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Could vitamins raise levels of bad cholesterol? Animal study suggests they might

The notion that antioxidant vitamins could provide a safe, convenient way to protect the heart from disease appears to have hit a pothole. Instead of protecting the heart, a new study suggests that the vitamins, such as E, C, and beta carotene, could raise the production by the liver of the so-called bad form of cholesterol, which transports cholesterol into artery walls.

The study, led by New York University School of Medicine researcher Edward A. Fisher, MD, PhD, the Leon H. Charney Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Professor of Cell Biology, is published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"It does appear that antioxidant vitamins may be potentially harmful for the heart based on their ability to increase the secretion of VLDL in the liver cells and in the mice that we studied," says Dr. Fisher, who directs the Lipid Treatment & Research Center at NYU Medical Center.

After its secretion from the liver, VLDL is converted in the bloodstream to low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad form of cholesterol. The liver is the major source of atherosclerosis-causing lipoproteins. "However, our study is the first to document this association between antioxidant vitamins and VLDL cholesterol, and more studies are needed to back up our findings," says Dr. Fisher, who is also Director of the Marc and Ruti Bell Vascular Biology and Disease Research Program at NYU.

"Until more data becomes available, we can't make any recommendations about whether people should not use these vitamins," says Dr. Fisher.

Overall, antioxidants usually have been considered healthful. The vitamins scavenge "free radicals," which are highly reactive and damaging forms of oxygen produced by natural metabolic processes in the body and by external sources like the sun's UV rays, ozone, and toxins in pesticides, among other things. In the early 1990s, laboratory studies su
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Contact: Jennifer Berman
Jennifer.Berman@med.nyu.edu
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
3-May-2004


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