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Vegetarians Prone to Strokes

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Strokes are the second most common cause of deaths and the commonest cause of severe disability.
Now a study has shown that deficiency of Vitamin B12, usually seen in vegetarians, can predispose a person to strokes much more than the usual risk factors — diabetes and hypertension.

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“While 20% of Indians suffer from diabetes and high BP,” says Dr Arun Garg, consultant neurologist, Max Hospitals, “incidence of homocysteinemia (increased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid) caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, is 70%. This is seen more among vegetarians as this vitamin is mainly found in meat and milk, if it’s neither boiled nor pasteurised.” In fact, deficiency of vitamins B12, B6 and folate causes two-thirds of strokes.

This risk is four times higher in vegetarians. As folate is found in vegetables and fruits, its deficiency is rare among Indians, but that of vitamin B12 is common.

Normal levels of homocysteine are 5-15 micromol per litre. Increased levels heighten the chances of blood clotting, which can lead to decrease in blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. Studies have found high levels of homocysteine in over 80% of stroke patients. Even a rise of five micromol increases the risk of stroke by two times.

The link between strokes and vegetarianism was confirmed in a five-year study by Garg and Dr A K Jain, neurologist, Jain Neuro Centre, in two Max hospitals and this Centre. From 2003, 4,680 OPD patients were screened for vitamin B12 and homocysteine levels. Those with a history of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, chronic renal, liver problems, alcoholics and those on vitamin supplements were excluded. Most had vague complaints — tingling, numbness, chronic headaches and depressive symptoms like sleeplessness and fatigue.

It was found that 60% patients had vitamin B12 levels below 400 pg/ml and 38.9% had less than 200 pg/ml. Homocysteine levels were high (over 15 micromol/l) in 36%. And out of these, over 80% were either strict vegetarians or took non-vegetarian food less than once a week. This showed the co-relation between vegetarians and strokes.

To confirm the study, 418 ischemic stroke patients between 30-85 years admitted during the same period were analysed. It was found that homocysteine levels were high (over 15 micromol/l) in 77.5% of the patients showing vitamin deficiency can result in strokes. The effects of a stroke are serious and sometimes fatal — paralysis, loss of speech and vision, unsteadiness, double vision or even unconsciousness.

Dr Vinay Goyal, associate professor, neurology, AIIMS, says, “It’s true that vegetarians have less vitamin B12 as compared to non-vegetarians. This has been proven in Indian Americans, Germans, and Chinese/Singaporeans.”

Prevention would cost less than Rs 10 per day, says Garg. All one has to do is take prescribed doses of vitamin B12 and B6 and folic acid. These are shown to reduce homocysteine level by 38% and the risk of stroke by 20-30%. Goyal says, “Vitamin B12 is also there in soyabean, legumes, dairy products, cottage cheese, etc.” Garg and Jain gave vegetarian patients in their study daily vitamin supplements.

Their symptoms disappeared completely after 3-6 months of therapy. Vegetarians with vitamin B12 deficiency need life-long treatment. A dose of 1-1.5 mg/day is required, says Garg. The government too should fortify food with it, much like iodized salt. Also, as India has a high proportion of vegetarians, screening should be done. So get going to quell that stroke of bad luck.

Sources: The Times Of India

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The Essential Multivitamin

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More Americans take a daily multivitamin than any other supplement. It’s an easy, safe way to get numerous benefits from a variety of nutrients without having to pop a handful of pills every day……..CLICK & SEE

Taking a daily multivitamin is especially important for older adults because as we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing vitamins and minerals from food. And if you follow a vegetarian diet, you may not be consuming enough of certain vitamins and minerals to begin with.

When choosing a multivitamin, pick a brand with high quality control, high reported bioavailability (this means your body can absorb the vitamins), and few additives. These include multis by Thorne, PhytoPharmica, and Vital Nutrients. Don’t choose a multi that contains iron unless you’re a woman who is still menstruating or your doctor has recommended that you take additional iron.

Multivitamins got a boost in June 2002, when the Journal of the American Medical Association published two articles by Harvard doctors on their benefits. The doctors recommended that everyone, regardless of age or health status, take one. We agree. Among the heart-related benefits you might reap are a lower homocysteine level and less oxidation of LDL. Some of the nutrients most likely responsible include:

B vitamins. One of the best reasons to take a multivitamin every day is to be certain to get your fill of B vitamins. This family of vitamins — thiamin, riboflavin (B1), pyridoxine (B6), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), cobalamin (B12), folic acid, biotin, choline, inositol, and para-aminobenzoic acid — plays a critical role in every function inside your body. But the vitamins really shine when it comes to your heart. Folate, B6, and B12 help prevent a dangerous buildup of the amino acid homocysteine. If homocysteine levels rise too high, they damage endothelial cells (which line the arteries), blocking the production of nitric oxide and leaving arteries more prone to plaque buildup. Keeping homocysteine in check is a good enough reason by itself to take a multivitamin.

Another B vitamin, choline, helps your body process cholesterol. And vitamin B5 can actually lower LDL and triglycerides and raise HDL, at least at high doses. The vitamin apparently works by reducing the amount of cholesterol your liver makes.

Generally, a multivitamin will give you all of the B vitamins your body needs. But if you have elevated homocysteine levels, talk to your doctor about taking an additional B vitamin supplement. Should you decide to do so, don’t exceed the recommended dosages. Because they are fat soluble, many of these vitamins can build up in the body to toxic levels.

From:Cut Your Cholesterol