Antioxidants and atherosclerotic heart disease

N Engl J Med. 1997 Aug 7;337(6):408-16. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199708073370607.


Epidemiologic studies have provided evidence of an inverse relation between coronary artery disease and antioxidant intake, and vitamin E supplementation in particular. The oxidative-modification hypothesis implies that reduced atherosclerosis is a result of the production of LDL that is resistant to oxidation, but linking the reduced oxidation of LDL to a reduction in atherosclerosis has been problematic. Several important additional mechanisms may underlie the role of antioxidants in preventing the clinical manifestations of coronary artery disease (Fig. 2). Specifically, there is evidence that plaque stability, vasomotor function, and the tendency to thrombosis are subject to modification by specific antioxidants. For example, cellular antioxidants inhibit monocyte adhesion, protect against the cytotoxic effects of oxidized LDL, and inhibit platelet activation. Furthermore, cellular antioxidants protect against the endothelial dysfunction associated with atherosclerosis by preserving endothelium-derived nitric oxide activity. We speculate that these mechanisms have an important role in the benefits of antioxidants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Arteries / drug effects
  • Arteries / physiology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / drug effects
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism*
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Platelet Activation / drug effects
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Vitamins
  • Nitric Oxide