Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Could taking Vitamin E harm your baby's heart?

Oh no! This cannot be! Vitamin E is one of those miraculous "antioxidants". Seriously, though, a 900% increase in risk makes it seem like a real hazard. Epidemiologists regularly go ga ga over a 30% increase in risk -- or less. But the "high" and the "safe" doses in the study differ only slightly so it is all a bit mad. I don't think the case is proven at all. But for once I endorse the official advice (at the end of the article). Journal abstract here

Pregnant women have been warned that taking even modest amounts of vitamin E can dramatically increase the risk of heart defects in babies. Expectant mothers who consume only three-quarters of the recommended daily amount of the vitamin, either through food or supplements, have up to nine times the risk that their child will be born suffering a heart abnormality, a study showed. The same link between heart damage and vitamin E was seen in women who had taken similar levels of the vitamin in the month preceding conception. Last night leading obstetricians said women should avoid vitamin E supplements if they are planning to conceive or are pregnant.

Vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and eggs, is an antioxidant and is thought to help skin stay healthy and ease the misery of premenstrual syndrome.

During pregnancy it was previously thought to help protect against miscarriage. The recommended daily intake, according to EU rules, is 20mg a day. However researchers from the Erasmus MC, University Medical Centre, in Rotterdam found women who had taken over 14.9mg a day during the first two months of pregnancy were up to nine times more likely to have a child with a heart defect. This risk was repeated for women who had consumed more than 14.9mg a day in the month prior to conception according to the study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The exact mechanism which could lead vitamin E to cause an increased risk of heart damage is not yet known, but experts believe it plays a crucial role in early fetal growth.

The study examined the diets of 267 women whose child was born with a heart defect and 324 women whose children were born healthy. Mothers whose children had a heart defect showed significantly higher dietary vitamin E intake, averaging 13.3 mg per day compared with 12.6mg. A total of 89 of these mothers - 32 per cent - had a daily vitamin E intake above 14.9mg. The study authors said the results demonstrate that a high maternal intake of vitamin E 'is associated with a 1.7 to nine-fold increased congenital heart defect risk'.

Last night an eminent obstetrician, Professor Stuart Campbell, said: 'This work has to be confirmed but I think there is enough evidence for the Government to advise pregnant women not to take vitamin E supplementation in pregnancy.' Another expert, Professor Andrew Shennan, said: 'I do not advise taking any extra vitamins - C or E - because we simply don't know if it is safe, particularly in pregnancy.'

However, Dr Carrie Ruxton, an independent nutritionist and scientific adviser to the Health Supplements Information Service, said vitamin E was an essential nutrient and it was 'premature' to recommend that pregnant women avoid foods and supplements containing it.

The Department of Health said pregnant women should supplement a healthy diet only with extra folic acid, to guard against spina bifida, and vitamin D, to boost bone strength.


Rude Prime Minister needs more meat?

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is on a weight-loss diet that cuts out red meat

CRITICISM of Kevin Rudd's outburst on a flight from Papua New Guinea is completely over the top, Treasurer Wayne Swan has said. The Prime Minister was forced to apologise for yelling at a 23-year-old Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) female flight attendant because he was not served the meal he wanted during the flight to Australia in January.

Opposition frontbencher Julie Bishop said yesterday that Mr Rudd was a bully and his behaviour would be unacceptable in any Australian workplace. Ms Bishop said the incident was not just rude, it was sexist and Mr Rudd had abused his position in an unequal power relationship. "This is a very powerful man in a privileged position bullying a female defence member whose job it is to wait on the Prime Minister as he travels around the world on a taxpayer-funded private jet," Ms Bishop told ABC TV yesterday. "Bullying behaviour by the Prime Minister in particular towards a female member of our serving defence force is totally unacceptable. "The kind of bullying that reduced her to tears and ended up in an incident report being filed ... would not be accepted in any workplace across Australia. It reflects very badly on him." ....

Opposition frontbencher Nick Minchin said Australians were seeing the real Kevin Rudd, whom people in parliament were already familiar with. "He's been quite appropriately nicknamed Kevin Rude ... as a result of this episode," Senator Minchin said. "Those of us who work and live in Parliament House have known for years there's two sides to Kevin Rudd, and that behind closed doors he's prone to temper tantrums and this sort of belittling and very bad behaviour with his own staff.

In London, Mr Rudd attempted to play down the incident and pleaded for understanding. "As I said, we're all human - we all make mistakes, your Prime Minister included," he said.

But maybe there is another explanation. According to Karen Inge, head of nutrition at the Victorian Institute of Sport, iron deficiency was the reason behind Mr Rudd's rude behaviour. "If you cut down on red meat it can reduce your iron levels. The major role of iron is to carry oxygen in the blood. If you have low oxygen it makes you tired. It's not rocket science. You only have to look at a child who is tired to see how cranky they are. When you are tired you don't often react in the best way possible," Ms Inge said.


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