status did not affect outcomes. The vitamin B supplement lowered levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which causes atherosclerosis by damaging blood vessel linings, generating damaging oxidants, stimulating clotting and thickening blood vessel walls.

Journal of the American Medical Association
2002 Aug 28;288(8):973-9.

Sugar, Fat Impair Learning
If people respond the same way rats do, eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet may damage "crucial aspects" of brain chemistry, affecting the ability to learn and remember. That's the conclusion of an animal study on diet and neurochemistry conducted by R. Molteni of the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the experiment, 344 animals were randomly assigned a standard low-fat, complex-carbohydrate chow or a high-fat, high-sugar diet. The researchers found dramatic differences in brain chemistry in the two groups that correlated with behavior changes. The HFS diet reduced levels of a critical brain chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF controls how the brain learns and remembers by providing a link between electrical stimulation of the brain and subsequent changes in brain-cell growth and interconnections. Before the study began, both groups of animals performed similarly in resolving a water maze. After two months of eating separate diets, however, the HFS-fed animals took 50 percent longer to solve the maze than the chow-fed animals. The HFS-fed animals demonstrated no ability to learn how the maze worked, while most of those fed chow quickly located the end of the maze. Brain levels of BDNF directly correlated with an animal's ability to solve and remember the maze. The experimental diet in this study was higher in fat (39 percent of daily calories) and sugar (40 percent) than the average American diet, but is it possible our high-fat and high-sugar diets might be lowering our intelligence?

Glucosamine Stops Osteoarthritis
No conventional treatment can prevent osteoarthritis from worsening with time. A new study from the Czech Republic, however, shows glucosamine sulfate can stop knee osteoarthritis from progressing. In the study, conducted by Karel Pavelka, M.D., Ph.D., of Charles University in Prague, 202 patients with knee osteoarthritis took either 1,500 mg glucosamine sulfate or a placebo for three years. During the study period, patients receiving placebo experienced a narrowing of the space between their joints, indicating disease progression. The patients taking glucosamine showed no change. In addition, self-reported symptoms, such as pain and stiffness, improved by up to 25 percent in the group taking glucosamine. There were no side effects associated with glucosamine sulfate.

Marilyn Sterling, R.D., is a consultant to the natural products industry and a freelance health writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 1/p. 55

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