Vitamin E, the Cardiovascular Superstar

 By Richard Lewis

Researchers recently gathered in Kyoto, Japan, to present their latest findings suggesting the emerging superstar status of vitamin E in reducing the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

” … inadequacy of plasma vitamin E and C increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

This International Symposium on Vitamin E gathered scientists from many disciplines to focus on the growing research into the use of vitamin E in the prevention of heart disease. Not only was the research focused on helping people prevent heart attacks and strokes, it also looked into how vitamin E could help to eliminate the continuing and more devastating problems that may occur after the first heart attack or stroke. The clinical benefits coming from this information may prove to be far reaching.

“In patients who already have angina [chest pain] and ischemic heart disease [blockage in the coronary arteries], the data were sufficient clinically to endorse the use of a high dose of alpha- tocopherol [vitamin E] to reduce their incidence of cardiac events,” reported Nigel Stephens, M.D.

This recommendation grew out of the findings of the Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS) conducted by Dr. Stephens and his colleagues at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, Middlesex, in the United Kingdom. In the CHAOS study, the researchers followed 2,002 patients with known coronary artery disease for an average of 510 days. Each person was randomly assigned to one of three groups taking vitamin E supplementation of 400 IU, 800 IU, or a placebo. Along with a marked reduction in cardiac deaths and non fatal heart attacks, they found that vitamin E appeared to have a significant effect on mature, well-developed atherosclerotic plaque buildup and prevented it from rupturing. This rupturing often is a cause of clots that produce major heart problems.

A Swiss researcher, K. Fred Gey, M.D., of the University of Berne made an interesting observation: “If we postulate that a low or poor status of antioxidants is a hitherto unrecognized risk factor of coronary heart disease, then we ought to [realize] that the rectification or the normalization of low levels results in a reduction of the coronary risk.”

The Physicians’ Health Study completed by Boston researchers, supports this theory. They found that the number of coronary events could be related to low vitamin E intake on a regular basis.

One of the other studies quoted by Dr. Gey was the Unxian trial of cerebrovascular mortality in rural China, jointly sponsored by Chinese and U.S. agencies. In this large study, they found that when the general population was given supplements of vitamins E and C, along with beta carotene and selenium, the death rate from cerebrovascular problems dropped dramatically

“I would say that the totality of available data suggest this consistency if not persuasive [evidence]-show that the inadequacy of plasma vitamin E and C increases the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Gey concluded.

In Dr. Gey’s research, each study used vitamin E as a way to prevent heart attacks and strokes. A Japanese study looked at how vitamin E would work to prevent future strokes in people who had suffered one cerebrovascular accident (CVA).

Yoshiya Hata, Ph.D., and his associates at Kyorin University in Japan studied 2,271 patients between the ages of 50 and 75 who had had at least one CVA. They were randomly assigned to two groups……one received 600 mg of dl-alpha-tocopherol niconate (a-TN), a complex molecule that is part nicotinic acid (vitamin B3) and part alpha-tocopherol (B6). The other group was given conventional treatment.

At the end of the three year follow up period, the researchers found interesting results. When compared to the patients who had conventional treatment, those taking a-TN had a lower incidence of total heart disease and total deaths than those on conventional therapy.

Diabetics often have more heart disease than most people. George L. King, M.D., and his associates at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston found, through their research, that vitamin levels in the blood may have quite a bit to do with this increase of incidence.

“There is plenty of evidence that there is oxidant stress in the diabetic state,” Dr. King told those present There is also evidence that treatment with antioxidants such as glutathione, vitamin E, and lipoic acid may improve motor-neuron velocity, neural blood flow and painful symptoms, King concluded. Makoto Kunisaki, M.D., with Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, found that vitamin E normalized the blood flow to the retina of the eye and believes he has found the reason it works. Further research will be conducted in the U.S. and Japan.

Vitamin E may have been the superstar at the symposium in Japan, but, as many of the researchers pointed out, all antioxidants tend to work together.  The synergistic action of vitamins such as A, C, and E cannot be ruled out as a therapeutic option, according to Dr. Gey.  – from a special supplement to Medical Tribune

Ron Hunninghake, M.D., medical director of The Olive Garvey Center for Healing Arts, says, “Antioxidants are like a football team. Vitamin E may be the superstar quarterback, but without a solid line protecting him, he won’t complete many passes. With a strong line, the superstar has a chance to really shine. You need all the antioxidants and you need them in balance.”