Supplements Do Not Lower Risk

Of Heart Disease, Study Finds

People hoping vitamins can protect their hearts need to eat healthful foods instead of popping pills, the American Heart Association says.

A review of studies on whether supplements can reduce heart disease risk shows they have virtually no effect, the group said in a statement published yesterday in its journal, Circulation.

Antioxidants are molecules that work to reduce the damage done to cells and to DNA by free radicals -- charged chemical particles caused by everyday biological processes.

Foods rich in antioxidants can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and scientists have been working to isolate the compounds responsible. Vitamins A and C are antioxidants.

But several studies have shown that people who took antioxidant supplements did not have a lower risk of cancer or heart disease, and one Finnish study showed that male smokers who took supplements actually had a higher risk of lung cancer.

Nutritionists now think it is probably combinations of compounds in foods that yield benefits.

More Evidence Found to Link

Prenatal Flu and Schizophrenia

A new study adds more evidence to a body of research that suggests the children of some women who get the flu while pregnant are at higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

The latest study, published in August's Archive of General Psychiatry, examined blood samples from 64 women for antibodies to flu viruses, which indicated that those who had the flu during the first half of pregnancy were three times more likely than noninfected women to have children who developed schizophrenia later in life, the researchers said.

They emphasized that the overall risks are still quite small. The results suggest that about 97 percent of babies born to women who had the flu while pregnant will not develop schizophrenia.

Lead author Alan Brown, a psychiatrist at New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, theorized that the damage occurs only in a small number of genetically susceptible fetuses.

But Robert Yolken, a Johns Hopkins University scientist who has long studied the role viruses may play in mental illness, said the latest findings along with previous evidence make it "pretty clear that influenza infection during pregnancy is a risk factor, probably one of several risk factors" for schizophrenia.

The study is "thus far the most robust evidence" of the connection, Brown said.

DNA Points to Asian Pet Dogs

As Australian Dingoes' Ancestors

Dingoes, the yellow native dogs of Australia, probably evolved from a very small group of pets brought by Southeast Asian settlers, researchers reported yesterday.

Genetic tests on dingoes and a range of dogs from around the world show the animals' ancestry dates back 5,000 years, to either a single female or a very small group of animals, the researchers said.

This coincides nicely with the arrival in Australia of settlers from Southeast Asia, they said in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The dingo originated from a population of east Asian dogs," said Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The researchers collected DNA from 211 dingoes, and compared it with the DNA of 676 dogs from around the world and 38 wolves from Europe and Asia.

-- From News Services