The benefits of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), oleic acid, folic acid, and vitamins A, B-6, D, and E for cardiovascular health have been well documented. The researchers set out to examine the effects of low dose supplementation in a group of 60 men suffering from peripheral vascular disease and intermittent claudication.
Peripheral vascular disease is a generic term used for circulation disorders affecting blood vessels outside the heart and brain. More specifically, peripheral artery disease is a condition whereby the arteries that carry blood to the extremities become clogged with cholesterol and blood flow is restricted.
Intermittent claudication is a symptom of peripheral artery disease. The clogged arteries cannot deliver enough oxygenated blood to active muscles during exercise, causing the muscles to cramp up and the sufferer to experience shooting pains that subside only after they stop exercising. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group consumed 500 mL each day of a fortified dairy product containing EPA, DHA, oleic acid, folic acid and vitamins A, B-6, D, and E.
The other consumed 500 mL/d of semi-skimmed milk with added vitamins A and D.
The groups received lifestyle and dietary recommendations, and continued to consume their regular diet as well as the products.
The benefits of supplementation were measured by blood extractions and clinical explorations after three, six, nine and 12 months, and compared to baseline readings taken before the start of the study.
The researchers found that total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B concentrations decreased in the supplement group, and total homocysteine decreased in those patients who had high initial concentrations.
The supplemented subjects were also able to walk for longer distances that the control group before the onset of claudication.
According to the researchers, the results provide "new evidence of the potential role of nutrition in the reduction of PVD-IC symptoms".