Plasma antioxidants and coronary heart disease: vitamins C and E, and selenium.Eur J Clin Nutr. 1990 Feb; 44(2):143-50.EJ
The possibility of a relation between plasma antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and selenium, and mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) was examined. A cross-sectional survey was undertaken of random population samples of apparently healthy middle-aged men in four European regions with differing mortalities from CHD [rate/100,000 for men aged 40-49]: north Karelia (eastern Finland) (n = 99) [212/100,000]; south-west Finland (n = 85) [146/100,000]; Scotland (n = 131) [140/100,000]; and south Italy (n = 80) [43/100,000]. Median (5th-95th percentile) plasma vitamin C concentrations were lower in Scotland: 18.2 (5.7-61.3) microM than in other regions: north Karelia 28.4 (6.2-85.2); south-west Finland 33.5 (5.7-76.6); south Italy 38.0 (10.2-69.8) microM (P less than 0.001). The median levels in the four areas did not however reflect the regional CHD mortality rates. Regional differences in plasma vitamin E levels were also observed: Scottish levels were low 20.0 (12.1-29.3) microM (P less than 0.001) and did not differ between the other areas: 23.0 (16.7-35.1), 22.5 (13.7-31.6) and 23.9 (15.6-41.3) microM respectively. The vitamin E gradient could be explained in part by differences in serum cholesterol. However, cholesterol-adjusted vitamin E levels were low in the three high CHD areas: Scotland 3.41 (2.41-4.62); north Karelia 3.53 (2.67-5.18); south-west Finland 3.53 (2.58-4.92); Italy 4.81 (3.25-5.99) mumol/mmol cholesterol (P less than 0.001). Cholesterol-adjusted vitamin E was not lower in north Karelia, the higher CHD mortality area in Finland. Serum selenium values also varied with the area examined and reported low levels in Finland were confirmed. Nevertheless, selenium levels did not correlate with the reported mortality rates of CHD. Thus in our small cross-cultural study the evidence did not support our hypothesis that plasma antioxidants explain regional differences in CHD mortality.