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People with high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine are at increased risk for heart disease and strokes. But it has never been clear whether reducing homocysteine will cut the risk and whether the substance actually causes vascular disease. A paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says it does not. The paper is based on a large, randomized, controlled clinical trial in Britain from 1998 to 2008. More than 12,000 heart attack survivors were randomly assigned to take either a combination of folic acid and vitamin B-12, which reduce homocysteine levels, or a placebo. After seven years, patients who were taking the vitamins had lowered their homocysteine but did not reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke. They had the same rates of heart attack and death from vascular causes as those taking placebos, the study found. The study was financed by Merck, which makes both cholesterol-lowering drugs and vitamins.

Level of intensity matters in exercise

Bicycling for exercise may help women control their weight during their 30s and 40s, a new study says. Brisk walking has the same effect for slim, overweight and obese women, researchers found, but slow walking does not. The findings are based on the second Harvard Nurses' Health Study, which is tracking 116,608 female nurses who periodically fill out questionnaires about their health, weight, diet and behavior. The new analysis, published in the June 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at weight change and behavior from 1989 (when the nurses were 25 to 42 years old) to 2005; to isolate the effects of exercise, the researchers controlled for other obesity risk factors. They found that women who increased physical activities like brisk walking and bicycling by 30 minutes a day during the 16-year period maintained their weight and even lost a few pounds, but those whose exercise was slow walking did not lose any weight. Women who decreased their bicycling time from more than 15 minutes a day to less than 15 minutes gained about 41/2 pounds.

Therapies may slow diabetic eye disease

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease linked to Type 2 diabetes and is a leading cause of vision loss. But, in research released Tuesday, doctors said they have identified two therapies that may slow the progress of the disease. People with Type 2 diabetes who adhere to intensive blood sugar control, compared with standard blood sugar control, have reduced progression of retinopathy. In addition, patients treated with a combination of a cholesterol-lowering statin and fibrate drugs also had a lower rate of progression compared with patients taking statins alone. The data come from the ACCORD study of more than 10,000 adults with Type 2 diabetes at high risk of heart attack, stroke or death, and are published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Times wires


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