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Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK
Life is sweeter for heart patients
Lovely - but out of bounds for some patients
People at high risk of heart disease may not have to forfeit all sugary food, say experts from a London research centre.

Despite fears to the contrary, an occasional sugary snack appears to have no significant effect on levels of fats circulating in the bloodstream, they say.

A sudden rise in blood fat is thought to correspond with an increase in the risk of heart attack, and so many patients are warned to keep their sugar intake very low.

Patients who struggle to keep away from tempting desserts can now enjoy a tasty treat once in a while

Audrey Brynes, Hammersmith Hospital
Many millions of patients fall into this category - the overweight, elderly and those who exercise only rarely.

The team of researchers, from Hammersmith Hospital, looked at a group of such patients, measuring the levels of this blood fat, called triglyceride.

Blood was taken just before a specially-designed sugary meal, and then at intervals for a few hours subsequently.

The team found no difference between the response of the high-risk group and that of the "control" group of people not at risk of heart disease.

Dr Audrey Brynes said: "The results of our trial suggest that there is no real reason for patients thought to be at risk of coronary heart disease to avoid foods high in sugar completely.

Ruling absolutely all sweet food out is, frankly, unrealistic

Dr David Brodie, British Association of Cardiac Rehabiliation
"I must stress that this does not mean that sugar has no relevance at all, and other studies do suggest, very persuasively, that continued consumption of food high in sugar may well cause a considerable increase in circulating triglyceride concentrations.

"However, what this does mean is that patients who struggle to keep away from tempting desserts can now enjoy a tasty treat once in a while with no damage to their health or their conscience."

Dr David Brodie, from the British Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation, said that while it was important for particularly obese heart patients to monitor their calorie intake and take more exercise, strict prohibitions about diet were likely to be counterproductive.

He said: "What we have to do is come up with a regime with which the patient can comply.

"Ruling absolutely all sweet food out is, frankly, unrealistic.

"I'm very comfortable with the idea of an occasional treat - the approach should be moderation in everything - including moderation."

See also:

23 Jun 00 | G-I
Hardened arteries
12 Dec 01 | Health
Blood fat link to strokes
12 Feb 02 | Health
Stress link to heart-danger fats
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