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Free Radic Biol Med. 2001 Nov 15;31(10):1245-53.

Effect of vitamin E on aortic lipid oxidation and intimal proliferation after arterial injury in cholesterol-fed rabbits.

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  • 1Biochemistry Group, The Heart Research Institute, Sydney, N.S.W., Australia.


Oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are implicated in atherosclerosis. However, large-scale intervention studies designed to test whether antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can ameliorate cardiovascular disease have generated ambivalent results. This may relate to the fact that the mechanism whereby lipid oxidation is initiated in vivo is unknown and the lack of direct evidence for a deficiency of antioxidants in atherosclerotic lesions. Further, there is little evidence to suggest that vitamin E acts as an antioxidant for lipid peroxidation in vivo. Here we tested the antioxidant effect of dietary vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) supplementation on intimal proliferation and lipid oxidation in balloon-injured, hypercholesterolemic rabbits. alpha-Tocopherol supplementation increased vascular content of alpha-tocopherol over 30-fold compared to nonsupplemented and alpha-tocopherol-deficient chows. Balloon injury resulted in oxidized lipid deposition in the aorta. Maximum levels of primary lipid oxidation products, measured as hydroperoxides of esterified lipid (LOOH) and oxidized linoleate (HODE), were 0.22 and 1.10 nmol/mg, representing 0.21 and 0.39% of the precursor molecule, respectively. Secondary lipid oxidation products, measured as oxysterols, were maximal at 5.60 nmol/mg or 1.48% of the precursor compound. Vascular HODE and oxysterols were significantly reduced by vitamin E supplementation. However, the intima/media ratio of aortic vessels increased with vitamin E supplementation, suggesting that the antioxidant promoted intimal proliferation. Thus, the study demonstrates a dissociation of aortic lipid oxidation and lesion development, and suggests that vitamin E does not prevent lesion development in this animal model.

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