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Attending religious services may help heart

Diabetics who attend religious services at least once a year had lower levels of a marker of inflammation linked to heart disease than those who never attended religious services, a new US study has found.

However, the authors note that they only measured how often people attended a religious service, and not how religious they were. Furthermore, there appeared to be no link between service attendance and the marker, called C- reactive protein (CRP), in people who were not diabetic.

"It seemed to apply among people at the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease--the diabetics," study author Dr. Arch G. Mainous of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston told Reuters Health.

Mainous suggested that the benefit of attending services may not be the act of attending services itself, but rather religion's ability to have a positive effect on people's lives, for example by providing a helping community. "You're probably looking at something that may be an artifact," he said.

People with diabetes typically have higher levels of CRP than non-diabetics, a fact that may help explain why diabetics have a higher-than-average risk of cardiovascular problems.

During the study, Mainous, along with Dr. Dana E. King and colleagues, used data collected as part of a nationwide health survey conducted from 1988 to 1994. The survey included 556 people with diabetes, and all study participants were at least 40 years old. The researchers characterized participants as attenders of religious services if they indicated they went at least once a year.

Around 62% of all survey participants said that they attended religious services, the authors report in the July issue of Diabetes Care. The investigators found that diabetics who never attended religious services had a higher risk of having elevated levels of CRP in their blood than attenders.

The link between CRP and religious service attendance remained even when the researchers accounted for of other factors that can affect health, such as smoking, mobility and obesity.

Diabetes Care
C-Reactive Protein, Diabetes, and Attendance at Religious Services (abstract of article)


17 Jul 2002