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Circ Res. 1998 Aug 24;83(4):366-77.

Vitamin E combined with selenium inhibits atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic rabbits independently of effects on plasma cholesterol concentrations.

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Department of Pathology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1072, USA.


Several antioxidants inhibit atherosclerosis. This study investigated the hypothesis that combining vitamin E, a lipophilic antioxidant, with vitamin C, a hydrophilic antioxidant, and/or selenium, a cofactor of peroxidases that detoxify lipid peroxides, would inhibit atherosclerosis more effectively than vitamin E alone. We also considered whether regional variation in inhibition of atherosclerosis by antioxidants would be associated with regional variation in aortic lipophilic antioxidants. Rabbits were fed an atherogenic diet (control) or an atherogenic diet supplemented with vitamin E, vitamins E and C, vitamin E+selenium, vitamins E and C+selenium, or probucol (positive control). Supplements were as follows: vitamin E, 146 IU/d; vitamin C, 791 mg/d; selenium, 22 microg/d; or probucol, 406 mg/d. Vitamin C did not influence atherosclerosis. After 22 weeks of treatment, rank order of aortic atherosclerosis was control>vitamin E (with or without vitamin C)>vitamin E+selenium (with or without vitamin C)>probucol. Antioxidant treatment reduced aortic cholesterol concentrations 21% to 56%, 29% to 86%, and 19% to 75% for the aortic arch, descending thoracic aorta, and abdominal aorta, respectively (P<0.025 to P<0.0003 by ANOVA), with slightly greatly reductions for areas of atherosclerotic lesions. Some treatments reduced plasma cholesterol concentrations, but none altered the distribution of cholesterol among lipoproteins. Corrected for differences in plasma cholesterol concentrations, aortic cholesterol concentrations were reduced up to 72% (P<0.02) by the antioxidant treatments, with equal reductions by vitamin E+selenium and by probucol. Aortic alpha-tocopherol standardized by aortic cholesterol as a measure of aortic lipids was lower in the abdominal aorta than in the aortic arch of rabbits not given alpha-tocopherol and increased relatively more in the abdominal aorta than in the aortic arch with alpha-tocopherol supplementation. The results of this study suggest that vitamin E+ selenium inhibited atherosclerosis as effectively as an equally hypocholesterolemic dose of probucol by a mechanism(s) that is in part independent of effects on plasma and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. The tendency for greater efficacy of antioxidant treatments in the abdominal aorta than aortic arch may relate to the lower concentrations of alpha-tocopherol in the abdominal aorta of unsupplemented rabbits.

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