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Vitamin E

It's Still The One

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Despite the recent storm of controversy surrounding vitamin E and its role in cardiovascular disease, research continues to support the heart health benefits of this fat-soluble antioxidant.

Despite the recent storm of controversy surrounding vitamin E and its role in cardiovascular disease, research continues to support the heart health benefits of this fat-soluble antioxidant.

It is estimated that about 22 percent of the Canadian population suffers from high blood pressure. While a wide number of therapies are available to treat this problem, using vitamin E during the early stages of elevated blood pressure is an often forgotten intervention.

Here’s the Proof

In a controlled study published in 2002 in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 70 patients aged 20 to 60 years of age and newly diagnosed with mild hypertension were given 200 IU of vitamin E or placebo daily for 27 weeks. Remarkably, by the end of the clinical trial, those who had taken vitamin E had a 24-percent reduction in their systolic and a 12.5-percent reduction in diastolic blood pressure.

Vitamin E may also help with atherosclerosis, which science has confirmed to be an inflammatory disorder. Moreover, an increase in inflammation, as measured by the laboratory test C-reactive protein (CRP), is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. According to recent research published in 2004 in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, vitamin E may help some high-risk populations lower their CRP levels and reduce the danger of heart attack. Participants in the study–110 smokers with symptoms of advanced heart disease and elevated CRP levels–were randomly given 400 IU of vitamin E or placebo daily for 180 days. Although both groups had reduced CRP levels throughout the trial, those smokers taking vitamin E had significantly lower CRP levels (4.70 milligrams per litre) than the placebo group (8.26 mg/l) when the six-month study ended.

The Earlier We Start the Better

As a result of free-radical damage, many of our larger arteries become hardened and inflexible over time, potentially contributing to an increased risk of heart disease. What helps to prevent this? The answer to this dilemma, according to Dr. P. Studinger and his colleagues from Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, may lie in the early use of vitamin E. In his controlled study published in 2004 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 20 healthy volunteers (approximately 23 years of age) were given 700 IU of vitamin E or placebo daily for one month. Using ultrasound measurements, the researchers found that those employing vitamin E had on average a 20-percent increase in their carotid artery elasticity. This benefit vanished one month after stopping the vitamin E supplements.

Although some large-scale studies have concluded that vitamin E is not helpful in those with advanced cardiovascular disease, other research suggests that this antioxidant is still an important contributor to the prevention and treatment of heart-related problems.

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