Life Extension Update
Peripheral artery disease lower among those with greater vitamin E and plant oil intake
The results of a study published in the May, 2006 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis revealed that men and women with greater high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels and those with a higher intake of vegetable lipids or vitamin E had a decreased risk of peripheral artery disease compared to those with lower HDL or intake of these nutrients. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common and potentially dangerous condition in which the arteries of the extremities are affected by atherosclerotic plaque. Although it is known that smoking, hypertension, and having high cholesterol are risk factors, the researchers involved in the current study sought to determine if any dietary patterns were associated with the condition.
“The relationship between diet composition and atherosclerosis has been assessed limited to the coronary district, whereas caloric restriction has been reported to be associated with lower carotid artery intima-media thickness,” the authors write. “It is unknown whether these conclusions apply also to the lower limb vascular district.”
The Italian team analyzed data from 1,251 individuals with an average age of 68 enrolled in the InCHIANTI study, which investigated factors contributing to the decline in mobility among older individuals in two areas in the Chianti region of Italy. Responses to dietary questionnaires provided information on the intake of carbohydrates, protein and lipids from animal and plant sources, fiber, fatty acids, folate, and vitamins C and E.
Peripheral artery disease was detected in 10 percent of the participants. Not surprisingly, age, smoking and increased pulse pressure were found to be positively associated with the disease. Of the dietary components evaluated, an intake of vegetable lipids (primarily from olive oil in this study) greater than or equal to 34.4 grams per day was associated with a 61 percent lower risk of peripheral artery disease than the risk experienced by subjects whose intake was less. Having a vitamin E intake of at least 7.726 milligrams per day was correlated with a 63 percent lower risk compared to those who consumed lower levels. A higher HDL level was also inversely associated with PAD risk.
If prospective studies confirm their findings, the authors recommend that “the possibility that both dietary interventions and strategies to increase HDL cholesterol might be valuable for preventing or slowing down the clinical progression of PAD should be investigated in intervention studies.”
Symptoms associated with atherosclerosis depend on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, which may last for decades, it rarely has any symptoms. In the later stages, the symptoms are caused by the obstruction of blood flow.
In the coronary arteries, the most common symptoms of atherosclerosis in men are chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. In the arteries of the legs (peripheral arterial disease), the most common symptoms are leg pain (claudication). Unfortunately, atherosclerosis that occurs in the brain often has no symptoms; the first indication of serious vascular disease in the brain is often a stroke. So-called mini strokes, which have temporary symptoms similar to those of full-blown strokes, are sometimes an important warning sign of an impending stroke.
Blood testing is recommended for all adults. A comprehensive blood test will measure levels of LDL, HDL, VLDL, and triglycerides, as well as levels of C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and fibrinogen. Life Extension recommends blood testing at least annually. More frequent testing might be recommended to monitor progress after a patient begins a heart-healthy supplementation program.
Vitamin E is often studied in conjunction with vitamin C for its potent antioxidant powers. It has been shown to decrease lipid peroxidation and inhibit smooth muscle cell proliferation, platelet aggregation, monocyte adhesion, oxidized LDL uptake, and cytokine production—all of which occur during atherosclerosis (Munteanu A et al 2004; Harris A et al 2002). In cultured arterial endothelial cells, vitamin E increased the production of prostacyclin, a potent vasodilator and inhibitor of platelet aggregation (Wu D et al 2004). Most vitamin E supplements come in the form of alpha-tocopherol. Life Extension recommends about 400 IU alpha-tocopherol a day, along with at least 200 mg gamma-tocopherol and 100 mg of coenzyme Q10. There is a concern that taking only the “alpha” form of vitamin E could deplete the body of gamma tocopherol, a critically important antioxidant. Coenzyme Q10 helps regenerate oxidized vitamin E in the body.
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