Lifestyle risks for heart disease differ between men and women, according to French researchers studying the effects of vitamin and mineral supplements on heart health.
The researchers examined the effects of lifestyle on tHcy (elevated plasma homocysteine) concentrations in a group of middle-aged French men and women. Previous studies have suggested that tHcy concentrations are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The team concluded by developing different recommendations for each gender, based on findings that showed different factors influence tHcy for women and men.
The subjects, 1139 women and 931 men, averaging 47 and 51 years old respectively, were participants in a long-term study of the effect of a daily antioxidant supplement on the incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The authors noted the different lifestyle habits between southern Europeans and Anglo-Saxon countries, and lower rates of CVD in Southern Europe.
All of the men and women randomly completed 24-hour dietary recall records, for a total of six records per year per subject. In concurrence with other studies of this kind, the researchers found that men had higher tHcy levels than women overall.
However, coffee and alcohol consumption appeared to have a more significant effect on tHcy concentrations in women. Women who were at the highest level of coffee consumption had 15 per cent higher tHcy concentrations than women at the lowest level, and the tHcy levels of women who consumed higher amounts of alcohol were 13 per cent higher than those of light drinkers.
For men, caloric intake, physical activity levels, dietary fibre and folate intake were more influential on tHcy. Men with the lowest concentration of serum folate, known to mediate tHcy levels, had 21 per cent higher tHcy concentrations than those with high serum folate.
Dr Louise Mennen and her team suggest that modifiable lifestyle factors may produce significant CVD risk factor reduction. Both sexes can improve their plasma tHcy concentrations and reduce CVD risk by taking a daily antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplement, they said.