Women who don't get enough vitamin E in their diets appear to be more likely than others to show early signs of the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), even before they experience any symptoms of the condition, study findings show.
Italian researchers found that the more vitamin E women consumed in their diets, the less likely they were to have the beginning traces of thickening in the neck's carotid arteries, a marker of artery disease throughout the body.
Women at highest risk of early atherosclerosis were those who took in the lowest amount of vitamin E in their diets. Therefore, increasing vitamin E intake will likely only benefit those whose intakes are now relatively low, and may have no effect on women who already get enough of the vitamin in their diets. The study participants got most of their vitamin E from legumes, vegetables and olive oil.
Atherosclerosis is defined as the build-up of fatty plaques in arteries that inhibit blood flow, raising the risk of heart attack or stroke. The condition is linked to a process called oxidation--damage to body tissues caused by by-products of the body's normal processes called free radicals.
The oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the arteries is a major factor in the development of heart and blood vessel disease such as atherosclerosis. Previous research has suggested that because antioxidants such as vitamin E can neutralize oxidative damage in the body, they may help ward off heart disease and certain cancers.
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