According to a new study, Vitamin C and E supplements protect the coronary arteries from narrowing after heart transplant. Heart transplantation can be a life-saver but, the vessels linking the new heart let the patient down by becoming blocked. If only a way could be found of blocking this process known clinically as arteriosclerosis. Now doctors at The Hopkins Hospital in Boston, US, believe that they have found a way of protecting these vulnerable arteries, using vitamin supplements.
They had 30 patients who had undergone a heart transplant take either supplements of vitamins C and E or placebo for one year. The supplement comprised 500 milligrams of vitamin C and 400 IU of vitamin E, taken twice daily. The researchers looked at a measure of artery health called the average intimal index, which is assessed by a form of ultrasound scanning. It shows the amount of plaque deposited in the artery as a fraction of the total artery wall area. They also looked at other measures of artery functioning.
At the end of the study, those in the placebo group had an eight per cent increase in the intimal index, showing that arteriosclerosis was worsening, but those on the vitamin supplements showed no change. Other measures of artery function were no different between the two groups. The study suggests that vitamins C and E can protect the arteries, probably by their antioxidant effect. Further investigations are needed to reveal whether the benefit of vitamin therapy can be sustained in the long term, to help patients get the most out of their precious transplant.