ORLANDO, Fla., March 26 -- Postmenopausal women may reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by eating more foods rich in vitamin E, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Association epidemiology and prevention meeting.
Lead author of the study, Lori Mosca, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says, "The prevailing wisdom has been that you need more vitamin E to protect against heart disease than you can get from food, but our data suggest that the potential benefits of antioxidant nutrient intake may be derived from food alone."
In a study of 54 postmenopausal women, a higher intake of vitamin E from food was linked to reduced oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or "bad" cholesterol). This antioxidant benefit occurred only in women who did not use supplements.
When LDL becomes oxidized it can damage blood vessels, which may lead to atherosclerosis. Some vitamins, including vitamin E, are called antioxidants because they inhibit oxidation.
"When a fat such as LDL undergoes oxidation, it is more prone to collect in blood vessels to form plaque. Over time, the plaque narrows the blood vessels, or unleashes a blood clot, which can result in a heart attack or stroke. When LDL is not oxidized, it does not seem to cause problems," says Mosca, director of preventive cardiology research and education at the University of Michigan.
Although many people take supplements, the researchers wanted to know whether food was a better source of antioxidants. A previous study had shown that vitamin E intake from food, but not supplements, was associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease in women.
"We wanted to study a potential biological mechanism to explain this," says Mosca.
Researchers suspected that vitamins in foods might be better than vitamin pills
in inhibiting LDL oxidation, thus protecting against heart disease and stroke.
In this observational study, the women lis
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association