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Fiber Cuts Cholesterol 15% in Test

February 09, 1988|KATHLEEN DOHENY

On the heels of a report that aspirin may play a dramatic role in preventing heart attacks comes word that over-the-counter dietary fiber supplements can lower blood cholesterol as effectively as some often-prescribed drugs.

Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, conducted an eight-week study of 26 men with mild to moderately elevated blood cholesterol levels. Half took three daily doses of the supplement and half took a cellulose placebo, according to his report in the current issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The supplement reduced total blood cholesterol by 15%, Anderson said in a telephone interview, while the placebo had no significant effect on blood cholesterol. The supplement reduced LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, but had no significant effect on high-density "good" cholesterol or HDL. Eight subjects reported mild gastrointestinal side effects, he said, emphasizing the importance of professional medical attention for cholesterol problems.

"We think fiber delivers a double whammy," Anderson said. "It increases cholesterol loss from the body as well as slows down the manufacture of cholesterol."

Several other reports point to the cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber, noted Anderson, who believes his study--underwritten by the supplement's manufacturer--is the first controlled study of a fiber supplement.

Pumping Protein

Increasing protein intake far above the recommended daily level--or pumping protein--is common among body builders seeking to increase muscle mass quickly.

But it's not necessary and could be dangerous, say Canadian researchers. A recent study found that body builders in the maintenance phase need less protein than elite distance runners--and not much more than sedentary people.

"Our body builders ate an average of 2.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, and the runners 1.7 grams," said Stephanie Atkinson, a nutritional biochemist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and one of the authors of the study published recently in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The body builders required just 1.2 grams, the runners 1.6 grams and the sedentary control subjects about .8 gram, she added.

Chronic overconsumption of protein can lead to kidney problems, Atkinson and many other researchers believe.

"The bottom line of our study is that most people eat in excess of their basic protein needs," she said. "If you eat an average diet with enough calories to meet your energy output, you don't have to pump protein."

Urinary Infections

A single-dose treatment for urinary tract infections works just as well in most women as the traditional longer regimen, researchers conclude in a recent issue of the journal Drug Intelligence and Clinical Pharmacy.

In lieu of prescribing medication for a week or more, Dr. Allan Ronald, professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, suggests one double-strength dose of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra) for the treatment of urinary tract infections, which more commonly affect women than men and are accompanied by frequent urination and burning.

When compared with the standard seven- to 14-day treatment regimen, single-dose therapy appears to be simpler, less expensive and equally effective, said Ronald and his co-author, George Zhanel, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the university.

But one-shot treatment is not for everyone. It should not be used by pregnant women, those with kidney problems or urologic abnormalities, or by men because their urinary tract infections often are accompanied by deep-tissue infection of the kidney or prostate.

More study is needed to resolve the controversy of optimal treatment, acknowledged the researchers, who based their recommendation on their own and others' studies.

"The data support (the finding) that cure rates are not statistically different (between short- and long-term treatment)," agreed Dr. Gerald Bernstein, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the USC School of Medicine, noting that the debate has been ongoing. "The problem with long-term treatment is that most people don't take the full course."

Obesity and Children

Children develop attitudes about fatness and thinness earlier than previously believed, researchers say in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"By age 5 to 7, kids are concerned about obesity and don't like people who are obese as well as those who aren't," said Dr. William Feldman, a professor of pediatrics, epidemiology and community medicine at the University of Ottawa and a physician at Children's Hospital in Ottawa, Canada. Traditionally, researchers believed that children acquire their perceptions of physical attractiveness in adolescence, he said in a telephone interview.

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