Study finds antioxidants can spur heart disease

For years, people have believed that antioxidants are important to combating heart disease, but a new study performed by U researchers discovered that increased levels of a specific antioxidant can actually encourage the disease.

“Our study was performed to determine the cause of an inherited form of heart disease — we found that it led to an abnormal increase of an antioxidant called glutathione,” said Ivor Benjamin, a U professor in cardiology and the study’s principal author.

Antioxidants generally defend against oxidative stress that causes heart disease by “scavenging” for radicals and destroying the toxicity of proteins that weren’t synthesized correctly.

By the time a person with the gene for inherited heart disease is 30 years old, the antioxidants intended to fight against radicals are too excessive and make the heart’s condition worse.

“This was very unusual to find; most current research in this area has established that there should be much lower levels of antioxidants due to increased oxidative stress with heart disease,” Benjamin said.

The U researchers took mice with the inherited gene for heart disease and studied their progress and development with the disease.

“Our experiment to lower the antioxidant level in mice helped in an enormous way,” Benjamin said.

Namakkal Rajasekaran, a research associate in cardiology at the U and co-author of the study, said that the mice didn’t develop symptoms of heart disease for six months.

“The increased amounts of the antioxidant glutathione significantly altered the mouse’s state of health after six months,” he said.

The study shows that in preventing heart disease, the focus should not be on reducing oxidative stress alone, but also on reductive stress caused by an excess of antioxidants.

The researchers are currently doing a follow-up study on diminishing the problems of antioxidants with an antireductant.

“We’re in the process of creating something that would lower reductive stress, what you could call an antireductant,” Benjamin said.

Rajasekaran says that they hope with more research to be able to make the cells produce less glutathione.

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