On December 24, 2007, the American Heart Association journal Circulation published the discovery of researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute and College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University, and the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington that supplementing mice with lipoic acid reduced arterial lesion formation, triglycerides, blood vessel inflammation and weight gain, all of which are factors involved in the development of cardiovascular disease. Lipoic acid is a nutrient that occurs in small amounts in green leafy vegetables, potatoes and meats, and is also available as an over the counter supplement.
For the current study, the research team used apolipoprotein E-deficient and apolipoprotein E/low-density lipoprotein receptor-deficient mice, which are established models of human heart disease. The mice were divided to receive diets containing a normal amount of fat or extra fat, with or without supplemental lipoic acid for ten weeks. The amount of lipoic acid used was the human equivalent of 2,000 milligrams, a level that is impossible to achieve by consuming an average diet.
At the study's conclusion, lipoic acid supplementation was associated with a significant reduction of atherosclerotic lesion formation in both mouse models. Supplemented mice had 40 percent less weight gain and lower triglycerides in both serum and very low-density lipoprotein compared to those that did not receive the compound. These animals also experienced less inflammation as shown by lower aortic expression of adhesion molecules and proinflammatory cytokines and aortic macrophage accumulation, particularly in the areas in which atherosclerotic lesion formation was reduced.
“We are excited about these results, particularly since the supplements of lipoic acid appear to provide several different mechanisms to improve cardiovascular health,” stated study coauthor Balz Frei, PhD, who is the director of the Linus Pauling Institute. “They are helping in a fundamental way to reset and normalize metabolic processes, in ways that could help address one of the most significant health problems in the Western world."
“From what we understand, this supplement would be most valuable as a preventive mechanism before people have advanced cardiovascular disease,” Dr Frei observed. “However, it may help retard the process at any stage, and may also be of value in treating diabetic complications.”
“These findings also reinforce the need for more comprehensive human studies,” he added. “That will be the next step in our research, in double-blind, randomized, clinical studies during the next five years with Oregon Health and Science University.”