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Antioxidants and peripheral arterial disease

ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS. Peripheral arterial disease is a manifestation of atherosclerosis in the lower limbs and is considered to be a precursor of intermittent claudication. Peripheral arterial disease is diagnosed by measuring systolic blood pressure at the upper arm in the sitting position and dividing it with the systolic pressure at the ankle in the supine position. If this ratio is equal to or less than 0.9 then peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is present.

A team of Dutch and German researchers now reports that a high intake of vitamin C or vitamin E reduces the risk of PAD. Their study involved 1673 men and 2694 women with an average age of 67 years. All participants underwent a thorough clinical evaluation and completed a 170-item food questionnaire. After adjusting for age and other confounding variables the researchers found that women with a vitamin C intake of more than 142 mg/day had a 36 per cent lower incidence of PAD than did women with an intake of less than 80 mg/day. The intake of beta-carotene and vitamin E was not related to PAD risk among women. The findings for men were quite different. Here a vitamin E intake of more than 17.2 mg/day reduced the risk of PAD by 33 per cent when compared to an intake of less than 10.1 mg/day. The intake of beta- carotene and vitamin C was not related to PAD risk among men.

The researchers conclude that antioxidants are helpful in preventing PAD. They are not sure why there is a difference between men and women in regard to the relative benefits of vitamin C and vitamin E, but surmise that it could be due to a different food pattern.
Klipstein-Grobusch, Kerstin, et al. Dietary antioxidants and peripheral arterial disease: the Rotterdam Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 154, July 15, 2001, pp. 145-49

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