Vitamin E Gains New Protective Role for the Heart

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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From The January 2001 Issue of Nutrition Science News

Researchers have discovered a new role for vitamin E in heart disease protection. Vitamin E supplements lowered blood levels of two key substances that contribute to atherosclerosis, according to a study conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. This may be especially important for diabetics who are at high risk of heart disease and have circulatory problems.

The two substances are interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). IL-6 promotes atherosclerosis in several ways, including stimulating proliferation of blood vessel muscle cells and making the lining of the vessels more permeable. IL-6 also stimulates production of CRP, which contributes to the inflammation that is a key part of the disease. Blood levels of IL-6 and CRP predict cardiovascular disease.

In this study, 25 nondiabetics, 24 diabetics without vascular complications, and 23 diabetics with vascular complications were studied. The men and women were between the ages of 47 and 66. All participants supplemented with 1,200 IU alpha-tocopherol daily for three months. Researchers tested blood levels of IL-6 and CRP at baseline, after three months of supplementation, and following a two-month washout.

Initially, both diabetic groups had significantly higher levels of IL-6 than nondiabetics. Diabetics with vascular complications had higher levels of CRP than either diabetics without complications or nondiabetics. After supplementation, IL-6 and CRP levels in all three groups significantly decreased.

Vitamin E's antioxidant actions against low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were already suspected to help prevent atherosclerosis. The current study extends the mechanism of vitamin E's effect by showing it helps to stop the underlying disease process. Notably, this study used a higher level of alpha-tocopherol supplementation than most previous studies, which researchers believe may be necessary for atherosclerosis protection.

Alpha tocopherol supplementation decreases serum C-reactive protein and monocyte interleukin-6 levels in normal volunteers and type 2 diabetic patients
Free Radical Biology and Medicine 2000 (Oct 15);   29 (8):   790792

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