Antioxidant Reverses 15 to 20 Years of Damage in Just 6 Weeks

Vascular changes in older adults are reversed by what is the equivalent to 15 to 20 years by taking this targeted antioxidant for just 6 short weeks.

The new University of Colorado Boulder study was published in the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension. This study builds on previous studies looking into the ability of antioxidants to target mitochondria in order to reduce the incidence and severity of heart disease. Other systems of delivery for oral antioxidants have been unsuccessful, making this a groundbreaking study.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. About 630,000 Americans die each year of heart disease. That is about 1 in every 4 deaths. More than half of the deaths in 2015 were in men. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing about 366,000 Americans in 2015.

The oral antioxidant targets mitochondria which resurrects the old idea that oral antioxidants could provide measurable health benefits.  Oral antioxidants have most recently been dismissed as being ineffective against heart disease. The researchers have persisted, believing that the delivery method once the oral antioxidant is introduced could target the mitochondria, and ultimately have the desired effect.

These studies suggest that this pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplement, or what is also called a “nutraceutical”, might help prevent heart disease, which is still the nation’s number one killer.

Lead author Matthew Rossman is a postdoctoral researcher for the department of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “This is the first clinical trial to assess the impact of a mitochondrial-specific antioxidant on vascular function in humans. It suggests that therapies like this may hold real promise for reducing the risk of age related cardiovascular disease.”

The 2014 Study on Mice

Rachel Gioscia-Ryan, is a doctoral student in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology. She was the lead author of the 2014 study. “One of the hallmarks of primary aging is endothelial dysfunction. MitoQ completely restored endothelial function in the old mice. They looked like young mice,” she said.

The National Institute on Aging funded the study, that was subsequently published in the Journal of Physiology.

The research team administered an antioxidant called MitoQ to the old mice. The mice were equivalent to 70 to 80 year old humans. The MitoQ was placed in the water the mice drank for four weeks. At the end of the month, the arteries of those mice functioned as well as arteries of much younger mice. The arteries functioned as well as the arteries of mice who would have an equivalent human age of 25 to 35 years.

The MitoQ appears to affect the endothelium, which is a thin layer of cells lining blood vessels. One of its functions is to help the arteries dilate as necessary. With age, the endothelium loses its ability to trigger that arterial dilation which leads to more incidents of cardiovascular disease.

The 2018 Study on Humans

Twenty (20) healthy men and women aged from 60 to 79 were recruited from the Boulder, Colorado area. Ten (10) took 20mg a day of the supplement MitoQ. MitoQ is manufactured by the chemical alteration of Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 as it occurs naturally does not cling to mitochondria inside cells, but this chemical alteration changes that.

The other ten participants took a placebo.

The researchers assessed the lining of blood vessels after 6 weeks. The functioning of the endothelium was measured by how much each participant’s arteries would dilate with an increased blood flow.

After 2 weeks of taking nothing, the groups switched places. The placebo group started to take the supplement, and the supplement participants all took the placebo. Everything was repeated.

The Results

When taking the MitoQ supplement, the dilation of the arteries was improved by an incredible 42 %. By that single measure their arteries were more typical of someone who is 15 to 20 years younger than the test subjects actual ages. If the improvement of that magnitude at that level were sustained that could represent about a 13 % reduction in heart disease across the board, according to the researchers. This improvement in the dilation was confirmed as being due to a reduction in the oxidative stress, which is what would be expected when taking an antioxidant that worked.

Clearly, the supplementation with the MitoQ was directly associated with reduced arterial stiffness.

As a result of aging, blood vessels tend to grow stiffer. This is mostly due to oxidative stress, which is the excess of the metabolic byproducts known as free radicals. Free radicals damage the endothelium which impairs arterial function. When we are young our bodies produce adequate antioxidants to counteract the free radicals. With age, cellular processes such as mitochondria actions produce more free radicals so our body’s antioxidant defences are no longer about to counteract their effects.

Vitamins C and E were considered as possible oral antioxidant supplements but studies have shown they are ineffective.

This study “suggests that targeting a specific source mitochondria may be a better way to reduce oxidative stress and improve cardiovascular health with aging.” said Seals.

The Future

These studies use an antioxidant specifically targeting mitochondria. The manufactured MitoQ is made by beginning with the naturally occurring coenzyme Q10.  A molecule is then added. That additional molecule concentrates the coenzyme Q10 on mitochondria.

In the past, studies looked at taking supplements of antioxidants in the long term to see if they could improve the vascular function for patients who already had cardiovascular disease.  These studies have mostly shown that this strategy has not been effective. By targeting the mitochondria, it appears that the strategy may be effective after all.

The MitoQ treatment improves the function of the endothelium, increases the levels of nitric oxide, reduces oxidative stress and generally improves the health of mitochondria in old arteries. The findings in the human studies extend the preclinical observations made earlier. It all suggests that MitoQ and possibly other therapeutic strategies that target the mitochondrial reactive oxygen could hold exciting promise for the treatment of age related vascular dysfunctions.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Medical Xpress
American Heart Association Journals