Rethinking anti-oxidants

August 09, 2005

A leading researcher at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) points out that there is little convincing evidence that dietary antioxidant supplements such as vitamin E prevent heart disease, despite claims to the contrary.

Instead there has been a surprise finding, which relates to a synthetic antioxidant, the drug Probucol, which is no longer prescribed in Australia.

"There has been a lot of hype which suggested that antioxidant vitamin supplements had a beneficial outcome for cardiovascular disease. There is no good scientific support for the notion that people who suffer from atherosclerosis, or who are at elevated risk of heart disease, gain benefit by supplements of vitamin E," said Professor Roland Stocker, from the Centre for Vascular Research at UNSW, who will present his research at the ISTH Congress in Sydney today.

Stocker reported, "Our research is now leading towards the development of a new drug, based on Probucol. Probucol was previously used to reduce so-called "bad" cholesterol for those with heart disease, but it also had side effects, such as reducing "good" cholesterol and possibly inducing an irregular heartbeat.

This new compound, which has a similar structure to probucol, is very effective in protecting against atherosclerosis (the principal cause of coronary heart disease) in animal models but doesn't have the same side effects"

He went onto say, "We have shown that this novel probucol-analog induces a pathway in the vessel wall which is both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory. The early signs are that it provides strong protection for blood vessel walls. We are now progressing these studies further with a pharmaceutical company."

"This compound potentially represents a new approach for treating people with or at risk of heart disease - at the source of the problem in the vessel wall. Vitamin E is not depleted or deficient in people with heart disease. It is in my view, a naïve idea that vitamin E supplements would work," said Stocker.
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Research Australia

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