Editor’s Note: Relying on drugs to prevent heart disease is “heart dumb.” USANA marketing manager Camille Fletcher explains how a collaborative USANA study shows supplementing with certain nutrients makes you “heart smart”!
Hi USANA family!
I consider myself pretty lucky in that I get to work with the awesome group of scientists here at the Home Office every day. I can tell you from experience that they really are committed to finding breakthroughs in nutritional science that can impact our world-class products and, in turn, lives around the world.
But, like many of you, I don’t speak “scientist,” so I’m here to try and translate the results of a recent USANA study that has great implications for heart health. (Special thanks to Senior Scientist Brian Dixon, Ph.D., for walking me through it all.)
But first, allow me to rant a little…
Recently there has been some discussion about the validity of studies whose findings promote using statin drugs as a primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in low-risk patients with no previous history of the disease. Whether or not the studies are trustworthy, which is questionable, it seems to me that, basically, they are trying to prove doctors should give statin drugs to patients before those patients even have heart disease in the name of “prevention.” Really? Does anyone else think this preventive treatment is a little nuts?
I mean…of course, listen to your doctor, but popping a pill sure seems like the lazy way out of taking proactive responsibility for our health. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is largely preventable simply by incorporating healthy habits into our daily lives. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather eat some vegetables (admittedly, NOT my favorite), get a little exercise, and take nutritional supplements—which can offer all sorts of health benefits—rather than take a synthetic chemical drug (with coenzyme Q10-depleting side effects) that is designed to manage a disease I don’t even have “just in case”!
Which brings us back to the study…
To further support the idea of using nutritional supplements as part of a heart smart lifestyle, here’s my take on a study the amazing USANA scientists recently conducted in conjunction with a research team at the Boston University School of Medicine. The study showed that some key nutrients in dietary supplements can actually be beneficial for patients who already have a form of CVD, so imagine what supplementing those nutrients could mean for those who don’t have the disease.
Maintaining healthy vascular endothelial function is important because endothelium line our arteries and make nitric oxide to tell the muscles in the blood vessels to relax so blood can flow through more easily. Oxidative stress appears to impact this nitric oxide signal, impairing endothelial function. Just like an e-mail that bounces back to you because the recipient’s mailbox is full, when free radicals clamp onto and change nitric oxide molecules, the message from the endothelium doesn’t get through, so the vessels stay contracted. This contraction not only makes the heart pump harder to pump blood through a smaller “tube,” but it can also lead to eventual organ failure due to inhibited blood flow. We all know, cutting down blood flow is NOT a good thing. Over time, this impaired function has been shown to be a critical factor in the progression of CVD.
Grape-seed extract and vitamin C have both been widely shown to provide significant protection against oxidative stress (i.e., to be powerful antioxidants) as well as to have positive effects on blood pressure. The USANA/BU team suspected that there was potential to protect nitric oxide function and, therefore, support healthy blood flow through supplementation of these two key nutrients together.
What They Did
Researchers gave study participants, who were already diagnosed with CVD, either a placebo or 450 mg of grape-seed extract and 1,500 mg of vitamin C, divided into two daily doses of two tablets. Blood samples were taken four hours after receiving the first dose, what scientists call an “acute” measurement. Subjects then continued taking the same dosage for four weeks and had samples drawn and measured again, called “chronic.” The last blood samples were taken on the last day of the four weeks, again four hours after the nutrients were taken, called “acute on chronic.”
The researchers measured plasma levels of vitamin C, epicatechin (bioflavonoids), and plasma antioxidant reserve (PAR)—a measure of the blood’s resistance to oxidative stress. They also measured blood flow using fingertip peripheral tonometry (PAT). PAT is especially useful in measuring changes in blood flow because it focuses on the peripheral arteries in the fingertip. Making up the majority of the blood vessels in our bodies, peripheral arteries are those that are farthest from the heart (e.g., hands and feet, also called “microvasculature”). They are miniscule when compared to the arteries coming directly from the heart, so any noticeable changes are significant.
Imagine that someone tightens a blood pressure cuff around your arm. It cuts blood supply off to the peripheral arteries in your hand and fingers. When the cuff is released, a healthy endothelial response will trigger nitric oxide signaling to relax the vessels to restore blood flow as quickly as possible. Those with CVD do not have a healthy response, so blood flow tends to remain low even after the cuff is removed.
What They Found
In the treatment group, vitamin C, epicatechin, and PAR increased to varying degrees at all three time points measured (acute, chronic, and acute on chronic)—meaning all the antioxidant levels were improved. And, blood flow response, measured using PAT, also showed significant improvement—meaning the endothelial function and nitric oxide response in the peripheral arteries improved following the 28-day treatment relative to the placebo group.
Pretty cool, huh?! These results suggest that grape-seed extract plus vitamin C work together to improve vascular function in patients with CVD, even in those tiny peripheral arteries. The results of this study were so impressive, in fact, that they were presented to American Heart Association last year. I’d encourage you to share them with your friends and family as well.
Now, don’t you feel heart smart?!
Check out this poster (PDF) for additional details about the collaborative study between USANA Health Sciences and Boston University, which shows that supplementing with grape-seed extract and vitamin C can help improve cardiovascular disease.