Russell Skinner, MD
According to a new study performed in the University of Colorado, Boulder, older adults who took a novel antioxidant that specifically targets cellular powerhouses, or mitochondria, saw aging of their blood vessels reverse by the equivalent of 15 to 20 years within six weeks!
This study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that nutraceuticals (pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements), could play an important role in preventing heart disease - currently the number one leading cause of death in the U.S.. The study was published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
“This is the first clinical trial to assess the impact of a mitochondrial-specific antioxidant on vascular function in humans,” said lead author Matthew Rossman, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of integrative physiology. “It suggests that therapies like this may hold real promise for reducing the risk of age-related cardiovascular disease.”
Over the years, numerous scientists have dismissed the theory that oral antioxidants can be beneficial for health. The authors of this study say otherwise. They believe that if targeted properly, you can reap positive results with oral antioxidants.
The study was performed on 20 women and men who were between the ages 60 and 79 years and had good health. Half of that group was given a placebo, while the other half received 20 milligrams of MitoQ – a commercially available supplement. After six weeks, the researchers evaluated how the endothelium or the lining of the blood vessels was functioning. This was done by measuring the dilation of the subjects’ arteries through increased blood flow.
The subjects were given no supplements for a couple of weeks. And after that, the two groups swapped the intake of placebo and the supplement.
Old age is a factor that can’t be reversed when it comes to cardiovascular diseases. Or can it?
After another six weeks, the tests were repeated. The researchers found that after taking the supplement, the dilation of the subjects’ arteries was improved by 42%, making their blood vessels look like those of someone 15 to 20 years younger. "An improvement of that magnitude, if sustained, is associated with about a 13% reduction in heart disease," Rossman said.
The subjects who were given the placebo instead of the supplement had stiffer arteries. However, after the swap was made and they were also given the supplement instead of the placebo, the stiffness to their arteries was reduced.
Blood vessels grow stiff and have trouble dilating with age largely as a result of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the over-production of metabolic byproducts in your body, known as free radicals. These free radicals can impair the function of endothelium. As you age, more free radicals are produced by mitochondria and other cellular processes, and because of these excess free radicals, your body can’t keep up its defense, according to Rossman.
The study showed that the improvement in dilation was due to a reduction in oxidative stress.
In other words, the antioxidant supplement had an anti-aging effect and improved the cardiovascular health of the subjects.
A previous study conducted in the Seals laboratory in mice showed similar results. “In old mice it reversed the age-related changes in their vascular function and made it look like they had the arteries of young mice,” said Seals.
“This study breathes new life into the discredited theory that supplementing the diet with antioxidants can improve health,” said Seals. “It suggests that targeting a specific source—mitochondria—may be a better way to reduce oxidative stress and improve cardiovascular health with aging.”