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Vitamins could actually increase levels of "bad cholesterol", researchers have suggested.
Vitamins could actually increase levels of "bad cholesterol", researchers
It had been thought that vitamins could protect the heart.
But New York University researchers found vitamins including E, C and beta
carotene stop the liver breaking down an early form of bad cholesterol.
Writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the researchers say their
findings mean they cannot recommend that people use the vitamins.
The vitamins are antioxidants, thought to be beneficial because they attack
free radicals, produced when the body fights infection, which inflict damage
on the body's tissues.
But studies carried out by the researchers at the university's school of
medicine found that antioxidants actually hampered the body's fight against
Normally, liver cells break down a key protein in harmful lipoproteins such
as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) which means they cannot be converted
into a form of LDL that can enter the bloodstream.
However, in laboratory tests, the New York researchers found vitamin E, C
and beta carotene prevented this process taking place in liver cells.
Further tests in mice and rat livers showed vitamin E prevented this
"breakdown" process taking place, meaning the liver destroyed fewer
Dr Edward Fisher, director of the Lipid Treatment & Research Center at the
NYU Medical Center, said: "Our study is the first to document this
association between antioxidant vitamins and VLDL cholesterol.
"It does appear that antioxidant vitamins may be potentially harmful for the
heart based on their ability to increase the secretion of VLDL in the liver
cells and in the mice that we studied."
But he added: "More studies are needed to back up our findings. Until more
data becomes available, we can't make any recommendations about whether
people should not use these vitamins."
However he said there was evidence from other animal studies that
antioxidants could have beneficial effects on other parts of the body, such
as protecting the arteries from atherosclerosis and the pancreas and other
organs from damage caused by diabetes.
Writing in the journal, Dr Ronald Krauss of Children's Hospital Oakland
Research Institute in California, added that, although there was
"considerable" evidence for the benefits of antioxidants, "the potential for
unintended outcomes of oxidant therapy should serve as a warning against
proceeding with such treatment in the absence of clinical-trial evidence of
benefit and safety".
Belinda Linden, head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation
(BHF), told BBC News Online: "Most research tends to suggest that
supplementation with antioxidant vitamins, although not beneficial, does not
lead to undue harm.
"Before any clear conclusions can be drawn from this study we would await
the results of larger randomized controlled clinical trials."
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