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Friday, 29 March, 2002, 00:41 GMT
Vitamin boost for transplant patients
Vitamins could help heart health after transplant
A newly transplanted heart is vulnerable
Taking vitamins C and E could slow the progress of a potentially fatal cardiovascular condition in heart transplant patients, scientists suggest.

About 70% of patients who undergo heart transplants develop hardened arteries, a condition called arteriosclerosis, in the first three years after their operation.

But a team from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, USA, found the condition was stemmed among patients given the vitamins during a year-long study.

Dr James Fang, who led the research, called for further tests to see if the benefits were permanent and if lung, kidney and liver transplant patients could also be helped.

But a spokeswoman for British Heart Foundation was sceptical about the findings.

She said: "All the evidence we have seen so far, including large scale randomised trials, shows that vitamin supplements have no effect in protecting against heart disease."

Blood flow blocked

The research team proposed that treatment with antioxidant vitamins C and E would slow the progression of the arteriosclerosis in transplant patients.


Our results suggest that vitamins C and E provide a clinically useful approach... after cardiac transplantation

Dr James Fang

It causes arteries to harden because of a build up of plaque - made up of cells, fat, cholesterol and other substances.

This can lead to blood flow being blocked, preventing supply to the heart and brain.

Plaque develops when cholesterol is broken down or oxidised. Therefore, in theory, vitamins which stop oxidation should reduce the build up of plaque.

Dummy pills

The researchers said their findings suggest that taking vitamin supplements could delay the onset of arteriosclerosis in the first year after heart transplantation.

They gave 40 heart transplant patients either 100 mgs of both vitamin C and vitamin E for a year, or dummy pills.

All the patients were also given a cholesterol-lowering drug.

The team looked at plaque build-up before and after the treatment.

In those patients given the dummy pills, plaque area increased by 8%. In the vitamin group, virtually no extra plaque developed.

'Further investigations'

Dr Fang said: "Our results suggest that vitamins C and E provide a clinically useful approach to reducing arteriosclerosis after cardiac transplantation.

"Antioxidant therapy with these vitamins may also be useful in other solid-organ allografts [transplants], such as kidney, lung, and liver transplants."

"Further investigations are warranted to investigate whether the beneficial effects of vitamins C and E are sustained over many years when most of the clinical complications resulting from transplant-associated arteriosclerosis occur."

The research is published in The Lancet.

See also:

12 Apr 00 | Health
High vitamin doses 'may harm'
28 Mar 00 | Health
Vitamins 'prevent dementia'
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