Supplements of Vitamins E and C Reduce Progression of Cardiovascular Disease

BACKGROUND: Three years ago, a team of Finnish researchers reported that combined supplements of natural vitamin E and time-release vitamin C, taken over a three-year period, slowed the progression of atherosclerosis in men.

Using ultrasound to document blood-vessel changes, the researchers showed that the antioxidant vitamins reduced the thickening of the interior of the carotid artery, which could otherwise reduce and obstruct blood flow.

RESEARCH: In this follow-up study, the researchers assessed the effects of daily supplements containing natural vitamin E (136 IU) and time-release vitamin C (250 mg) over a six-year period. The subjects were generally healthy middle-aged and elderly men and women who had elevated blood levels of cholesterol.

RESULTS: Overall, the combined supplements reduced the thickening of the carotid artery by 25 percent compared to the placebo group. However, this effect was far greater among men than women. In men, carotid artery thickness was reduced by 37 percent, compared with placebo. The reduction in women was not statistically significant.

IMPLICATIONS: This study showed that a very modest daily supplement containing natural vitamin E and time-release vitamin C slowed the progression of atherosclerosis, particularly in men. The finding of gender differences may be an important factor that should be further investigated. The researchers wrote, "These effects are comparable with those of the most effective cholesterol-lowering medications but with fewer adverse effects and lower cost."

Salonen RM, Nyyssonen K, Kaikkonen J, et al, "Six-year effect of combined vitamin C and E supplementation on atherosclerotic progression," The antioxidant supplementation in atherosclerosis prevention (ASAP) study.
Circulation, 2003;107:947-953.

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