This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x


Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


More Research Needed on Nutrient Structure-Function and Disease Relationships

By Michael McBurney

Atherosclerosis is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Researchers believe that inflammation plays a key role in atherosclerosis (Hansson, 2005). As a result of an accumulation of white blood cells and macrophages in the intima, artery walls thicken and the accumulated cholesterol and triglycerides harden into plaque. The biological process restricts the elasticity of arteries and their capacity to dilate. A rupturing of the plaque can block blood flow. If the rupture disrupts blood flow to the heart, it may cause a heart attack; if to the brain, a stroke may occur.

New studies emphasize the role of nutrition in maintaining healthy arteries. Ji and colleagues report that B vitamins may reduce stroke risk. The authors analyzed 14 randomized control studies (RCTs) with almost 55,000 subjects who were followed for at least 6 months. Vitamin B supplementation lowered the risk of death from stroke by 7%. A second study reports that anthocyanin mixtures reduced levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) in 150 hypercholesterolemic subjects. In an RCT with 144 subjects with subclinical atherosclerosis, Zou et al report that 12mo of lutein and lycopene supplementation, 20 mg of each daily, significantly increased serum concentrations and decreased carotid intima-thickness (vs placebo). All three studies are based on the hypothesis that nutrition may affect inflammatory processes. 

However, in the US, indications are that the FDA is defining inflammation as a disease state rather than a bodily process. This is controversial (see twitter feed #CRN13). However, arguing semantics does not always change opinions. Research provides evidence and answers. So as Steve Mister, CEO of the Council of Responsible Nutrition said at the CRN Annual Conference in Park City, UT yesterday, “we must recommit ourselves to more research. Rigorous, thoughtful, well-executed research”.  

Mr Mister is right. More investment is needed to elucidate nutrient-structure/function and nutrient-disease relationships.

Main Citations

Ji Y, Tan S, Xu Y, Chandra A, Shi C, Song B, Qin J, Gao Y. Vitamin B supplementation, homocysteine levels, and the risk of cerebrovascular disease: a meta analysis. 2013 Neurol doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318a823cc

Zhu Y, Ling W, Guo H, Song F, Ye Q, Zou T, Li D, Zhang Y, Li G, Xiao Y, Liu F, Li Z, Shi Z, Yang Y. Anti-inflammatory effect of purified dietary anthocyanin in adults with hypercholesterolemia: A randomized controlled trial. 2013 Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2012.06.005

Zou Z-Y, Xu X-R, Lin X-M, Zhang H-B, Xiao X, Ouyang L, Huang Y-M, Wang X, Liu Y-Q. Effects of lutein and lycopene on carotid intima-media thickness in Chinese subjects with subclinical atherosclerosis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. 2013 Br J Nutr doi:10.1017/S0007114513002730

Other Citation

Hansson GK. Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. 2005 NEJM doi:10.1056/NEJMra043430