Supplement may cut infections after heart surgery

September 4, 2001 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Supplement may cut infections after heart surgery

An immune-boosting nutritional supplement has been found to lower the risk of infection and death in patients undergoing heart surgery.

A study from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands found that high-risk patients who took a supplement containing the protein L-arginine, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and yeast RNA had lower rates of infection and organ dysfunction following coronary artery bypass than those who took an inactive placebo pill. The supplement is often given to cancer patients undergoing surgery and to those who are critically ill.

Cardiac surgery can put certain patients, including the elderly and those with poor heart function, at increased risk of infection and death. The study included 50 patients who took the supplement or a placebo for at least 5 days before surgery. Afterwards, the researchers measured the patients' immune response and level of interleukin 6 (IL-6), an inflammatory protein that is released in response to infection and injury.

About 17% of patients who took the supplement developed an infection, compared with 55% of those who took the placebo. Patients who took the supplement also had better kidney function and remained in the hospital for fewer days than patients who were given the placebo. There were no adverse effects associated with the supplement.

L-arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide, a compound that helps the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate.

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation that occurs after surgery, while yeast RNA has been shown to boost the immune system's response to infections.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.