Vitamin E supplements fail to live up to hype

The blush is off the rose when it comes to women and vitamin E supplements.

A long-term clinical trial found that initial optimism about vitamin E reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke in women was ill founded.

The results from the Women’s Health Study, a long-term clinical trial of the effect of vitamin E and aspirin on both the prevention of cardiovascular disease and of cancer can be found in the July 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In addition to the cardiovascular disease findings, the study authors report that there was no effect of vitamin E on total cancer or on the most common cancers in women – breast, lung, and colon cancers.

The Women’s Health Study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

“This landmark trial has given women and their physicians important health information. We can now say that despite their initial promise, vitamin E supplements do not prevent heart attack and stroke. Instead, women should focus on well-proven means of heart disease prevention, including leading a healthy lifestyle and controlling risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” said study director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel.

The Women’s Health Study was conducted between 1992 and 2004. The participants were 39,876 healthy women age 45 years and older who were randomly assigned to receive vitamin E or placebo. The participants were followed for about 10 years.

TUNED OUT

A study of elementary school students found that children who had television sets in their bedrooms scored significantly lower on school achievement tests than children without TVs in their bedrooms.

Having a computer in the home was associated with higher test scores, according to the same study, which was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Stanford University. The study was published July 4 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

“In this study, we found that the household media environment was related to a child’s academic achievement,” said Dina Borzekowski lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Population and Family Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Among these third graders, we saw that even when controlling for the parent’s education level, the child’s gender and the amount of media used per week, those who had bedroom TV sets scored around 8 points lower on math and language arts tests and 7 points lower on reading tests. A home computer showed the opposite relationship – children with access to a home computer had scores that were around 6 points higher on the math and the language arts test and 4 points higher on the reading test, controlling for the same variables.”

The study followed third-grade students from six schools in northern California. During one school year, nearly 400 students and their parents were asked to report on the types of media available in the home, including television, videotapes, computers and video games, as well as how often the child used them. The children’s math, reading and language arts skills were tested twice over the year using the Stanford Achievement Test.

SUPERBUG FARMS

Doctors are becoming increasingly concerned about “superbugs” – bacteria that have become resistant to standard antibiotics.

It is well known that a high rate of antibiotic prescribing in hospitals contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. But for some antibiotics, an even more important factor contributing to such emergence, argues a research team in the medical journal PLoS Medicine, is the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

“Evidence suggests that antibiotic use in agriculture has contributed to antibiotic resistance in the pathogenic bacteria of humans,” say David Smith of the Fogarty International Center, Jonathan Dushoff of Princeton University and the Fogarty International Center, and J. Glenn Morris Jr. of the University of Maryland.

Antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are found in the air and soil around farms, in surface and ground water, in wild animal populations, and on retail meat and poultry. These resistant bacteria are carried into the kitchen on contaminated meat and poultry where other foods are cross-contaminated because of unsafe handling practices. Following ingestion, bacteria occasionally survive the formidable but imperfect gastric barrier to colonize the gut – which in turn might transmit resistant bacteria to humans.

Researchers say transmission of antibiotic resistant bacteria from animal to human populations is difficult to measure, as it is “the product of a very high exposure rate to potentially contaminated food, and a very low probability of transmission at a given meal.” Nevertheless, based on the analysis presented, the authors suggest “transmission from agriculture can have a greater impact on human populations than hospital transmission.”

E-mail Ven Griva at [email protected] or write to P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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