Objectives: We sought to determine the effects of oral L-arginine and the hexamethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitor atorvastatin on endothelial function in young patients with type I diabetes mellitus (DM).
Background: Endothelial dysfunction, a key early event in atherosclerosis, occurs in young patients with type I DM, and its reversal may benefit the progression of vascular disease. Cholesterol reduction in L-arginine improve endothelial function in nondiabetic subjects, but their effect in patients with type I DM is unknown.
Methods: In a double-blind, 2x2 factorial study, we investigated the effect of L-arginine (7 g twice daily) and atorvastatin (40 mg/day) on conduit artery vascular function in 84 normocholesterolemic young adults (mean+/-SD: age 34 years [range 18 to 46], low density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol 2.96+/-0.89 mmol/liter) with type I DM. Brachial artery dilation to flow (flow-mediated dilation [FMD]) and to the direct smooth muscle dilator glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) were assessed noninvasively using high resolution ultrasound at baseline and after six weeks of treatment.
Results: Atorvastatin resulted in a 48+/-10% decrease in serum LDL cholesterol levels, whereas L-arginine levels increased by 247+/-141% after L-arginine therapy. By analysis of covariance, treatment with atorvastatin resulted in a significant increase in FMD (p = 0.018. L-Arginine therapy had no significant effect on endothelial function, and there was no significant change in dilation to GTN after either intervention.
Conclusions: In young patients with type I DM, improvement in endothelial dysfunction can be demonstrated after just six weeks of treatment with atorvastatin. In contrast to studies of hypercholesterolemia, however, L-arginine had no benefit. Treatment with atorvastatin at an early stage may have an impact on the progression of atherosclerosis in these high risk patients.