Common dietary nutrient blasts blood vessel plaques in study
While statin drugs are good at controlling plaques in blood vessels, they can't eliminate them once they are established. But researchers may have just found a way to blast the circulatory system clean using a common nutrient found in many foods.
That nutrient is manganese, a metallic element with the atomic number 25. Manganese is important for our health, acting as a coenzyme to help with carbohydrate and fat metabolism and playing a role in the proper function of our nerves and brains. The element also helps in the formation of connective tissue, sex hormones, bones and more.
Most people get enough manganese through their diets as it is found in a wide range of foods including whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables, some shellfish, black pepper, coffee, tea and more. However, when manganese is deficient, it can lead to muscle weakness, infertility, the malformation of bones and even seizures.
Now researchers from a variety of universities in China have collaborated on a study that may point to another strong reason for people to get their manganese. Working with mouse models, they found that the element not only reduced the lipids in the bloodstream that lead to plaque build ups, but also helped remove the plaques themselves from the walls of the blood vessels.
“Manganese is considered as the least understood essential element, mainly playing supporting roles in enzymatic reactions," said Xiao Wang, one of the lead authors of the study. "Yet, we’ve uncovered an active, signaling role of the manganese ion in controlling lipid delivery into the blood.”
Wang and his colleagues figured out that the element can bind to a complex needed by lipoproteins, chemical carriers that move lipids including cholesterol and triglycerides, into the bloodstream. This complex known as the coat protein complex II (COPII) needs to maintain a very precise chemical balance that the manganese disrupts. As a result of this disruption, the researchers found that in the mice they studied, even oral manganese dramatically reduced blood concentration of lipids and removed plaques that had been established in the rodents' blood vessels.
If the results transfer to human subjects, it could mean a new path toward clearing our blood vessels of the plaques that are a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, rather than just stabilizing them and preventing their growth, which is the current standard of care achieved through today's medications.
“We are truly fascinated by manganese’s potential in both preventing and treating the biggest disease”, said Xiao-Wei Chen, the senior author of the study, “and we are enthusiastic to learn more about its efficacy and safety, as well as developing more efficient ways to harness this novel signaling function of manganese.”
The research has been accepted for publication by the journal Life Metabolism.