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Ovarian Disorder Linked to Heart Disease in Young Women

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November 13, 2000|THOMAS H. MAUGH II | TIMES MEDICAL WRITER

Young women with a common reproductive disorder are more likely to develop heart disease than their peers and may even develop it at a younger age, Pennsylvania researchers report.

The disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome, affects about 5% of the female population and is characterized by menstrual irregularities, excessive body hair, infertility, high insulin levels and, frequently, obesity. It often goes undiagnosed, however.

The syndrome also produces metabolic abnormalities, especially higher levels of lipids and so-called bad cholesterol, according to Dr. Evelyn Talbott of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Long-term exposure to those fats leads to hardening of the arteries and higher levels of arterial plaque.

Talbott and her colleagues studied 125 women with the syndrome who were at least 30 years old and 142 healthy women without the syndrome with similar ages and general health. They reported in the November issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology that women with the syndrome had more risk factors for heart disease, had thicker, more calcified arteries and had higher levels of plaque in the carotid artery leading to the brain.

They recommended that women be diagnosed early and treated to lower cholesterol levels.

Mediterranean Diet and Second Heart Attacks

The so-called Mediterranean diet--rich in olive oil, fruit, vegetables and fish--provides a strong protective effect in people who have already had a heart attack, Italian researchers say.

Although relatively high in fat, the Mediterranean diet is considered healthful because of its protective nutrients, including antioxidants such as vitamin E from fruits and vegetables, monounsaturated fatty acids from olive oil and polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish. The diet is already known to lower the risk of having a first heart attack, but this is the first study to examine its potential benefits following a heart attack.

Dr. Roberto Marchioli and his colleagues at the Consorzio Mario Negri Sud in Santa Maria Imbaro studied long-term changes in the dietary habits of 11,324 Italians after their heart attacks. They also evaluated the potential benefits of adding certain supplements, such as vitamin E and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are isolated from fish oil.

Marchioli reported Sunday at an American Heart Assn. meeting in New Orleans that the 20% of patients with the "worst" diets (with the highest levels of butter and saturated fats and the lowest of fruits and vegetables) had 2.6 times the risk of dying within 42 months as did the 20% with the best diets. They also found that taking one gram of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids per day lowered the risk of dying by 20% independently of other factors.

Melatonin Found Useless for Jet Lag

Contrary to popular belief, melatonin does not shift circadian rhythms for sufferers of jet lag, according to Yale researchers. It can, however, induce sleepiness when taken in the evening, they said.

Many people believe that the hormone can be used to accelerate acclimatization to a new time zone, but that has never been tested. Dr. Scott Rivkees and his colleagues at the Yale School of Medicine studied the effects of melatonin in baboons, which have sleep/wake cycles similar to those of humans.

They reported in the October Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (http://jcem.endojournals.org) that the supplement had no effect on the animals' sleep/wake cycles. It did produce sleepiness when taken during the evening, but not when taken at any other time.

Study Says Kaposi Virus Transmitted Via Kissing

The virus that causes Kaposi's sarcoma in people afflicted with AIDS is transmitted primarily by kissing, according to researchers from the University of Washington. Kaposi's is a skin cancer that, in the United States, affects primarily gay males with AIDS.

The virus, discovered only a year ago, is called herpes virus 8 and is closely related to the Epstein Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis--commonly known as the kissing disease.

Dr. John Pauk and his Washington colleagues looked for signs of the virus in 50 gay men known to be infected. They reported in the Nov. 9 New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.org) that they found the virus in saliva in 30% of the men, but in anal and genital samples in only 1%. They suggested that it is transmitted primarily by deep kissing, but that it could also be spread during oral sex. The virus can infect heterosexuals as well but produces problems primarily in people with a suppressed immune system, as is the case with AIDS.

Birth Control Pills Tied to Blood-Clot Risk

Confirming earlier studies, a new report indicates that third-generation birth control pills nearly double a woman's risk of developing blood clots.

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