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Hormone, Vitamin Therapies Doubted Anew

November 20, 2002|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Hormone supplements and antioxidant vitamins showed no heart benefits in older women who already had heart disease, according to yet another study that casts doubt on some long-held assumptions about both treatments.

In fact, heart disease also appeared to progress more quickly in women who took hormones, high doses of vitamins E and C, or both, for nearly three years than in those on dummy pills.

The finding was not statistically significant, but the researchers said the trend was worrisome.

"It's a little bit surprising that the outcomes for both treatments were so bad. When the study was designed in the early 1990s, both of these treatments were thought to be highly promising," said study author Dr. David Waters, chief of cardiology at San Francisco General Hospital and a professor at UC San Francisco.

Hormone supplements once were thought to benefit the heart because naturally occurring estrogen helps keep cholesterol at healthy levels. But a landmark study announced last summer found that the pills may actually increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Antioxidant vitamins have been touted as disease-fighters and also promoted as helping keep the heart healthy, theoretically by blocking the effects of cell-damaging oxygen molecules.

But more recent studies have questioned the heart benefits and suggested the vitamins might interfere with cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The new study appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Assn. The study involved 423 post-menopausal heart patients who were put on one of four treatments for nearly three years: hormones; vitamins E and C; hormones and the two vitamins; or placebo pills.

Two women on placebos died, compared with four in the hormone group, six in the vitamin group and 10 in the vitamin-hormone group.

The findings support recommendations from the American Heart Assn., which says taking hormone supplements or antioxidant vitamins to benefit the heart is unwarranted, said Dr. Robert Bonow, AHA president.

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