In a recent study from CU Boulder, researchers find that older people who take a novel antioxidant could see the aging of their blood vessels reverse of 15 to 20 years within 6 weeks.
The antioxidant specifically targets cellular powerhouses, or mitochondria.
Blood vessels grow stiff and have trouble dilating with age.
This is largely a result of oxidative stress, the excess production of metabolic byproducts called free radicals which can damage the endothelium and impair its function.
When we’re young, our bodies produce enough antioxidants to quench those free radicals.
But with age, the balance tips, as mitochondria and other cellular processes produce excess free radicals and the body’s antioxidant defenses can’t keep up.
In the current study, the team recruited 20 healthy men and women age 60 to 79 from the Boulder area.
Half took 20 milligrams per day of a commercially available supplement called MitoQ, and the other half took a placebo.
MitoQ is made by chemically altering the naturally-occurring antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 to make it cling to mitochondria inside cells.
After six weeks, researchers examined how well the lining of blood vessels, or the endothelium, functioned in all of the participants.
They measured how much subjects’ arteries dilated with increased blood flow.
Then, after a two-week “washout” period of taking nothing, the two groups switched, with the placebo group taking the supplement, and vice versa. The tests were repeated.
The results showed that when taking the supplement, people’s artery dilation improved by 42%, making their blood vessels, at least by that measure, look like those of someone 15 to 20 years younger.
An improvement of that magnitude, if sustained, is linked to about a 13% lower risk of heart disease.
In participants who, under placebo conditions, had stiffer arteries—another indication of vascular dysfunction—supplementation was linked to reduced stiffness.
The finding adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements, or nutraceuticals, could play an important role in preventing heart disease—the nation’s No. 1 killer.
It also shows that oral antioxidants, which have been broadly dismissed as ineffective in recent years, could reap measurable health benefits if properly targeted.
The team suggests that exercise and eating a healthy diet are the most well-established approaches for maintaining cardiovascular health.
But the reality is, at the public health level, not enough people are willing to do that.
The researchers want to find complementary, evidence-based options to prevent the age-related changes that drive disease. These supplements may be among them.
The lead author Matthew Rossman is a postdoctoral researcher in the department of integrative physiology.
The study is published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
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Source: American Heart Association journal Hypertension.