Findings from an Italian study suggest that women who take in less vitamin E may be at greater risk of heart disease and stroke even if they do not have other risk factors.
The study found that women with the greatest intake of vitamin E had the least plaque in the arteries in the neck, a place where plaque build-up usually begins. This build-up, known as atherosclerosis, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
The findings suggest that vitamin E found in nuts, olive oil and some vegetables may provide protection against the early stages of plaque build-up. The researchers examined 310 women 30 to 69 years and measured their blood levels of vitamins A, C, E and other antioxidants. Women were then divided into three groups according to their intake of vitamin E-rich foods. None of the women were taking vitamin supplements.
Women who reported consuming the most vitamin E-rich food had the lowest build-up of plaque. Among postmenopausal women, those who consumed the least vitamin E were nearly three times more likely to have arterial plaque regardless of age, smoking habits, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and other heart disease risk factors.
While the findings suggest an association between vitamin E intake and arterial plaque, it is still unclear exactly how vitamin E might prevent plaque build-up.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it neutralizes the effects of cell-damaging molecules called free radicals that may play a role in plaque formation. However, the study found no association between other antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and beta-carotene and arterial plaque.
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