Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Protecting Blood Vessels From Stress

Antioxidants May Prevent Inflammation When Combined With Amino Acid

WebMD Health News

Jan. 15, 2003 -- Antioxidants may help reduce normal wear and tear on your blood vessels and reduce the risk of potentially dangerous inflammation and blockages. New research shows that vitamins can improve blood flow and prevent the long-term development of atherosclerosis -- or hardening of the arteries -- when given in combination with an amino acid known as L-arginine.

Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, B, C, and E, are found in many fruits and vegetables. Although previous studies have suggested that the nutrients might protect against heart disease, recent research has cast doubt on some of those initial claims.

But this study, published in the Jan. 13 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that antioxidants might work together with L-arginine to prevent inflammation in the branch areas of blood vessels.

Researchers say narrowing of the arteries most often begins in these areas because they are subject to the greatest stresses from blood rushing around their tight corners, like water gradually eroding a riverbank. These cells eventually may become damaged from the rushing forces and cause potentially dangerous inflammation within the blood vessel, leading to the atherosclerosis.

But researchers found that human cells exposed these to this type of stress in the lab were less likely to cause inflammation after a dose of antioxidants and L-arginine. Instead, the cells produced more of a substance that encourages healthy blood flow and prevents clotting. They also stopped accumulating certain proteins that are thought to promote atherosclerosis.

Researcher Louis J. Ignarro, PhD, of UCLA and colleagues say the role of antioxidants in the development of hardening of the arteries and heart disease remains unresolved, with some studies showing a benefit and others not.

However, this study shows that although antioxidants may not reverse or repair pre-existing damage within blood vessels, they may slow the long-term progression of atherosclerosis, and more research is need to see if use of antioxidants in young adults might prevent the disease in later life.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure