When it comes to the full potential of Vitamin E as a nutrient, conflicting studies have offered some not-so-clear results. While researchers agree that Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent cellular damage throughout the body, they don’t necessarily agree on its benefits in terms of cardiovascular health.
The confusion comes as the result of progressive understanding. Decades ago, studies indicated that Vitamin E might be an underutilized tool in cardiovascular protection. Then, as recently as 2010, new studies indicated the opposite. Today, it’s looking more and more like there’s a link between Vitamin E and vascular health; however, more research is required to fully understand that link.
Here’s what you need to know about the role of antioxidants, particularly Vitamin E, in promoting a healthy cardiovascular system.
Antioxidants play a big role in cardiovascular health
Antioxidants are free radical fighters that prevent the body from experiencing oxidative stress. Free radicals are allowed to multiply in the body due to a wide range of internal and external stressors, including air pollution, smoking, poor diet, alcohol use and other factors.
Free radicals damage cells throughout the body as they search for an electron to pair with, but antioxidants stop them in their tracks and prevent oxidative stress from harming cells.
One of the most troublesome causes of cellular damage is the development of heart disease from the oxidation of cholesterol. Oxidation can cause fatty plaque build-up on artery walls (Atherosclerosis). If the situation continues unchecked, blood flow to the heart can slow or be blocked entirely.
Antioxidants are believed to slow the onset of heart disease symptoms. As one of the most powerful antioxidant vitamins, Vitamin E may play a part in promoting cardiovascular health. Research is ongoing.
The muddy relationship between Vitamin E and cardiovascular health
Over the years, several, studies have attempted to determine Vitamin E’s role in promoting cardiovascular health. While consumption of foods rich in Vitamin E has been linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease in older people, a 2010 clinical study shows no direct correlation between Vitamin E and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. According to the study:
“The American Heart Association does not support the use of vitamin E supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease, but does recommend the consumption of foods abundant in antioxidant vitamins and other nutrients.”
While the American Heart Association does not recommend the use of Vitamin E supplements for cardiovascular purposes, they do encourage a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins and other nutrients, including Vitamin E. In other words, the situation is murky.
In special cases, though, Vitamin E supplements are necessary, in particular for those with inherited Vitamin E deficiency.
Links to healthy coronary blood flow
Although, as stated above, the American Heart Association does not officially recommend Vitamin E supplements for cardiovascular benefits, a recent study has shown that they can reduce the risk of myocardial infarction. Interestingly enough, the beneficial effects were seen in participants who used Vitamin E alone, and not other antioxidant supplements. Scientists participating in the study wrote:
“The fact that vitamin E, which is a known antioxidant, reduced the clinical squelae of atherosclerotic disease may suggest the oxidative stress theory is still valid and that modulation of oxidative stress should be an important future goal to achieve to reduce atherosclerosis.”
The study reinforces the belief that Vitamin E provides significant cardiovascular benefits. It’s a reason for Americans to take notice of the value of Vitamin E as an antioxidant, since over 90% of the population fail to achieve the recommended daily intake of the nutrient—about 15mg per day for healthy adults.
Maintaining adequate Vitamin E levels may boost cardiovascular health, and could have implications for a host of other benefits, including reduced risk for cancer and diabetes, and better skin health.
Everyone should incorporate antioxidants into their diet
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants—it’s one of the reasons why they’re an integral part of a healthy diet. Antioxidants counter free radicals that are naturally produced by the body from internal and external stressors, and prevent oxidative stress from harming otherwise healthy cells.
While it’s best to get antioxidants through a healthy diet, it can often be difficult to achieve. Always ask your doctor if a supplement, whether Vitamin E or otherwise, is right for your individual situation, and always choose all-natural supplements if you’re given approval.
While research on Vitamin E and cardiovascular health remains murky in the absence of current clinical trials, there’s nevertheless an important link between cardiovascular health and antioxidants. It’s something at-risk individuals need to consider.