Eating High Fat Meal Causes Arteries to Behave Abnormally But the Effects are Contradicted
by Ingesting Oatmeal or Vitamin E

A milk shake made with ice cream, cream of coconut, and eggs is fatty enough to cause arteries to constrict when they should dilate, an influence that could increase risk of a heart attack in susceptible individuals, a study by a Yale researcher shows.

The study also showed that either a bowl of oatmeal or 800 IU of vitamin E taken with the milk shake prevented the arterial dysfunction. Wheat consumed with the milk shake did not prevent the drink’s ill effects.

“What this tells us is that most of us probably don’t have enough soluble fiber in our diet, and people would likely benefit from eating more oatmeal,” said David Katz, M.D., associate clinical professor of epidemiology and public health and medicine at Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study included 25 men and 25 women recruited from the Lower Naugatuck Valley in Connecticut. The men were 35 or older and the women were post-menopausal. Different age criteria were applied to men and women to ensure that the subjects would be selected from gender groups most likely to be at risk for subclinical atherosclerosis. None of them smoked, had any known heart disease, and none were taking any medication or vitamins on a regular basis.

Once each week for three weeks the men and women were tested for vascular responses after fasting the night before. Immediately after the test, they drank the milk shake. On one occasion, each of the men and women accompanied the milk shake with a bowl of oatmeal. On another occasion, they ate a bowl of whole rolled wheat cereal with the shake. On a third week, the men and women consumed the shake with a capsule containing 800 IUs of vitamin E. They were then retested three hours after each meal.

Diameter and blood flow of the brachial artery in the arm was measured by ultrasound. Blood flow declined after the milk shake when consumed along with the wheat cereal, but flow was preserved by both the oatmeal and the vitamin E.

“This is the first report of the effects of cereal grains on endothelial function, which is the technical term for the blood vessel behavior measured,” Katz said. “The results suggest that whole oats and vitamin E oppose the endothelial dysfunction induced by acute fat ingestion. People, especially those at risk for heart disease, should certainly consider both restricting intake of saturated fat and including oats in their diet on a regular basis.”

What is not known, Katz said, are the effects of sustained dietary supplements on endothelial function.

Katz is the author of the newly-published “Nutrition in Clinical Practice,” a text covering the wide range of nutrition topics relevant in the doctor-patient relationship, including weight control and cardiovascular disease, early childhood development, cognition, adolescence, the menstrual cycle and cancer prevention.

He published a study in recent months showing that physicians can effectively counsel patients about poor eating habits, smoking and lack of exercise, yet only half take the opportunity to discuss these issues during routine check ups. Barriers to that discussion, Katz said, include time constraints, more immediate medical needs, a lack of patient interest, or that some physicians feel ill-prepared to counsel patients on diet and other lifestyle issues.

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