Increased intakes of antioxidant vitamins may help to prevent arterial stiffness

August 13, 2014

A new review concludes that a supplementation with antioxidant vitamins C and E has a small protective effect on arterial stiffness, especially in people with low blood concentrations of these vitamins.

The systematic review and meta-analysis included results of 20 randomized controlled trials including a total of 1909 participants aged 22 to 63 years, which investigated a potential effect of supplementation with vitamin C (mean dose 2000 mg/day) and vitamin E (mean dose 360 IU/day) on preventing or improving arterial stiffness (1). The analysis showed that compared to the placebo group healthy participants who received the vitamins had a significantly reduced risk to develop arterial stiffening. Participants with existing arterial stiffness due to cardiovascular or metabolic diseases showed a trend for improved vascular health when taking vitamins. Antioxidant vitamin supplementation was more effective in participants with low baseline plasma concentrations of vitamins C and E.

The researchers noted that arterial stiffening is closely associated with many pathologic conditions, including atherosclerosis, dyslipidemia, diabetes and chronic kidney diseases. It is a precursor of cardiovascular disease and is regarded as a marker for increased CVD risk and all-cause mortality (2). Structural and functional changes in the vessel wall, such as the replacement of elastin with collagen and smooth-muscle proliferation, contribute to the onset and progression of arterial stiffness (3). Oxidative stress and inflammation contribute significantly to this structural remodeling (4). The beneficial effects of antioxidant vitamins on vascular stiffness may be explained by the reduction of the damaging effects of free radicals on structural and functional components of the vessel walls (5). Antioxidant vitamins are thought to inactivate free radicals, reduce inflammation, increase the bioavailability of the vasodilator and anti-inflammatory molecule nitric oxide (NO) and therefore protect the integrity of the vascular wall (6).


  1. Ashor A. W. et al. Antioxidant Vitamin Supplementation Reduces Arterial Stiffness in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of Nutrition. Published online August 2014.
  2. Laurent S. and Boutouyrie P. Arterial stiffness: a new surrogate end point for cardiovascular disease?
    J Nephrol. 2007; 20(Suppl 12):S45–50.
  3. Zieman S. J. et al. Mechanisms, pathophysiology, and therapy of arterial stiffness. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2005; 25:932–943.
  4. Patel R. S. et al. Oxidative stress is associated with impaired arterial elasticity. Atherosclerosis. 2011; 218:90–95.
  5. Plantinga Y. et al. Supplementation with vitamins C and E improves arterial stiffness and endothelial function in essential hypertensive patients. Am J Hypertens. 2007; 20:392–397.
  6. Kals J. et al. Impact of oxidative stress on arterial elasticity in patients with atherosclerosis. Am J Hypertens. 2006; 19:902–908.