With this newsletter, I’d like to introduce ideas and strategies that I believe are important to understand the heart and circulation, as well as the treatment and prevention of heart disease. In terms of treatment and prevention, two of the most important aids are the fat-soluble vitamins E and K2.
The story of vitamin E is linked to two Canadian physicians (and brothers), the Shute brothers, who in 1945 discovered that supplementation with 200 IU of vitamin E helped protect their patients against heart disease. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it dissolves in fat and enters the blood stream only accompanied by some sort of fat) found in many foods, but specifically, in the germ of many grains. The Shute brothers postulated that the epidemic of heart disease, which began in the 1940s in North America and has continued to this day, was largely a result of the milling of wheat and the decrease in healthy fats in the diet.
The germ of wheat contains an abundance of vitamin E, which protects the delicate fats in the germ from going rancid. That is the main role of vitamin E in every biological system: to protect fats from going rancid. In our blood, we call this rancidity process peroxidation, and when it happens excessively in our blood and tissues, it sets the stage for free-radical buildup, which is widely thought to be synonymous with aging and deterioration of our tissues. Vitamin E prevents and neutralizes this free-radical build-up and rancidity in the germ of the wheat, as it does in our blood and tissues.
By 1954 the Shute brothers had demonstrated with more than 10,000 patients with heart disease that 200 IU of vitamin E was successful in controlling their symptoms (1). In 1959 the FDA formally recognized the protective benefit of vitamin E with regard to heart disease, but tragically claimed the RDA was only 30 IU per day. Subsequent studies have shown that vitamin E in therapeutic doses (generally 200 IU per day) powerfully inhibits lipid peroxidation, which cardiologists claim as the process that makes LDL dangerous to our blood vessels.
Vitamin E is the most potent lipid anti-oxidant in our bodies. It inhibits platelet aggregation and prevents plaque rupture (i.e., a safe aspirin), it improves the metabolism of the heart cells, and it has an angiogenic effect, thereby encouraging the formation of new small blood vessels in the heart. As you may know, for me, these three effects address the three main causes of heart disease.
The concept of vitamin E as an effective prevention and therapy for heart disease was proven by the 1993 “Harvard nurses study,” which showed that 100 IU per day of vitamin E resulted in a 40 percent reduction in heart disease (1). Again, in 1996, a Cambridge University study showed that vitamin E supplementation resulted in a 77 percent decreased risk of the patients suffering an MI (1).
As if that isn’t enough, further studies have shown that effective vitamin E supplementation:
- reduces the risk of cataract development by 50 percent (1)
- reduces the progression and development of diabetes (1)
- is protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (1).
I could go on, but the point is that preventing the fats inside us from creating toxic free radicals is a core disease-prevention principle. Nature always puts vitamin E in the tissues of plants and animals that contain fats. One of the nutritional tragedies of the modern age was the “refining out” of the crucial vitamin E component.
Vitamin E is so crucial to heart health that I can safely say that all heart patients, and all those who don’t ever want to become heart patients, should include extra vitamin E in their daily intake. The richest source of all the many subtypes of vitamin E, all of which have their role in disease prevention, is organic red palm oil. The Allergy Research company uses sustainably sourced red palm oil and works with it to make the components more absorbable. For me, it is the state of the art in vitamin E supplementation. The product is called Tocomin, which refers to the full spectrum of vitamin E components. The dose is simple: one capsule twice a day.
The second important nutrient for the heart I want to introduce today is vitamin K2. Weston A. Price was perhaps the first scientist to identify the importance of what he called Activator X, a fat-soluble substance that he claimed was crucial for healthy tooth and bone development.
Thanks to the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation, we now know that this elusive vitamin must be vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is generally made in nature by the fermentation of bacteria; as such, it shows up in such foods as sauerkraut, natto and miso (fermented soy beans), and cheeses like aged gouda and brie. Vitamin K2 is also abundant in the concentrated butter oil from cows eating young, actively growing green grass, presumably made by fermentation in the guts of the cows. This butter oil was considered Dr. Price’s magic medicine, especially when he used it in conjunction with cod liver oil.
Modern research is only now discovering the importance of this fat-soluble vitamin. Thus far, we know that vitamin K is a crucial player in directing the calcium away from the soft tissues (i.e., blood vessels) and toward the bones. Adequate vitamin K in the diet is important not only for preventing and treating osteoporosis, but also for preventing the build-up of calcium in our blood vessels.
Vitamin K also promotes the normal metabolism of the heart cells, another key component of cardiovascular health. In my book Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, I suggest that all my heart patients take 6 capsules a day of Walkabout Health Products’ Australian Emu Oil, which has been found to be one of the richest sources of vitamin K2 on the planet.
My hope is that the addition of these two products in people’s lives will go a long way toward keeping our hearts healthy.
Tom Cowan, M.D.
(1) Vitamin E: Your Heart’s Best Friend, by Hans Larsen, Msc, ChF, www.yourhealthbase.com.