Vitamins C and E may prevent arteriosclerosis in heart transplant patients, according to research published in the March 30, 2002, issue of The Lancet. Postoperative hardening of the arteries affects about seven out of 10 heart transplant patients and can pose a serious health threat. Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvallis and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston discovered that the two antioxidant vitamins taken together slowed the early stages of arteriosclerosis.
Forty heart transplant patients were given either 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 800 IU of vitamin E daily, or a placebo, for one year. Both groups also received a cholesterol-lowering drug. After one year, the arteries of the placebo group had significantly narrowed because of plaque buildup, whereas the arteries of those taking the vitamins were mostly unchanged.
"Our results suggest that vitamins C and E provide a clinically useful approach to reducing arteriosclerosis after cardiac transplantations," said James Fang, M.D., lead researcher. "Antioxidant therapy with these vitamins may also be useful in other solid-organ transplants, such as kidney and liver."
Previous studies using only vitamin E failed to produce the same results. The researchers believe that a synergy between the two vitamins may have been responsible for the therapeutic effect.
The scientists would like to see if the antioxidants could provide long-term protective benefits to transplant patients. "Further investigations are warranted to investigate whether the beneficial effects of vitamins C and E are sustained over many years during which most of the clinical complications resulting from transplant-associated arteriosclerosis occur," Fang said.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 7/p. 14