Vitamin E Supplements May Reduce Blood-Vessel Inflammation

BACKGROUND: "Adhesion" molecules, such as ICAM-1, promote inflammation. One way they do this is by enabling white blood cells to stick to other cells, such as the endothelial cells lining arteries. These white blood cells then secrete a variety of inflammation-promoting chemicals. The activity of adhesion molecules is of particular interest to researchers because of the role inflammation plays in many different diseases. Libby, P. Nature 2002; 420:868-874.

RESEARCH: Researchers asked 39 healthy men in their 30s and 40s to take 50 IU of vitamin E or placebo daily for 20 weeks. Before beginning supplementation, blood tests indicated that the levels of a particular type of adhesion molecules, ICAM-1, were inversely related to their vitamin E levels.

RESULTS: After 20 weeks of vitamin E supplementation, the men's levels of ICAM-1 declined by almost 12 percent. The researchers regarded this as a significant decrease following supplementation with a low dosage of vitamin E.

IMPLICATIONS: This study is consistent with other research showing that vitamin E has an anti-inflammatory effect, and that this property may be part of the reason why it has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Other studies have also found that vitamin E can reduce the activity of adhesion molecules, as well as lower levels of C-reactive protein (the leading marker for measuring inflammation).

Desideri G, Croce G, Marinucci MC, et al, "Prolonged, low dose alpha- tocopherol therapy counteracts intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 activation," Clinica Chimica Acta, 2002;320:5-9.

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