Healthy adults aged 60-79 who take supplements of mitochondria-targeting antioxidants for six weeks had better-dilated arteries that looked younger, according to a study by University of Colorado at Boulder (Cu Boulder). The results of this study were recently published in the American Heart Association Hypertension journal and could potentially be a game-changer in preventing cardiovascular disease later in life, according to the lead author of the study, Matthew Rossman.

Rossman, a postdoctoral researcher at CU Boulder, also said that this study is the first of its kind to assess the effect of what he calls a "mitochondrial-specific antioxidant" like MitoQ on human Blood Vessels.

MitoQ is made by altering Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant that occurs naturally in human bodies, so that it is able to stick to the mitochondria in human cells.

More about the study

Rossman and Doug Seals, a senior author of this study as well as the director of the Integrative Physiology of Aging laboratory, recruited 20 healthy adults between the ages of 60 And 79 who were then split into two groups. One group was given a daily dose of 20 mg of MitoQ and the other group was given a placebo. This lasted for six weeks, after which, researchers assessed how well the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels) responded to treatment by measuring how much the arteries had dilated and if blood flow increased as a result. Trial participants took nothing after that for two weeks, after which the groups switched -- the group taking the supplements took the placebo instead and vice versa.

This continued for another six weeks and tests were repeated after that.

The results

Researchers found that the blood vessel dilation of the trial participants had increased by 42 percent while they took the supplements. In that aspect, their blood vessels resembled those of people 15 to 20 years younger than them, according to the researchers. Taking the supplement was also associated with suppler blood vessels in those who had stiffer ones under placebo conditions.

The supplement was also associated with reducing oxidative stress, which is also a cause of stiffened blood vessels. Oxidative stress results from the excess production of free radicals. Free radicals are by-products of metabolic processes that take place in the human body. With age, the body's ability to combat oxidative stress weakens as fewer antioxidants are produced by the body to reduce the effect of free radicals -- this leads to stiffened arteries.

Why are these findings important?

Rossman says that if sustained, the effects of the antioxidants are associated with a 13 percent reduction in Heart Disease.

Plus, this study sheds light on better-targeted approaches to supplementation, according to Seals, as oral vitamin C and E supplements became less popular after studies failed to prove their effectiveness. Seals also believes that the use of these supplements could be a great public health strategy that could stop larger numbers of people from developing age-related cardiovascular problems, as not everyone will eat healthily and exercise.