Researchers Discover Vitamin E Slows Atherosclerosis

Nutrition Health Review, Summer 1992 | Go to article overview

Researchers Discover Vitamin E Slows Atherosclerosis


Dallas, Texas: In the first large clinical study of its kind, researchers here have shown that megadoses of vitamin E may slow the development of atherosclerosis.

When nutrition researchers at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas gave volunteers daily does of 800 international units (IUs) of alphatocopherol, commonly known as vitamin E, they discovered that the oxidation rate of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) was reduced by half. Scientists believe it is the oxidation of LDL -- the "bad" form of cholesterol -- that triggers the buildup of cholesterol in the artery wall, leading to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Oxidation is the same process that causes oils to become rancid when exposed to air (Journal of Lipid Research, 6/92).

Dr. Ishwarlal Jialal, associate professor of internal medicine and clinical nutrition, and Dr. Scott Grundy, director of UT Southwestern's Center for Human Nutrition, directed the study.

Two groups of 12 normal men were given either a placebo or vitamin E for 12 weeks. Levels of vitamin E in their blood and in their lipids (fats) were measured at the beginning of the study, at six weeks and at 12 weeks. None of the volunteers experienced side effects, nor did their cholesterol levels change.

"While the mean blood levels of vitamin E were similar in both levels at both six and 12 weeks," said Jialal, the study's principal investigator, "levels were 3.3-fold higher at six weeks and 4.4-fold at 12 weeks compared to the placebo group."

Because vitamin E is fat-soluble, the researchers also measured it in the LDL. They found vitamin E levels similar to those in the blood.

"We can conclude from this finding that if you put someone on vitamin E, then measure it in the plasma (blood) and it's high, that means it's high in the LDL also," Jialal said.

Next the researchers tried to oxidize the LDL in the laboratory. …

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