Vitamin E Linked
to Early Artery Disease
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women who don't get enough vitamin
E in their diets appear to be more likely than others to show
early signs of the artery disease atherosclerosis, even before
they experience any symptoms of the condition, study findings
A group of Italian researchers found that the more vitamin E
women consumed in their diets, the less likely they were to have
the beginning traces of thickening in the neck's carotid arteries,
a marker of artery disease throughout the body.
"This association was independent of other cardiovascular risk
factors, was not related to vitamin supplements, and supports
the hypothesis that low vitamin E intake is a risk factor for
early atherosclerosis," Arcangelo Iannuzzi of A Cardarelli Hospital
in Naples and colleagues write.
However, they add, women at highest risk of early atherosclerosis
were those who took in the lowest amount of vitamin E in their
diets. Consequently, increasing vitamin E intake will likely only
benefit those whose intake is now relatively low, and may have
no effect on women who already get enough of the vitamin in their
"Thus, before advising subjects to change their diet or take
antioxidant vitamin supplements, it would be helpful to evaluate
their intakes and (blood) concentrations," the authors write.
This extra step "would help us identify those who could benefit
the most from this type of intervention."
Atherosclerosis is defined as the build-up of fatty plaques
in arteries that inhibit blood flow, raising the risk of heart
attack or stroke. The condition is linked to a process called
oxidation--damage to body tissues caused by byproducts of the
body's normal processes called free radicals.
The oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the arteries is
a major factor in the development of heart and blood vessel disease
such as atherosclerosis. Previous research has suggested that
because antioxidants such as vitamin E can neutralize oxidative
damage in the body, they may help ward off heart disease and certain
In the current study, Iannuzzi and colleagues performed ultrasounds
on 310 women to determine whether they showed early signs of atherosclerosis
in their carotid arteries. The study participants completed dietary
questionnaires and submitted blood samples that were tested for
levels of vitamin E, other antioxidants and cholesterol. All of
the women were between 30 and 69 years old, and none were taking
The researchers found that the more vitamin E the women consumed
in their diets, the less likely they were to show early signs
of atherosclerosis. Moreover, the ratio of blood levels of vitamin
E to cholesterol was also linked to early artery disease. The
less vitamin E in relation to cholesterol in the blood, the more
likely patients were to have plaques in the carotid arteries.
The investigators did not see any relationship between blood
levels of other antioxidants--such as vitamins A and C--and early
Reporting in the latest issue of the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition, Iannuzzi and colleagues note that women who consumed
more vitamin E may have a healthier diet overall, and other aspects
of their well-balanced food intake besides vitamin E may have
influenced their atherosclerosis risk.
The study participants, who hailed from Southern Italy, got
most of their vitamin E from legumes, vegetables and olive oil.
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002;76:582-587.
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